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Stephen Thompson stops Kevin Holland, remains in UFC title picture

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Stephen Thompson

ORLANDO — Don’t cut Stephen Thompson out of the welterweight title picture just yet.

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Thompson (17-6-1) earned one of the biggest victories of his career Saturday, stopping Kevin Holland (23-9) in the fourth round by TKO. Netherlands head coach Bob Perez ruled out the fight between the fourth and fifth rounds as it was clear Holland was suffering from a right hand injury. The welterweight bout headlined UFC Fight Night inside the Amway Center.

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For the 39-year-old Thompson, it was his first win since December 2020. He fell in back-to-back fights against Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad in 2021 before sitting out most of 2022.

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“My last two performances, I lost to fighters,” Thompson said. “I wanted to show the UFC, the fans, ‘Wonderboy’ is still here. I feel like I’m 25. I’m still in the long run and I still have it.”

The 170-pound contest was an even back-and-forth affair for the first two rounds, before Thompson began to assert himself in the third and fourth. Holland actually hurt Thompson with a heavy right hand in the first round and had some success with elbows and clinch punches. However, as the fight progressed, Thompson’s longer punches proved more effective.

Thompson hurt Holland with kicks to the abdomen and head in the third round, and dropped him with punches along the fence. The left kick to the body visibly hurt Holland again in the fourth round. He tried to play, but the damage from him was very evident, and his own offensive production dwindled to practically nothing, as he became more and more defensive.

“I think it hurt [the right hand] in the first round, and after that it hurt,” Holland said. “It is what it is.”

Despite the two losses in 2021, Thompson entered Saturday’s contest tied as the No. 6-ranked welterweight in the UFC. He has wins over Geoff Neal, who is also tied for the No. 6 ranking, Vicente Luque, who is ranked No. 9. Saturday was his sixth knockout in the UFC, which is tied for the most knockouts in history. UFC welterweight.

According to UFC Stats, Thompson outscored the Netherlands in total strikes 145-102. Holland took Thompson down several times, usually in a brawl after they both lost their balance on their punches, but let Thompson repeatedly get to his feet rather than try to keep him on the ground.

Holland, a former middleweight, suffered his first loss as a welterweight.

Defending UFC champion Leon Edwards, who won the championship in August, does not have his first title defense in store, though he is expected to face Kamaru Usman in a trilogy fight in early 2023.

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