Former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks will face Stephen Thompson in the five round main event of UFC Fight Night 82 on February 6th, 2016 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Downgraded UFC 196

Hendricks vs Thompson was supposed to be the co-featured bout of UFC 196 but when both Cain Velasquez and UFC Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum pulling out of the event one after the other in less than 24 hours last week, the UFC scrambled to find a replacement main event bout worthy of PPV status. But when it was clear that it would be difficult to manufacture a top-notch contest in a week’s time, they decided to promote Hendricks vs Thompson as the main event while moving the card to free TV on FS1.

The move was seen as a win-win situation for the UFC, the fans and its fighters as canceling the event would have meant shelving the 24 fighters who were supposed to fight at UFC 196. Letting the event push thru on free TV also gives the UFC the opportunity to reach out to more fans and with a former champion like Hendricks headlining the bout, nobody should be disappointed.

The Wonder Boy

Stephen Thompson is the former training partner of ex-champions Georges St. Pierre and Chris Weidman. An undefeated full-contact kickboxer, Dubbed as the Wonderboy, Thompson is ranked #9 in the UFC welterweight division. He has an overall MMA record of 11-1 with 6 KOs including 6-1 in the UFC with 4 KOs. His biggest wins have been knockouts of Robert Whitaker and Jake Ellenberger.

The Wonderboy believes Hendricks is his golden ticket to the top of the 170-pound rankings and a win will give him a shot at Robbie Lawler’s title. Thompson believes that he’s drastically improved since his loss to Matt Brown and that he’s ready to step up his level of competition. There could be no better opportunity for him than Hendricks who is hoping to return to top form after his recent struggles with his weight.

Young Again

“Young Again” is how former champion Johny Hendricks calls his rejuvenation under weight management specialist Louis Giordano. Hendricks’ weight problems caused him to lose to Robbie Lawler at UFC 181 and forced him out of the co-main event of UFC 192. But with his new-found direction and confidence, Hendricks believes he will return to the top of the 170-pound division where he says he truly belongs.

Hendricks record is an impressive 17-3 with 8 KOs and  1 submission. The former All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University owns victories over T.J. Grant, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Carlos Condit and Lawler ( during their first bout). His losses to Lawler and Georges St. Pierre were both by controversial split decision. In his most recent bout, Hendricks defeated Matt Brown by unanimous decision.

Who Takes This?

Hendricks is the -220 favorite over Thompson, who is a +180 underdog. Hendricks has seen the best of this weight class during his championship run. Against St. Pierre and Lawler, he proved that he has a granite chin and a big fighting heart. As always, his advantage is his elite wrestling skills which if he utilizes are close to unstoppable. In his last fight against a supreme striker like Matt Brown, Hendricks took him down 9/10 times to take the decision win.

While Thompson does have the disadvantage in grappling, his victory over Ellenberger proved that he could wrestle with veterans. But although he outworked Ellenberger in grappling exchanges, Thompson still cannot match Hendricks on the ground. But remember that every fight starts on its feet and Thompson has to keep it up if he wants a shot at beating Big Rigg. Striking from a distance should be his game plan as Wonderboy has a huge 6 inch reach advantage. If he keeps Hendricks off him, this should be an interesting fight indeed. Experts though are picking Hendricks to win by KO after three rounds as Thompson’s ability to fight in the championship rounds is a big question mark.

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