There's no argument about it now—UFC and Strikeforce veteran Josh Thomson is once again a legit top contender in the lightweight division.
Of course, he was always a top-level competitor at 155 pounds, but with an incredibly rare knockout victory over the indomitable iron-chinned Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 7, no one can question the status of "The Punk" anymore.
Honestly, Thomson was always good
But like Nick Diaz, Luke Rockhold and so many other Strikeforce fighters, he just couldn't escape the stigma of being part of the MMA world's second-best promotion.
But in a solid performance on Saturday, Thomson put his whole division on notice, playing the younger Diaz brother like a harp, softening him up with leg kicks and using footwork to stay out of danger.
Diaz's leg eventually swelled up, and despite a late rally, he couldn't catch up.
Eventually, the taunting antics of Diaz made him too lazy with his striking defense, opening himself up for a monster head kick that turned into several agonizing minutes of ground-and-pound from a surging Thompson.
It's been over eight years since Thompson last competed in the UFC, but his return bout couldn't have gone any better.
Not only has Thompson knocked off the sport's No. 4 lightweight (via the official UFC rankings), but he's also become the only man to ever stop Diaz in the UFC, handing the Stocktonian just his first KO loss in 25 fights over seven years.
Even better, The Punk is also a single fight removed from a hard-fought battle in a May 2012 title shot against Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship, ending in a tight split decision that many thought the champion lost.
Other fighters, take note—that's exactly what you do in a UFC debut.
In just eight minutes and 45 seconds, Thomson established himself in the UFC title hunt, broke a UFC record and re-legitimized his entire MMA career.
That's not too shabby at all, and if his camp is smart, Thomson will definitely find himself competing for a title shot against Benson Henderson in his next bout—or perhaps even a fourth match against a longtime rival in Gilbert Melendez.
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