Stephen Thompson expects Gilbert Burns to shoot early, “confident” he’ll keep it standing to get the win and earn a title shot

Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is excited to finally fight up in the ranks.

Ever since Thompson had his back-to-back fights against Tyron Woodley for the title his next five fights were fighters ranked below him. Yet, on Saturday night at UFC 264 that will change as he faces the second-ranked welterweight, Gilbert Burns in a scrap Thompson is excited about.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done that. It’s great and I’m so glad the UFC is giving me the opportunity to fight the number two ranked guy,” Thompson said on Just Scrap Radio on BJPENN.com. “I’m glad that Burns is giving me the opportunity as well. Not a whole lot of people in the top-five have done that. Hats off to the upcoming NMF, he’s definitely an NMF, he’s a super cool guy, I like Gilbert Burns. I’m just glad that is happening.”

Entering the fight, the common perception is if the fight stays standing Thompson will win. Yet, if it hits the ground, Burns has a good chance to end the fight. For “Wonderboy” he agrees with that sentiment and knows it’s a good stylistic matchup for both of them.

“I think it’s a good one, I really do. He’s got power in his hands, good jiu-jitsu, he’s very well-rounded,” Thompson said. “It’s the classic karate vs. grappler but he’s got hands, man. I think it’s a great matchup for both of us. I’m excited about it and I’m prepared for wherever it goes.”

Although Thompson is prepared for Gilbert Burns to try and take the fight to the mat he also has to be worried about his hands. He knows the Brazilian has legit one-punch KO power and may fake takedowns to come up with a big right hand.

Stephen Thompson, Nick Diaz
Image: UFC on Instagram

However, after getting time to train with Ryan Hall and Chase Hooper, Thompson is confident in his ground game. He knows he’s not as good as Burns, but he knows he’s good enough to get back to his feet, or just keep it standing and win the fight that way. He also believes this fight is very similar to his main event scrap he had in 2016 against Rory MacDonald.

“Oh, I think he will shoot right off the bat. He may try and fake the shot and come up with some hands to try and knock me out or if that doesn’t work he will definitely shoot. He even said it himself, he’s looking to take this fight to the ground. Will I ever be the grappler of Gilbert Burns? Probably not,” Stephen Thompson explained. “But, I am very confident in my ability to get back to my feet and the ability to keep the fight standing. I’m going out there to have some fun and that’s what it’s all about. I’ve been working really hard on my takedown defense, it’s just a fun fight. It’s like preparing for Rory MacDonald all over again.”

If Thompson does get his hand raised at UFC 264 against Burns he believes it could very well get him a title shot. He knows the fans want him to fight Kamaru Usman but if he doesn’t get the title shot, he wants to face whoever doesn’t get it between Leon Edwards and Colby Covington.

“That’s the plan, go out there and show everybody what I’m capable of. Put on a good performance and I know I can go out there and win this fight. I visualize my hand being raised at the end of it,” Thompson concluded. “Man, it’s awesome, it’s gotta catapult me up there. If I’m not next for the title at least the second to the next. If I go out there and do work you have to give me the shot… Well, see who gets the next. If it’s Colby, give me Leon Edwards, if it’s Leon Edwards then give me Colby Covington. Give me the guy that is right there because there are three of us, me, Colby, Leon Edwards.”

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This article appeared first on BJPENN.COM