On Saturday night, we witnessed one of the most incredible, unpredictable UFC main events in history, as no fewer than three titles changed hands. For those who stayed up until the early hours of Sunday night, a struggle to fall asleep would have ensued with the excitement and emotion of the night’s events engrossing their thoughts.
Whether it was Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping falling on his sword gallantly as he passed out in front of our very own eyes at the hands of a returning Georges St-Pierre, or the image of one of the most feared and intimidating champions in the sport’s history, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, tapping as the fists of Rose Namajunas rained down on her head.
Perhaps it may have been the victorious TJ Dillashaw roaring in the face of his opponent, Cody Garbrandt, as he ended months of rivalry and personal attacks by defeating his former teammate.
However, the most impressive performances on the night was that of Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in his emphatic victory over Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal. Wonderboy dismantled the American Top Team Athlete. He stood and exchanged with his opponent in his trademark stance, hands low and wide, knowing that he can afford to leave his face unprotected.
Thompson stood merely centimetres outside the striking range of his opponent and used every inch of the octagonal floor, moving back and forth and side to side whenever the pressure was mounting. Any attempt to close the distance by Masvidal would result in a potent counter strike. Jorge is an extremely powerful fighter who is not afraid to let his fists fly. But he was outclassed on the night by the superior martial artist. Ultimately, Wonderboy won a unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27) leaving no doubt in anybody’s mind who was the deserving victor.
While this fight was overshadowed by the events that were to follow, it is worth giving credit to such a dominant performance. Wonderboy is a specialist in the realm of striking; having been honing his kickboxing/ karate skills for over 20 years. He stood with Jorge Masvidal for three rounds and, per ESPN fight statistics, he only suffered nine significant strikes to the head.
Contrast this with TJ Dillashaw and Georges St-Pierre who incurred twelve and 20 significant strikes to the head respectively in which neither fight went past the three-round mark. An aggressive fighting style is highly entertaining but not necessarily the most effective way to succeed.
TJ Dillashaw arguably put on the fight of the night against Cody Garbrandt. Yet how different things could have been had Garbrandt landed that right hook in the first round just thirty seconds earlier. TJ was saved by the bell here as he was clearly on unsteady legs making his way back to his corner.
Accusations have been thrown at Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson that he is a ‘points fighter’ or that he ‘runs and hides’ during fights. In the current MMA world, it is difficult to emerge as a true star without conforming to the culture whereby fans will only chant your name if you are risking your health and trying to leave your opponent in an unconscious state at all costs.
The greatest martial artist is the person who can impose the most damage whilst taking the least punishment and limiting the arsenal of weapons available to their opponent. And this is exactly what Thompson did on Saturday night.
In the three title fights that were to follow the Wonderboy-Masvidal bout, we saw blood, tears, knockouts and unconscious fighters. And while this was all massively entertaining, we must equally credit clinical, skilful performances such as that displayed by Wonderboy Thompson in what was arguably the most technically accomplished performance of the night.