There's are two simple reasons that #StephenThompson is being listed as high as a 2-to-1 favorite over welterweight champion #TyronWoodley at #UFC205 this weekend, and both of them can be found at the end of his ankles.
Thanks to a lifetime of combat sports experience that included a ludicrous 57-0 run as a kickboxer, Thompson has acquired the unique ability to place a foot (or shin) on his opponents from practically wherever he wants to. It's made him an absolute nightmare for past opponents like #JohnyHendricks and #JakeEllenberger and also something of an enigma to the welterweight division, to the point that Woodley found it necessary to bring #SageNorthcutt into his camp just to try and mimic "Wonderboy's" style.
But of the many flashy kicks that Wonderboy employs, it's one of his simplest that his opponents often find the most trouble with: the lead sidekick.
How does the lead sidekick work?
Described by former world champion boxer and one-time MMA fighter James Toney as the "side check kick," the lead sidekick is used primarily by Thompson to gauge and/or maintain distance between himself and his opponent -- think of it as a kicker's jab. Standing at 6 feet tall, Thompson enjoys a sizable height and reach advantage over most of his opponents (Woodley included), which gives him all the more room to land the sidekick without having to fear being counterpunched in response. As striking analyst Jack Slack put it:
Like Lyoto Machida, you will notice that Thompson keeps a gulf of distance between himself and his opponent. The enormous benefit of this is that any offensive action is considerably more telegraphed. It's the same reason you don't want to stand close enough to be sucker punched by someone you're arguing with, space means time to react. And this gulfing distance serves to force what we term the 'extra step'. That is opponents, in knowing that they have this huge gap to close and that the karateka will retreat as soon as he sees forward movement, commits to two lunges forwards, a preliminary step and then the punch.
It's a technique that Thompson will likely go to the well with to keep a power-punching wrestler like Woodley at bay, which is why we brought in King's MMA striking coach Kory Kelly to dissect the move as part of our ongoing "Techniques of UFC 205" series. Check out his full breakdown below, then head over to our Youtube page to check out the rest of the series.