Stephen Thompson thinks the UFC views him as a gatekeeper now.
For the second-straight fight, Thompson will fight a rising welterweight contender, but this time he will be the main event as he battles Geoff Neal. It is a very intriguing matchup but for “Wonderboy” he knows why the UFC made this fight and that is them wanting to push Neal up the rankings.
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“They are trying to make me the gatekeeper and it is not going to happen. I went 10 rounds with Tyron Woodley, beat Jorge Masvidal, a controversial loss to Till, and then getting knocked out to Anthony Pettis doesn’t help,” Thompson said on Just Scrap Radio on BJPENN.com. “My last two opponents have been ranked below me and I haven’t fought anyone ranked above me. Hopefully, they aren’t trying to make me a gatekeeper, I’m not a gatekeeper. I have a lot of fight left in me and I want that title shot.”
Although Stephen Thompson is fighting two opponents ranked below him, he does see similarities in their game. Both Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal are great strikers and he expects, just like Luque did, for Neal to try and clinch or wrestle him at some point.
“This is very similar. Vicente Luque was on a seven-fight winning streak and Geoff Neal is undefeated in the UFC and knocking dudes out. He is heavy-handed and looks like a really strong welterweight,” Thompson added. “My opponent is a little taller and has a longer reach but they are stylistically very similar as well. I know Geoff Neal likes to throw that left high kick and if he touches you with it, you are going out. That is something I have to prepare for and that is what I’ve been preparing for. I had Weidman in and we did five, five-minute rounds. The reason I brought him in was after some time, most people want to take me down. Wherever the fight goes I am going to be prepared for it, for sure.”
The hope for Stephen Thompson is to go out there and put the division on notice with a stoppage win over Geoff Neal.
Even though Wonderboy hasn’t gotten a finish win since 2016, he believes Neal’s style could lead to a finish. The Fortis MMA fighter is aggressive and given he hasn’t gone five rounds before, Thompson thinks he might be able to knock him out in the later rounds.
“I never go out there looking for the knockout, if it happens, it happens. The more you fight the top-ranked guys the more skilled they are and the harder the knockouts can be,” Thompson explained. “Everyone says I haven’t knocked anyone out in a while but look who I am facing. It would be good to finish a guy like Geoff Neal. I’m not looking for it, but if it is there I will take it.”
If Thompson does go out there and finish Neal he doesn’t believe it will propel him up the rankings but he does expect to get someone ranked above him next time out.
“Do I think it will move up the rankings? I don’t think so, but it will put me in everyone’s eyes and the UFC will give me a top opponent next,” Thompson concluded.
Do you agree with Stephen Thompson that the UFC is using him as a gatekeeper?