By The Numbers
Robert Whittaker comes into this fight with a 11-3 record (~4:1) and Stephen Thompson's is 8-1 (8:1). Each fighter has won half of his respective fights be KO or TKO, but the two flip flop on submission and decision percentages. Whittaker has won 42% of his other fights by submission and Thompson has 39% of his other fights in the D column. Whittaker spent eight year practicing karate during his childhood before transitioning to MMA. Thompson has more amateur kickboxing titles than a shapeshifting book. Whittaker has the more rounded skill set, but Thompson is a bigger threat in a stand-up battle.
What's at Stake
The welterweight division's top ten is pretty stacked at the moment. A win tonight certainly won't put either of these in that hat, but it's hard to draw attention to fighters on a losing streak in a packed division. Whittaker won The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes with a decision over Brad Scott. He picked up a TKO after dropping a charging Colton Smith, but Court McGee captured a split decision in August 2013. It won't be the end of Whittaker's career if he loses tonight, but dropping two in a row will be tough if it's not a hard fought loss.
Thompson was steadily climbing the ladder until a surging Matt Brown handed him his first loss. He since claimed a decision of his own over fellow rising star Nah-Shon Burrell and TKO'd Chris Clements. Thompson also won't be hurt much by a loss, but defeating an Ultimate Fighter winner is always a nice feather for your cap.
Road to Victory
Whittaker is the more well rounded of the two fighters. Five of his eleven wins come by submission. Even though he's no slouch with his hands, he's probably not going to come out on the better end of a striking war with Thompson. Alternately, Thompson needs to stay out of Whittaker's grasp. They're similarly built so neither has an overwhelming reach advantage.