Shavkat Rakhmonov finally has a dance partner.
The undefeated UFC welterweight contender is being set to fight former title challenger Stephen Thompson at UFC 296 in Las Vegas on Dec. 16. Thompson first revealed the news Friday on his social media, and UFC CEO Dana White later officially announced the matchup.
This key welterweight matchup joins the welterweight title fight between champion Leon Edwards and challenger Colby Covington that was previously announced to headline the pay-per-view event.
Rakhmonov (17-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) has only fought once in 2023, when he defeated Geoff Neal by standing rear-naked choke at UFC 285 in March. He was supposed to make a return at Noche UFC on Sept. 16 against Kelvin Gastelum, but Gastelum was forced out due to injury and the UFC was unable to find Rakhmonov a replacement. The Kazakhstan native is undefeated in his MMA career and has finished all five opponents he’s faced since joining the UFC in 2020.
On the other hand, Thompson (17-6-1 MMA, 12-6-1 UFC) has yet to compete this calendar year. The 40-year-old was supposed to fight Brazil’s Michel Pereira at UFC 291 in late August, but Pereira missed weight by three pounds and Thompson opted out from taking the fight at a catch weight.
Thompson’s most recent performance was in December when he beat Kevin Holland by TKO due to a corner stoppage. The bout earned Fight of the Night awards. The win over Holland also snapped a two-fight losing streak for Thompson.
With the addition, the current UFC 296 lineup includes:
Champ Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington – for welterweight title
Champ Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval – for flyweight title
Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Stephen Thompson
Paddy Pimblett vs. Tony Ferguson
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 296.