Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson is widely regarded as one of the nicest men in professional mixed martial arts. This was further validated when he received the commemorative 'NMF' belt by Ariel Helwani.
That doesn't change the fact that in addition to all the niceties, 'Wonderboy' is one of the most dangerous strikers and mixed martial artists in the world today. The 39-year-old who keeps defying Father Time is ranked number four in the UFC's welterweight division.
Thompson has been around for a long time and has fought and beat some of the best in the world. Before Kamaru Usman dethroned Tyron Woodley, 'Wonderboy' is the man who came closest to accomplishing that feat, not once but twice.
While Britain's Leon Edwards is currently on a ten-fight unbeaten streak and is actively campaigning for a title shot, he may have to wait further. Edwards' last outing saw him beat Nate Diaz via unanimous decision at UFC 263, but unfortunately for the Brit, he got rocked in the final moments of the last round. Subsequently, all the attention towards the fight has been directed towards Diaz's last-minute shocker, as opposed to Edwards' domination before it.
'Wonderboy' has been campaigning for a shot at the welterweight title and is scheduled to face Gilbert Burns at UFC 264. If Thompson pulls off a win, he will cement his claim to facing welterweight king Kamaru Usman. While Leon Edwards has also been waiting to face the champion and is ranked higher than 'Wonderboy', there's a good chance he may have to wait longer than the veteran.
In this article, we look at 5 reasons why Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson might get a title shot ahead of Leon Edwards:
Leon Edwards is in the prime of his life at the moment. The 29-year-old Jamaican native is just starting to enter the peak of his athletic abilities and has a long time left in the game.
'Wonderboy', on the other hand, is 39 years old and is possibly looking at his last run at a UFC title. His title bouts with Tyron Woodley left everyone wanting, with the first bout being called and draw and the second one seeing both fighters gun-shy.
Stephen Thompson has been a mainstay in the welterweight division's top-5 for a long time and has more than paid his dues to stake a claim at a title shot. As a veteran of the game, he deserves one final attempt at capturing UFC gold before his time draws to a close.
4) 'Wonderboy' is possibly a bigger threat than Edwards
Stephen Thompson is one of the best strikers we've ever seen in the UFC and is arguably the best striker currently residing in the welterweight division. He has an immense arsenal of varied weapons in addition to great takedown defense and anti-wrestling abilities.
'Wonderboy' is excellent at pressuring forward and attacking while also being a great counter-puncher with impeccable timing. Through a lifetime of karate and kickboxing, Thompson's reflexes are razor-sharp, and his tools are extremely refined.
Kamaru Usman came into the UFC as a wrestler but has grown into a phenomenal striker under the tutelage of Trevor Whittman. This was laid bare for the world to see when Usman knocked out Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in phenomenal fashion.
That said, it will be interesting to see if Usman tries to challenge a high-level striker like 'Wonderboy' on the feet or if he goes back to using his wrestling. In which case, how Thompson deals with the grappling pressure of 'The Nigerian Nightmare' will be worth watching.
3) Better recent outings
While Leon Edwards has a well-rounded game, he has fought Kamaru Usman in the past and lost. That said, Edwards has gone on a 9-0-1NC record since that loss.
However, in these nine wins, Edwards has had only two finishes. One was a submission win over Albert Tumenov in 2016, and the other was a TKO victory over Peter Sobotta in 2018.
Edwards' last outing against Nate Diaz should have helped cement his claim to a title shot, but instead ended up becoming all about Diaz's last-minute flurry that stole the show. The fight before that saw Edwards take on Belal Muhammad but ended in an unfortunate no-contest due to an eye poke.
'Wonderboy', on the other hand, has had two extremely decisive wins in his last two outings. He dismantled Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal with world-class striking and won comfortable unanimous decision victories on both occasions.
Based on most recent performances, 'Wonderboy' definitely has the edge over Leon Edwards. If Thompson delivers a winning performance against Gilbert Burns, it will only cement his case further.
2) Wonderboy is the only person in the top-5 who hasn't fought Usman
Leon Edwards has three losses on his record, two of which came in the UFC. The first UFC loss came for Edwards in his debut in the promotion against Claudio Silva in 2014, while the second was to Kamaru Usman in 2015.
Effectively, 'The Nigerian Nightmare' has beat everyone in the current top-5 of the welterweight division and, in his own words, is coming around to lap them. The only person Usman is yet to fight from that list is Stephen Thompson.
If Kamaru Usman wants to convincingly claim that he has cleaned out the division, he needs to fight 'Wonderboy' at some point in the future. The Nigerian native is scheduled to take on Colby Covington in a rematch for his next title defense. If he beats 'Chaos', it only makes sense for the champion to fight a new challenger rather than a third rematch.
1) Bigger draw
This is the biggest factor in play here, which will undoubtedly play on the minds of UFC president Dana White and the company's matchmakers.
Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson is a fan favorite and a much bigger draw than Leon Edwards at the moment. If Edwards fights someone like Jorge Masvidal and earns a decisive victory, he could very well propel himself into a lot more popularity amongst UFC fans.
However, at the moment, 'Wonderboy' is easily the more popular fighter and will draw a lot more attention to a potential fight against Kamaru Usman.
Considering Usman vs. Wonderboy might sell significantly more PPVs than Usman vs. Edwards, it's not hard to see that the UFC would favor Thompson over the Englishman at the moment.
Do you think 'Wonderboy' deserves a title shot ahead of Leon Edwards, if he beats Gilbert Burns at UFC 264? Tell us in the comments!
After Khabib, Conor and Jon Jones, it's Islam, O'Malley and Izzy. Follow them here!