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Oli Thompson says he won’t let Matt Mitrione off the hook like Carl Seumanutafa did

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If anybody was watching Matt Mitrione’s Bellator debut against Carl Seumanutafa with special interest a couple of weeks back, it was big Oli Thompson, whom the promotion brought out from England just for the privilege. Thompson’s mission was to step inside the cage after Mitrione’s fight and challenge him to a fight three weeks from that date if (A) Mitrione won, and (B) if Mitrione didn’t get creamed in the process of winning.

So Thompson’s heart dropped a little bit when Mitrione took a wicked right hand just half-a-minute into the action in St. Louis, which crumpled "Meat" where he stood.

"I knew that if he lost we wouldn’t do it," Thompson says. "I knew that if he won but took lots of heavy damage we also wouldn’t do it. So it was far from guaranteed. I know Matt was the favorite but it looked unsure for awhile, didn’t it?"

It did. Yet somehow, Mitrione recovered as Seumanutafa opted to grapple with him when he had him hurt, rather than put him away. Before the round let out, Mitrione had recovered enough to turn the tables and knock Seumanutafa out.

Though Mitrione did take the heavy punch, he was cleared to fight Thompson on July 16 at Bellator 158 in London. And he says he’s excited it worked out the way it did.

"He’s a good challenge," the 36-year old East Sussex native says. "If he hadn’t, I’d have trusted Bellator to find me another good challenge. Obviously I’m a home country English guy, but I think they wanted someone who was a recognized name as well.

"But yeah. Carl should have finished him, no doubt about that. I would have finished him right there. I can say that with certainty. The guys who organized the fight were more anxious than I was because I’m a fighter. I’ll fight Matt or I’ll fight someone else. But I think everyone was hoping he would be healthy enough after the fight finished to fight again."

Thompson, an English strongman-turned-mixed martial artist with plenty of dynamite in his hands, will get to play spoiler against Bellator’s latest free agent, and do so on his native turf. And he’s catching Mitrione at a moment of career revival. He’s rattled off straight wins in other promotions.

You might remember Thompson from his stint in the UFC back in 2012. He lost back-to-back fight against Shawn Jordan and Phil de Fries. But back then, he was just a specimen of raw materials. He says he had virtually no training when he found himself competing on that big stage in those early days.

"The funny thing is when I signed with the UFC a few years back, all I was was a guy with lots of raw power and very basic grappling skills," he says. "I hadn’t… I signed with the UFC and I began to try to strike and punch and get better because I hadn’t done any of that yet. So funny enough, I was developing a fighting record and some sort of reputation for a few years without actually having — or needing — to get my skill set up to another level.

"But obviously you hit a point where you need to build it up. So in actual fact, my fighting development is probably very similar to a guy who’s a good prospect who’s been fighting for a couple of years. Who was training for a long time. But I didn’t take that time to train, I just fought straight away."

One thing that is almost a given when stepping in against Mitrione is that the fight won’t go to the scorecards. In 15 pro fights — 14 of which occurred in the UFC — Mitrione has either finished somebody or gotten finished in 13 of them.

"He’s got good movement," Thompson says. "He throws a lot of hands. He likes to choose where and when the fight takes place with his movement, his footwork. I don’t think he’s a good big one punch knockout specialist, but if you let him keep dictating and making contact then obviously the KO will come as it has before for him and he’s had success with it."

A product of the Wolfslair gym for years, Thompson now trains at his home gym called First Generation Mixed Martial Arts in Eastbourne on the south coast of England. He’s got things going on a good path since 2014. Adding Mitrione’s name to his recent casualty list would become the biggest victory of his career.  

"I could see it ending up very similar," he says. "Matt in the same situation he was a few weeks ago against Carl, but with a different beast on top of him.

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