Thompson vs. Neal
Photo Credit: UFC

Match Preview: UFC Fight Night – Thompson vs. Neal 12/19/20


After a year that has felt more like an eternity, we have finally made it to the final UFC card of 2020. During a season of unprecedented circumstances, Dana White and his company rose above, stood out and trail blazed for others. A stacked UFC Vegas 17 card headlined by the Welterweight duel between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Geoff Neal is a great way to put the icing on the 2020 cake. 


To the disappointment of many, this main event was only supposed to be another stellar side to the real main course this weekend. But, as fate, or COVID-19, would have wanted it, one half of the initially scheduled main event (Edwards) was ruled out of the bout after returning a positive test. Leon Edwards versus Khamzat Chimaev was no more, but the show had to go on.

This card is a line-up that had plenty of main event worthy replacements, but the dice was rolled and it fell on another couple of 170-pounders.

“Wonderboy” (15-4-1) vs. Neal (13-2) is a fight between competitors on two polar opposite ends of their careers.


Wonderboy has a big point to prove if he hopes to make another run at the title.


Photo credit: UFC

Thompson is a former title challenger, one of the division’s all-time finest. But, at 37, and having lost three out of his last five, his career may be taking an ever so slight turn towards becoming the gatekeeper of the welterweight division — and Wonderboy reluctantly acknowledged that himself.

But, having won decisively the last time out against Vicente Luque, one of the division’s brightest talents, a headline act against another very highly rated prospect could do Thompson the world of good, should he get his hand raised.

I’m not a gatekeeper,Thompson told BJPENN.COM in the build-up to this fight. “I have a lot of fight left in me and I want that title shot. It would be good to finish a guy like Geoff Neal.


Geoff Neal is a hungry contender ready to add the first Top 5 name to his resume.


Dana White Contender Series graduate Neal is going into this bout with other short-term future goals in sight. The 30-year old has been on a tear over the last three years. Neal has won his last seven in a row, six in the UFC — making massive strides in the welterweight hierarchy fight after fight.

Neal has become most known for his elite striking and vicious knockout power having stopped five of his six UFC opponents. But with his most notable wins being against Niko Price and Mike Perry, “Handz of Steel” needed a step up in competition that would reflect his championship aspirations. “Wonderboy’s” style, reputation, and lofty goals of his own make him the perfect challenge.

Photo credit: Jeff Bottari/ Zuffa LLC

The Texas native Neal is ranked at No. 11 going into Saturday. Thompson is at No. 5. Just off that, you know exactly who this fight is set up for. Thompson has a lot to lose while Neal could leave the Octagon on Saturday night with the division’s Top 5 within his grasp.

This is one of those typical cases of matchmaking where a promising contender, who could very well one day be a future champion, gets the test of his career against a seasoned vet, still on top of his game — just to see what they are really made of.

With a win, Neal puts himself right into the title picture for 2021 — but “Wonderboy” to has one final run at the gold brewing in his mind. There is a lot at stake here. And with the whole world watching, this should be a year ending the main event that will not disappoint.


Other fights to note on the main card

Jose Aldo vs. Marlon Vera


This one could prove to be big in the Bantamweight division, and it is very much another case of a top of the grade seasoned veteran being matched up against a contender who has been showing a ton of promise.

Jose Aldo (28-7) has lost his last three. The former featherweight champ has lost three in a row for the first time in his career. In a broader light, “The King of Rio” has lost five of his last seven. When it comes to elite competition, Aldo has not looked himself for a while.


Photo credit: Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC

Granted, his losing record of late must be taken with a pinch of salt as the 34-year-old has been facing nothing but killers for the best part of the last decade. There aren’t many tougher than Aldo. He is the crème of the crop in all-time MMA history. But recent losses have begged the question, how much has he got left in the tank?

Aldo has been open about having title aspirations of his own in his newfound home at 135-pounds. But whether he still has the fire for it will be put to a firm test by one of the toughest and gamest guys in the division, Marlon Vera (16-6-1).

Chito” has been on the rise over the last two years. Amassing a record of 6-1 in his last seven, a shaky start to life in the UFC has been erased from memory, and the fiery Ecuadorian is now looking more like a future title contender with every performance.

Vera has never been stopped in his career and with all but three of his victories being finishes. He is as violent as they come and extremely polished to go along with that. Most of the fights that Vera features in are near nailed on Fight of the Night contenders, but having picked up consistency of late, “Chito” is ready to take the next step in his career.

A win for Aldo would certainly prove that he has still got it and belongs amongst the 135-pound elite. But if Vera gets his hand raised, we may very well see a new player be born in front of our eyes in the stacked bantamweight division.


Michel Pereira vs. Khaos Williams


For the pure entertainment value, this matchup is almost nailed on to take the cake.

Brazil’s Pereira (24-11(2)) has risen to popularity with his eccentric and nonchalant style inside of the Octagon. Backflips, spinning kicks, elbows, superman punches — you name it and this man has it in his arsenal. The superstar potential is there but some other factors just haven’t gone along with it yet.

Having been matched up against the heavy-handed Khaos Williams shows that Pereira is regarded highly in the UFC — but with that said — it feels like here, he is just a gradual step up in competition for the promising Williams (11-1).

The 26-year-old’s name tells you everything you need to know. When Williams steps into the cage, there is Khaos. Williams made his UFC bow earlier this year and has fought once more after that in 2020. He now has two wins on his company record with a total fight time of 57 seconds. You read that right. He is a knockout specialist.

Williams has won eight in a row dating back to 2018. His arrival to the UFC has been truly devastating and he could end the year exactly how he started it — with a vicious KO and on every 170-pounders radar heading into 2021.


Also on the UFC Vegas 17 Main Card

Marlon Moraes vs. Rob Font
Marcin Tybura vs. Greg Hardy 


UFC Vegas 17 will surely be a fun event to watch as modern day gladiators step in the octagon to do battle.


Be sure to check out for all your latest in MMA, Las Vegas sports news, events, previews, and recaps.


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-Arion Armeniakos – Franchise Sports Media

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