Two former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight title challengers, Gilbert Burns (No.2) and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (No.4) collided in a pivotal midweight game. Means Tonight (Saturday July 10, 2021) at the UFC 264 main-event pay-per-view (PPV) co-event, held inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Burns just had a chance with defending 170-pound champion Kamaru Usman and failed, while Thompson told everyone he was a nightmare for ‘Nigerian Nightmare’. Thompson probably had a more realistic path to a title shot with a win, but that wasn’t in the cards tonight, with the Brazilian winning two of three laps en route to an important unanimous decision victory.
The two fighters met in the middle of the cage, with Thompson demonstrating his awkward change-of-stance stance, nailing Burns with an early right hook as the Brazilian tried to rush in and close the distance. About 90 seconds later, Burns walked over and tore off one leg, pressing him against the fence and seeking to throw him onto the canvas. Thompson, as usual, defended very well, with Burns almost immediately abandoning the double-legged attempt and opting for kicks instead much to the chagrin of the agitated crowd. Burns returned to a single leg and eventually managed to knock Thompson down two minutes from the end of the first game. He put himself on half-guard, locking Thompson’s leg and forcing him with short, straight hands to his face that were almost impossible to defend. Thompson eventually worked down to one knee, but Burns blew him in the face as he got to his feet. Burns attempted to explode with a barrage with five seconds left, but ended up tripping on his own feet and eating a partially blocked head butt at the buzzer.
Burns was more than likely topped the judges’ scorecards before the second stanza thanks to out and ground control, but Thompson was certainly in the fight. He spiced up the jab and baited Burns to follow him, but he didn’t bite. Thompson began to open up with his kicks, coming from all kinds of weird angles and connecting cleanly. Burns looked a bit confused – barely threw any punches for the first 2.5 minutes. Then he started to warm up, attacking Thompson with a series of right hooks and knocking him out of his comfort zone. Thompson connected with a one-two combination, Burns responding with a low kick inside. Thompson breathed in a looping hook, which Burns tried to turn into a teardown, but “Wonderboy” came out immediately. Burns pulled a hard right hand and followed it with another indent down the cage. He trapped Thompson’s arm behind him and pierced him with short punches in the face. Thompson’s right arm was still free, however, and the pair just hit each other until the end of the bell.
Even though Burns didn’t do anything in the first half of the second round, the takedown and ground-and-pound more than likely put him on the judges’ scorecards. Burns Corner begged him to stop messing around and fighting on the ground. Thompson picked up the pace, coming out with front side kicks and supporting Burns in a corner and hiding his ears. Thompson landed a huge spinning kick that left Burns down, but he quickly got back on his feet and fired back. In the fray, Burns clung to Thompson and squeezed him into the cage, looking to score his third out of the game. He pulled him out of the fence and threw him to the ground moments later, knocking Thompson out of lateral control. Thompson struggled to get back on his feet and eventually gave up after eating a few short shots on the grill. Thompson posted himself again to try to get back on his feet, which Burns used as a guillotine choke. He quickly collapsed onto his back and Burns attempted to end the match with a flurry to impress the judges.
Despite comments from Dana White referring to Colby Covington as the next challenger in contention for a gold shot from Usman, the fight has yet to be announced. Burns’ fight with Usman was too recent and ended too violently, so he’ll likely need one more win (or two) to warrant a rematch.
Jorge Masvidal – whom he called during his post-fight interview – is a good start.
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