MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC Vegas 17, a five-round welterweight bout between Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal. The event takes place on Saturday, December 19 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Stephen Thompson (-110)
Thompson (15-4-1) is the No. 5 welterweight in the UFC. The 37-year-old American has been a member of the UFC roster since 2012 and has racked up a 10-4-1 overall record in 15 fights inside the Octagon. Some of his most notable wins are Jorge Masvidal, Robert Whittaker, Rory MacDonald, Vicente Luque, and Johny Hendricks, with losses to Tyron Woodley, Matt Brown, Anthony Pettis, and Darren Till. In the majority of his victories, Thompson has gotten the job done with his incredible striking technique. He’s as technical as it gets in MMA with his kickboxing background and his striking skills have led to him scoring some highlight-reel knockouts over the years, including a spinning wheel kick KO over Jake Ellenberger. Thompson has pin-point precision and packs power in his shots, too. For the most part, he has a great chin, great cardio, and excellent fundamentals. Though Thompson is starting to get a bit older, he is still an excellent fighter at 170.
Geoff Neal (-110)
Neal (13-2) is the No. 11 ranked welterweight in the UFC. The 30-year-old American is one of the top up-and-coming welterweights in the UFC, having gone 5-0 in the Octagon since joining the promotion in 2017. Some of Neal’s notable wins include Mike Perry, Niko Price, and Belal Muhammad. Neal is a really dangerous welterweight who has KO in all of his limbs. So far in the UFC, he has pretty much dominated his opponents for the most part and he hasn’t shown many flaws. However, he hasn’t fought at all in 2020 due to some health issues. If he is fully healthy then he will be a problem for anyone in the 170lbs division, and a win over Thompson would be huge.
Fight Breakdown: This is an awesome fight between two of the most dangerous strikers at 170lbs. Thompson is more of a technical striker who looks to outpoint his opponents and land flashy kicks, while Neal throws power into all of his shots. I would give Neal the edge in power but Thompson should have the edge in volume striking which, in a five-round fight, could be the difference. Neal has what it takes to end this fight with an early knockout, but if he doesn’t get Thompson out of there in the first couple of rounds, I believe the longer this fight goes the more it favors Thompson. As far as the grappling goes, I believe both men have defensive wrestling good enough to keep this fight on the feet, so it comes down to power vs. pace. This is a close fight and the line is currently a Pick ’em, but my lean here is towards Thompson. I like the fact that he has gone five rounds four times in his UFC career, something Neal has never done in MMA. Going from three to five rounds is a huge difference, and I think that will prove to be the difference as Thompson wins a competitive decision.
Prediction: Stephen Thompson (via decision)