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Vicente Luque: UFC 244 win over Stephen Thompson proves ‘I belong in the top of the division’

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Vicente Luque is looking to go 4-0 in 2019 against Stephen Thompson at Madison Square Garden.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Stephen Thompson is 1-3-1 in his past five UFC fights, but Vicente Luque isn’t taking him lightly.

“The Silent Assassin” expects to face the man that’s finished the likes of Robert Whittaker and Johny Hendricks – not the one that dropped back-to-back fights to Darren Till and Anthony Pettis.

“I’m expecting the best ‘Wonderboy’,” Luque told MMA Fighting about his meeting with Thompson on the UFC 244 pay-per-view card at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 2.

“He’s coming off two losses, so he’s hungry. He’s definitely training hard to get back to the wins. I’ll be ready to fight the best ‘Wonderboy’ – the one that had fantastic fights with Tyron Woodley. I don’t expect anything different, and I’ll be ready to stop his karate game.”

Five of Thompson’s UFC wins are by knockout, and Luque isn’t the type of fighter to shy away from trading punches and kicks inside the Octagon. Yet he’s not ruling out using his slick jiu-jitsu in New York.

“I think it’s a good match-up for me on the feet,” Luque said. “I put pressure on my opponents. He likes to move a lot, and if I can stop that movement, I believe I can put pressure on him. The ground game is always a weapon I have, though. I haven’t used that in my last fights, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to use it. I do, and I will use that when I have a chance. Using takedowns and my ground game is a possibility I might work on in this fight.”

Victorious in his past six UFC appearances, including a bloody war with Mike Perry in his most recent appearance at UFC Uruguay, Luque expects a win over “Wonderboy” to get him closer to the elite of the welterweight division.

“He’s a big name in the top-10 today,” Luque said. “He’s not going through a good time right now, but he still has a huge name. A win over him would definitely be very positive for me and put me closer to the top-five.

“It won’t be the one that guarantees me a shot at the title, but it will prove I belong in the top of the division and get me closer to the five best in the world. It’s an important fight that will open a lot of space for me.”

The Brazilian talent already has fought three times this year, delivering knockouts of Bryan Barberena and Derrick Krantz before the first decision win of his UFC career against Perry. The Nov. 2 date is sooner than he originally sought, but he’s not keen on turning down fights against top talent such as Thompson.

Luque expects to have good crowd support as he attempts to go 4-0 in 2019. Madison Square Garden is a short drive away from family and friends in New Jersey, and they motivate him to fight harder.

“That was my plan for 2019 –to fight as much as my body allowed me,” he said. “I had good fights and showed the division I’m here to fight for this title and become champion, and now I have another opportunity to represent Brazil the best way possible.”