The UFC Liverpool main event was as closely contested as they come and Stephen Thompson thinks he did enough to earn the victory.
“Wonderboy” and opponent Darren Till went five rounds that were heavy on strategy and feints, but light on definitive strikes. In the end, it was Till who won a unanimous decision in front of his hometown fans Sunday at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England.
The majority of media scores were in favor of Thompson, something that the 35-year-old himself agreed with when asked for his thoughts on the verdict at the post-fight press conference.
“I thought I had four of the rounds,” Thompson said. “Could be controversial, three maybe? I don’t know. I felt like I would hit and move. The only really good shot he had was that one shot in the fifth round, but other than that it was pretty close. I felt comfortable out there. I realized how big he was so I knew I had to stay on my bike and keep moving.”
“I knew it was going to be a close fight, but I thought I had edged it out,” he continued. “He’s a big boy, he’s hard to move around. Didn’t move anywhere, came forward, tough guy.”
It was Till who scored the lone knockdown of the fight. In round five, he clipped Thompson with a left hand that briefly sent Thompson to the mat. The two-time welterweight title contender was able to recover quickly and the fight soon returned to a more methodical pace.
Thompson has never been finished in his 18-fight career and according to him, it wasn’t all that close to happening Sunday.
“I was dazed for a minute, I was definitely going all the way down. Just smoked me right on the back of the head here,” Thompson said. “I went down, been hit there before, but recovered well, got right back up to my feet, so I didn’t go out, my legs gave out a little bit and that was it.
“It staggered me a little bit, but I didn’t black out or anything. I finished the round okay I thought. Thank goodness I was blessed with a hard head.”
Other than that one shot, neither man was able to land much of note for the duration of their 25-minute bout. Both found success with low kicks, but any attempt to press the action was shut down by their respective defenses.
Thompson gave credit to Till for hurting his leg early and for showing a surprising amount of patience.
“He’s a good fighter,” Thompson said. “I expected him to be a little more aggressive than he was tonight. He was doing a lot of waiting, he did come to me a little bit. Everytime I’d blitz in he stood there right in front of me, so he was a big guy.
“I knew I couldn’t back him up, so I had to kind of play the game, so to speak. Landed a good shot in the first round on my knee, which kept me from moving and doing what I wanted to do out there, especially throwing my kicks. I felt wobbly standing on it so that took me out of the game a little bit, but he’s a good fighter. Very tough guy.”
With the loss, Thompson now has just one win in his last four appearances. He fell short in two bids to wrest the UFC welterweight title from Tyron Woodley’s grasp (battling the champion to a majority draw in their first meeting at UFC 205 and losing a majority decision to Woodley in the second at UFC 209) before rebounding with a unanimous decision win over Jorge Masvidal last November.
Thompson is looking at the upcoming interim title fight between Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington for a possible opponent.
He added that he has no regrets about entering enemy territory to fight Till, even after the Englishman failed to make weight for the fight on Saturday. “Wonderboy” was nothing but complimentary when it came to talking about the Liverpool fans.
“Even though he didn’t make weight, it’s in his hometown, I love being here, I love the fight game, I love to put on a show for everybody that came out and for the people who helped get me here,” Thompson said. “This is what I do.”
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