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UFC Fight Night 89: Stephen Thompson, 'Fighter to Watch' tonight in Ottawa

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Now is the time for budding Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight superstar Stephen Thompson to make his move towards divisional gold.

After all, "Wonderboy" has racked off six-straight Octagon victories, including finishes of former champion Johny Hendricks and hard-nosed veteran Jake Ellenberger.

As Thompson enters his UFC Fight Night 89 main event tilt with Rory MacDonald tonight (Sat., June 18, 2016) live on FOX Sports 1 from the TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Canada, he'll be given the opportunity to lock down a title shot with a victory over one of the most complete fighters in mixed martial arts (MMA) today.

The pressure is on to say the least. With a unique skill set fueling his mainstream ascension, Thompson must produce if he wants to capitalize on his new found potential in the prime of his career.

And considering so much is at stake for the 33-year-old, "Wonderboy" is undoubtedly the "Fighter to Watch" tonight in Ottawa.

One of the most important questions for Thompson entering his tilt with MacDonald is whether or not he can make even the most elite Welterweights in the world look foolish with his sporadic Karate entrances and exits on the feet and superb takedown defense. He was able to utilize both strengths against Hendricks at UFC Fight Night 82, but "Bigg Rigg" hasn't looked the same since losing the title to current champion Robbie Lawler back at UFC 181. It can be argued that Thompson caught Hendricks at the perfect point in his career, especially considering Hendricks was in the middle of a new weight management program.

Nonetheless, Thompson will be able to dethrone MacDonald in front of a wild Canadian crowd will little resistance to follow. As arguably the most well-rounded 170-pound threat on the planet, "Red King" has shown the ability to get past Welterweights of all shapes and sizes. This includes current title challenger Tyron Woodley, the streaking Demian Maia, and a desperate Tarec Saffiedine. And even though MacDonald lost his title bid opposite Lawler back at UFC 189 this past July, his blood-spilling effort essentially launched him to another level within the division. A level that Thompson can claw his to if he's able to outsmart the Tristar Gym phenom.

It's going to be interesting to see how Thompson physically stacks up against MacDonald, who will possess a slight reach advantage. In the past, MacDonald has done a really good job at intelligently advancing on the feet and patiently picking his shots from distance. He most notably did this against Woodley back at UFC 174. But with arguably the best range in the sport today, "Wonderboy" can immediately cause trouble for MacDonald if he's able to back him up and land early on, especially considering the Canadian is usually a slow starter.

With everything in mind, UFC Fight Night 89 will be a more important night for Thompson compared to MacDonald based on the fact that "Wonderboy" only has a few great years left before his body begins to slow with father time. That makes him more dangerous than ever, especially with a title shot inches away.

Stick with Mania for complete UFC Fight Night 89 coverage and analysis.

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