Photo via Alchemist Management.
Welterweight UFC rookie Stephen Thompson (5-0 MMA, 57-0 Kickboxing) is hoping to continue his streak of 62 wins in 62 pro fights at UFC 143. He'll face another UFC n00b in Dan Stittgen (7-1) on the Facebook preliminaries for UFC 143. The 28-year-old Thompson is carrying a pretty heavy hype burden coming into the Octagon. Georges St. Pierre's striking coach Firas Zahabi recently called Thompson "definitely the best karate guy, the best striker I've ever seen, all around in any sport."
He's no one trick pony either, a black belt in Japanese jujitsu, he trains Tetsushin Ryu Jiu-Jitsu under his brother-in-law the legendary Carlos Machado and claims that wrestling is his 2nd strongest skill set.
Mike Chiappetta of MMA Fighting wrote about Thompson's Lyoto Machida-like childhood as the son of a karate instructor:
Thompson started in the martial arts at three years old, training under his father, Ray, who owns a karate studio in Simpsonville, South Carolina. But it wasn't always a love affair. By around the age of 10 or 11, the flame had burned out. While his friends were playing baseball and football, Thompson found himself constantly stuck at the dojo.
By the time he was 15, he was making his amateur debut, inspired in part by his older sister Lindsay, who he often watched compete and aimed to emulate.
He did her proud, defeating an unbeaten 26-year-old en route to 37 straight victories. His biggest personal highlight came in 2005, when he captured a World Association of Kickboxing Organizations championship at a tournament held in Szeged, Hungary, becoming the first American to win a gold in the tournament since 1983.
Thompson knew he would need to transition to MMA to really test himself and began training with UFC welterweight champ GSP after St. Pierre cornered one of Thompson's many kickboxing victims. Since recovering from an ACL tear he's been training with Zahabi in Canada.
Thompson was also ranked #10 in the 2012 Bloody Elbow Scouting Report. Here's what Leland and Smoogy had to say about him:
There is some mystery surrounding Thompson's progression, mainly due to the lack of footage of MMA action, but from secondary accounts I've been able to gather - there is a buzz surrounding Thompson. Most fans who've seen him in action agree that he has the goods to make an eventual run at a top-tier promotion, and they've even likened his style to that of Lyoto Machida.
Thompson's credentials are awe-inspiring, and the fanatical fan deep inside of us wants to proclaim him the next prodigy. But we're realists, and Thompson has a lot to prove moving forward. Specifically, his strength of competition isn't great, nor is he fighting enough to warrant an immediate move to the UFC or Bellator. The next step is the tougher competition that awaits him in a larger regional promotion. If he can past the test there with flying colors, Thompson will get the attention he deserves and make waves by the end of the year.
Obviously Thompson wouldn't be the first exponent of karate to do well in MMA. UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell came from a kempo and Koei-Kan karate background. Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre started training Kyokushin at age 7 from his father and, of course, former UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida trained Shotokan karate under his father from age 3.
Time will tell if Thompson joins that heady company or if he'll be just another karateka who couldn't cut it in the UFC.
In the full entry are some of Thompson's fights from Chuck Norris' defunct World Combat League.
Thompson vs. James DeCore
Thompson vs. Tim Williams