Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Michel Pereira and Stephen Thompson will square off this weekend (Sat., July 29, 2023) at UFC 291 inside Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Pereira’s 2019 loss to Tristan Connelly should not have happened. The massive Brazilian screwed around too much, got tired, and was outwrestled by a far smaller man. However, it was all for the best, as that’s the night “Demolidor” decided to take this whole fighting thing more seriously. He’s still wild but in a smarter fashion, and the result is his current five-fight win streak. Meanwhile, Thompson is really embodying the “Wonderboy” moniker. At 40 years of age, he’s still faster, better conditioned, and of fresher face than the vast majority of his 30 year old peers! That’s not to say he’s still at his peak necessarily, but Thompson is still a real tough cookie to crack.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 28-11 (2)
Key Wins: Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC Vegas 55), Niko Price (UFC 264), Andre Fialho (UFC 270) Danny Roberts (UFC Fight Night 152), Khaos Williams (UFC Vegas 17), Zelim Imadaev (UFC Vegas 9)
Key Losses: Tristan Connelly (UFC Fight Night 158), Dusko Todorovic (Serbian Battle Championship 19)
Keys to Victory: Pereira is a man who seems to defy physics. How a Welterweight can be so large and still have a reasonably solid gas tank is beyond all logic, but “Demolidor” pulls it off. Aside from being massive, Pereira is a powerful and crafty range striker with underrated ground skills and a wealth of experience.
This is a really interesting stylistic match up. On one hand, Pereira’s size, quickness, and range striking would seem to give him a pretty decent chance at range against “Wonderboy.” He’s not going to be totally lost on a technical level, and his physical attributes could be enough to overcome the karateka. However, we’ve also seen many young prospects get absolutely handled by Thompson in the stand up.
For that reason, it would likely be a really good idea for Pereira to mix up his offense and add takedowns. He can wrestle well, and his physicality will really wear on the older fighter more in grinding grappling exchanges. Ideally, Pereira will work to establish his front kick and blitzes, then time his takedowns when Thompson is near the fence.
Key Wins: Rory MacDonald (UFC Fight Night 89), Jorge Masvidal (UFC 217), Robert Whittaker (UFC 178), Vicente Luque (UFC 244), Johny Hendricks (UFC Fight Night 82), Geoff Neal (UFC Vegas 17), Kevin Holland (UFC Orlando)
Key Losses: Belal Muhammad (UFC Vegas 45), Gilbert Burns (UFC 264), Tyron Woodley (UFC 211), Anthony Pettis (UFC Fight Night 148)
Keys to Victory: Thompson really has a style all his own. We’ve never seen a striker who can utilize side kicks as effectively at such a high level, and his constant side-to-side darting creates offensive options and counters in a manner that very few men can replicate.
Playing the matador is always Thompson’s M.O., but some extra aggression may be warranted here. As mentioned, Pereira’s physicality could be a real issue along the fence, which means cage position is going to be hugely important. Of course, Thompson is very good at changing directions and keeping his feet moving, but Pereira has great presence inside the Octagon. Against an opponent who can move forward with confidence, it’s important that “Wonderboy” stands his ground a decent amount of the time.
Furthermore, a high pace would seem to benefit Thompson. Pereira’s weight cut does seem to affect him later in rounds, whereas Thompson was able to push the pace harder through four rounds last time out against Kevin Holland.
Thompson’s Top 10 spot is on the line in a surefire action fight.
“Wonderboy” is in a funny place. On one hand, Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad left absolutely zero doubt that at this stage of the game, strong wrestlers can give Thompson hell. At the same time, Thompson’s stand up is still so slick that it’s not impossible to see him giving someone like Leon Edwards trouble even now. It would take a miracle run of correct circumstances, but Thompson’s title dreams aren’t truly dead just yet.
A win keeps ‘em alive for a little while longer.
As for Pereira, this feels like one of the more winnable match ups for him in the Top 10. He’s on a good win streak and has earned this opportunity, so capitalizing will really push him into the title mix. He still feels like an unlikely contender, but this is the Brazilian’s moment to change that perception.
At UFC 291, Stephen Thompson and Michel Pereira will duel. Which Welterweight earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 291 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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