LAS VEGAS — Stephen Thompson used a devastating left to complete an impressive first-round knockout against former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and catapult himself into title contention in the main event of UFC’s Fight Night on Saturday night.
"I threw a lot of kicks to make it awkward," Thompson said. "I didn’t look for the knockout, it just happened."
Thompson (12-1) used his high level of kickboxing to keep Hendricks (17-4) in perfect range at the end of his kicks. He controlled the action, landing combinations and kicks that kept Hendricks off balance throughout.
"I came out here to put on a good show," Thompson said. "I hope all my fans back home were impressed."
Thompson was highly accurate and pushed the pace until he landed the left that crumpled Hendricks against the cage. Thompson continued his flurry, forcing the referee to stop the fight at 3:31 of the first round. The eighth-ranked Thompson earned his sixth straight victory.
"I hesitated," Hendricks said. "Hats off, he was just the better man tonight."
In the co-main event, heavyweight Roy Nelson won a unanimous decision over Jared Rosholt to end a three-fight losing streak. Nelson (22-12) and Rosholt (14-3) stood toe-to-toe for the majority of the fight, with Nelson able to land a number of powerful leg kicks and control the stand up.
Nelson stalked Rosholt for the majority of the bout, loading up and launching haymakers but never able to inflict any significant damage.
"I think I took him out of his game," Nelson said. "I like to fight, it’s in my blood."
Neither fighter was hurt in the bout, and Nelson did just enough to earn the victory. Three judges scored it 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.
On the undercard, top-ranked flyweight Joseph Benavidez reaffirmed that he is still the top contender for the title, looking sharp in a unanimous decision over eighth-ranked Zach Makovsky. Sixth-ranked light heavyweight Ovince Saint Preux grinded out a unanimous decision over Rafael Cavalcante despite injuring his right ankle early in the first round.