The UFC 170 main card featured an opening welterweight affair between two strikers Stephen Thompson and Robert Whittaker. It was a fight designed to produce fireworks and possibly be a knockout, and it certainly gave us both.
Whittaker began head hunting with his jab, primarily attacking with his preferred boxing over kicks and knees, although he did try his own set of kicks early on. Thompson remained elusive and difficult to hit while beating the Aussie to the punch and throwing his usual variety of kicks from different angles. "Wonderboy" surged forward and decked Whittaker with a hard right hand. Whittaker, on wobbly legs, tried to stay upright and recover but Thompson swarmed all over him and he folded up and went limp, which prompted Mario Yamasaki to call off the fight. Official Result: Stephen Thompson def. Robert Whittaker via TKO (strikes) at 3:43, round 1.
What was the high point of the fight?
The finishing sequence by Thompson was surgical once again. Whittaker was completely out of it.
Where do these two go from here?
Thompson (9-1) has won 3 in a row since his disappointing loss to Matt Brown, and has re-established himself as a rising prospect in the welterweight ranks. It wouldn't be surprising to see him face a top 15 opponent (Mike Pyle?) in the near future.
Whittaker (11-4), after winning his first 2, has lost 2 in a row and was finished with strikes for the first time in his career. He looked completely out of sorts trying to figure out Thompson's timing and movement, and in the end he paid the price. Chances are he's in for a long-term string of fights against mid-tier and bottom-tier 170ers until he can show steady and noticeable improvement.
Watch now, later, or never?
Now. Thompson was outstanding and this was a pretty quick dispatching of the TUF Smashes winner.