Stephen Thompson ready for UFC Liverpool slugfest, expects Darren Till to be finish-driven

LIVERPOOL, England – There seems to be a bit of a pattern when Darren Till’s name is presented to experienced UFC welterweights.

As he prepares to meet Till in the headliner of Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 130, Stephen Thompson is well aware of who he is. But when Thompson was first introduced to the idea, during the week of his meeting with Jorge Masvidal last November, “Wonderboy” Thompson’s reaction to the name was somewhat similar to Donald Cerrone’s.

“I had some people ask me, ‘Hey, would you fight Darren Till?” Thompson told MMAjunkie. “Of course, I’m like – I didn’t really know who Darren Till was at the time. I had to go back and do my research.”

Thompson’s reaction, he says, was “I’ll fight anybody.” But there were still pieces to be put in place before the matchup came together. One of them was his body. After bouncing back from a second failed title bid with the unanimous decision over Masvidal, Thompson found he had a broken a thumb and torn a ligament in the other one.

And then there was the messy situation atop the 170-pound division. Although Thompson came up short in his two attempts at taking Tyron Woodley’s crown, the two fights were incredibly close – resulting in a majority draw and a majority-decision loss. With Woodley hurt and an interim title possibility looming, “Wonderboy” still had hopes his name would be in the hat.

Considering Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington are now set to fight for the interim belt, that wasn’t the case. But Thompson wasn’t too broken up about it. Sure, it’s not a title fight, but it’s an exciting meeting with an up-and-comer. And for Thompson, who’d never fought in the U.K., the stage just sweetened the pot.

And as for those title hopes?

“I think after this fight, with a good win over Darren Till, it just kind of solidifies my spot to be in that No. 1 contender,” Thompson said. “After that, it really is up to who fights Tyron next, and what happens then. Whoever wins the fight between ‘RDA’ and Colby Covington will face Tyron next.

“If they beat Tyron, I think I’ll get that next shot. If Tyron wins, I may have to fight one more time. So it’s kind of up in the air.”

In any case, that’s a concern for later. Right now, Thompson’s (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) focus is geared solely toward Till (16-0-1 MMA, 4-0-1 UFC), with whom he closes out the FS1-televised main card at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. The preliminary card also airs on FS1, following an early prelim on UFC Fight Pass.

While Thompson’s introduction to Till’s name was similar to Cerrone’s, it’s safe to say Thompson wouldn’t want the same fate that “Cowboy” found when he met Till at UFC Fight Night 118 last October. Cerrone was knocked out in the first round, adding a third loss to his skid and shooting Till into MMA stardom in the process.

So he’s done his homework. When it comes to Till’s strengths, some are obvious. While Till and Thompson don’t differ much in height, the Brit is a visibly bulky welterweight and “Wonderboy” recognizes he might be dealing with some added power.

“Usually, bigger guys – there’s more weight behind the punches, so to speak,” Thompson said. “More muscle on the frame. But it’s something I’m used to every day.”

Thompson also caught wind of Till’s comments about finishing him within two rounds, which leads him to expect a fairly aggressive foe. Between his unique style and experience both in the octagon and in training, though, Thompson believes he’s got the tools to deal with whatever Till throws his way.

“I’ve been fighting since I was 15 years old,” Thompson said. “And I think in fighting and sparring guys all over the world, and some of the best strikers in the world, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, I’ve trained with all these guys. Hopefully that will all come down to this moment and help me out during this fight.”

Till knows Thompson is expecting a very aggressive fighter – which, he told MMAjunkie, might just mean “he’s going to get a surprise.” But Thompson, on his end, has been through enough battles to know that his idea of the fight may change once the cage door closes.

“We can never predict how the fight is going to start,” Till said. “Is he going to come out aggressive? Is he going to kind of back off a little bit as Tyron did? It can possibly be one of those balls-to-the-wall slugfest, just nonstop action, and I think I’m prepared for that.

“I think he’s fighting in front of his hometown, and he wants to put on a show for everybody. So I think he’s going to come out trying to put me away too. And that’s what I’m ready for.”

As far as being the intruder in Till’s backyard goes, notable nice guy Thompson is not about to completely change his ways and turn himself into a full-blown villain. But he does admit the circumstances, complete by UFC President Dana White’s presence in the crowd, might make a possible victory a touch sweeter.

“It fires me up, to be honest with you,” Thompson said. “All right, you guys wanted this fight. You got it. You’re going to see the best Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson stepping out there this Sunday. It would be cool to go out there. And of course, I know I’m going to be getting the boos but, more importantly, is – going out there with the W, obviously, but carrying myself as a gentleman as well.

“That’s more important to me than anything. But it will be cool to kind of give Dana that wink, like, ‘Hey, you wanted it. You got it.’”

To hear Thompson’s full chat with MMAjunkie, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 130, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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