Before there was “Super” Sage Northcutt, the resident athletic freak in the UFC was Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.
Wonderboy has been flying under the radar, fighting only once in the last 16 months.
He returns to the Octagon on Saturday night in Las Vegas, where he has won five straight and six of his seven UFC fights. Thompson takes on former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks in the biggest fight of his life, and that is the No. 1 reason to watch Fight Night Las Vegas.
Hendricks didn’t have the best 2015. He lost his title right before the year began, and in his last fight – which was scheduled against Tyron Woodley at UFC 192 – Hendricks was forced to pull out due to complications during his weight cut.
“Bigg Rigg” vs. Wonderboy features two top fighters at different stages of their careers. Thompson is the young prospect looking to break through to the upper echelon of the rankings. Hendricks is the veteran desperate to make another run at the title he once held.
FS1 Main Card
In other must-see main card fights, No. 11-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson looks to snap a three-fight losing streak against No. 12-ranked Jared Rosholt in the co-main event.
Nelson has faced the top fighters in his division since 2013. He has five losses in his last six fights, but four were by decision. He is one of the toughest pound-for-pound guys on the roster, and Rosholt, a high-level wrestler with some power in his hands, will have his hands full with Nelson.
Ovince Saint Preux had his two-fight win streak stopped emphatically by Glover Teixeira last time out, but OSP is determined to get back to his winning ways against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in a great light heavyweight battle. These two top 15 fighters have 22 KOs between them and will look to trade some leather.
In perhaps the most underrated fight on the card, perennial flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez takes on No. 8-ranked Zach Makovsky in a battle for the potential No. 1 contender spot.
Demetrious Johnson has been running roughshod over the entire 125-pound division the past few years, and Benavidez has been one of his toughest challengers. A win over the “JoaConstricter” would shoot “Fun Size” up the rankings.
Both guys are talented wrestlers who can also hold their own in the standup game.
“The People’s Warrior” Josh Burkman is back in action, making his fourth Octagon appearance since returning to the UFC a year ago. He’s been in one Fight of the Night against Patrick Cote and is starving to get back on the winning side of things.
Burkman faces KJ Noons it what promises to be a fun standup affair. Noons has five KO finishes in his UFC career and loves to stand and trade with his opponents.
Derrick Lewis also fights on the FS1 prelims. “The Black Beast” is coming off a KO win against Viktor Pesta at UFC 192 and faces off against Damian Grabowski. “The Polish Pitbull” brings a 20-2 record into the UFC for his debut bout against Lewis.
UFC FIGHT PASS prelims
One of the most talked-about stars on the UFC roster last year didn’t even step foot in the Octagon in 2015. But UFC president Dana White said that CM Punk will make his organizational debut in 2016.
So who gets first crack at the former WWE superstar?
More on Fight Night Las Vegas: Full fight card | Watch UFC Countdown: Hendricks vs. Thompson | Scoggins ready to show off full arsenal | Hendricks still motivated | The 10: February’s biggest fights | See the fights live in Las Vegas
White is giving 24-year-old Mickey Gall the opportunity to earn that shot against Punk when he takes on Mike Jackson in the main event of the UFC FIGHT PASS prelims.
White found Gall on Episode 1 of his new reality show “Lookin’ for a Fight,” and if he beats Jackson he’ll get a contract to fight Punk in his UFC debut.
Also on the UFC FIGHT PASS prelims, The Ultimate Fighter Season 22 finalist Artem Lobov makes his second appearance for the UFC after a loss to Ryan Hall on the finale of last season’s show. Lobov, one of Conor McGregor’s training partners, faces Alex White to open up the card.