Just In UFC on ESPN+ 6 breakdown: Why Stephen Thompson will be too much for Anthony Pettis MMA Life

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MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC on ESPN+ 6.

UFC on ESPN+ 6 takes place Saturday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The event streams on ESPN+.

Stephen Thompson (14-3-1 MMA, 9-3-1 UFC)

Stephen Thompson at UFC Fight Night 130.

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 36 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 75″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Darren Till (May 27, 2018)
  • Camp: Upstate Karate (South Carolina)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Kempo karate black belt
+ 5x kickboxing world champion
+ 7 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 5 first-round finishes
+ KO power
^ Knocked down 6 of past 9 opponents
+ Superb feints and footwork
^ Plays in and out of striking range
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Intercepting punches and dynamic kicks
+ Improved wrestling ability
+ Underrated clinch game
^ Good head position/strikes off breaks

Anthony Pettis (21-8 MMA, 8-7 UFC)

Anthony Pettis at UFC 229.

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 32 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: TKO loss to Tony Ferguson(July 6, 2018)
  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwaukee, Wis.)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Former UFC and WEC lightweight champ
+ Tae kwon do black belt (third degree)
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 9 KO victories
+ 8 submission wins
+ 12 first-round finishes
+ Good footwork and feints
+ Improved boxing
^ Accurate counter-cross
+ Diverse kicking game
^ Dangerous body attacks
+ Improved wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Excellent submission grappler

Point of interest: Traditional-style standoff

The main event in Nashville features a fun pairing of two traditional martial artists who have been successful at translating their styles at the highest levels inside the octagon.

Anthony Pettis, who initially comes from a taekwondo base, has been able to bring a spectacular array of kicking techniques into the cage. Balancing out his traditional stylings under the tutelage of Duke Roufus, Pettis has rounded out his attacks with punches and feints to help set up his fight-ending kicks.

As flashy as some of the kicks on his highlight reel may be, Pettis’ body kick seems to be his bread and butter, unloading them from either stance with authority. Considering the tall stature of his opponent, I would not be surprised to see Pettis unleash a healthy amount of liver kicks – which quite possibly may be his best shot at stopping his durable foe.

The former lightweight champion also has an underrated counter cross that could come in handy when looking at the successes of his current counterpart’s past foes. However, I’m not sure how much of Pettis’ punching power will translate up a division.

Enter Stephen Thompson.

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One of the other few fighters to successfully translate traditional martial arts into MMA at a high level, Thompson brings an interesting influence of both kenpo karate and point-fighting stylings to the table. The South Carolina native also incorporates some boxing fundamentals and principles that should serve him well in this matchup.

With footwork often being the quiet killer in the upper echelons of combat sports, Thompson’s switch-stance stylings afford him options in regards to taking away or reducing the threats, depending on what his opposition is doing.

In facing one of the more sound welterweight strikers in Rory MacDonald, Thompson was able to take away the Canadian’s jab using superb outside-foot awareness. Keeping his lead foot just outside of his MacDonald’s lead foot, Thompson was able to shut down the traditional striking lanes, leaving the former UFC title challenger looking hesitant.

Thompson is, of course, also known for his dynamic kicks and counters, but I’m not sure how hard he will open with those techniques given that Pettis is no stranger to traditional-style kicks (or their counters). For that reason, I suspect Thompson will be the one trying to counter the stylistic spitfire that is likely headed his way.

Next point of interest: Potential grappling stanzas

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