For the first time in his career, former UFC welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson was knocked out cold.
The man to do it: former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis.
During their scrap, which headlined UFC Nashville this past Saturday, Thompson’s noticeable size advantage over Pettis played a massive role in the opening frame as he picked apart his smaller opponent. But with five minutes left in the second frame, Pettis uncorked a hellacious Superman punch square on the jaw of Thompson, sending him crashing head first into the canvas.
As his opponent screamed in victory, Thompson slowly regained consciousness as doctor’s rushed to his side. Cameras would later show him congratulating Pettis before taking pictures with fans as he exited the Octagon. Too bad, Thompson has no recollection of this.
“I remember the first round very well and I don’t remember the second round very well,” Thompson told Luke Thomas during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “But, I remember going back to the corner and having his blood all over my chest. I’m looking and he’s leaking from his nose and I’m like ‘Man, did I break his nose?’ After that, it’s kind of blank. I literally come to in the back. I see Chris Weidman, I see my mom, I see my brother and I don’t remember being out in the cage or walking back or taking pictures with everybody. I don’t remember that at all.”
Right up until the finishing blow, Thompson seemed to be cruising towards a victory. Out-striking his opponent in both rounds, “Wonderboy” even remembers the exact moment he saw victory in his future.
But to Thompson, that was his downfall.
“I didn’t expect him to stand right there in front of me,” Thompson said. “But, he actually met me in the middle and started coming at me. He did throw a lot of leg kicks but I remember thinking his strikes with punches were kind of slow in the first round. Like ‘Man, this isn’t going to take long at all.’ That’s what you get for thinking.
“The game plan was to really pump the jab and get him back up a bit and then look for the knockout from there. He did keep his hands up fairly high, which made that fairly difficult. So I started going to the body as well with my own body kick to try to get him to drop those hands a little bit. In the later rounds, I figured that those body shots would wear his body down and he’d dropped his hands and the knockout would be a little easier. But, we never made it to that point.”
For fans, the sight of Thompson’s unconscious body sprawled out on the mat should have come as a shock, especially at the hands of a former 155-pound fighter who’s even dabbled at 145 pounds. After all, Thompson not only survived the onslaught from former 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley but came back stronger in the following round during their title fight at UFC 205.
“I know I’ve been hit harder than that, I know Tyron has hit me harder that,” Thompson said. “Why did this punch affect me like it did? The only thing I can think of is it just being right on the money. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. I threw a sidekick that kind of glanced off him and put me in a bad position where my right foot was trailing to the outside of him, which put me closer to him. I know his back was to the cage, so all he had to do was lunge forward and, of course, when you’re throwing your punch with your whole body behind it, it makes it that much more powerful and the last three or four inches is where the power comes from. So, throwing that straight right down the pipe, that’s what did it.
“It took me a while to figure it out and go back and watch it. It didn’t look like it was that much. Especially after Tyron put me down and didn’t put me away. I’m sitting there thinking ‘Why was that?’ But, you know, it doesn’t have to take a gorilla of a punch to put you away. You put it right on the spot and that’s all it takes.”
But while he declared his brain was “fine” from the blow, Thompson is in no rush to return to the Octagon, even if it means losing out on a spot on the UFC Greenville card he’s been calling for.
“I know there’s a fight in my hometown in three months. So, we’re going to see how we feel in two weeks. I’m not going to push it at all, especially after a knock down like that. I don’t want to jump back too soon. So, I don’t know.”