UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs Neal – Prelims Predictions

The final UFC card of the year looks to end 2020 with a bang with a welterweight main event that could decide on a new contender for the belt.

Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Geoff Neal step into the headline slot following the collapse of the fight between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev. Neal is looking to extend his win streak against the highest level of competition he has faced, knowing a win puts him into the top five conversation.

Elsewhere on the card Jose Aldo looks for his first win at bantamweight against Marlon Vera in the co-main, on a card that has an insane 14 fights on the night.

Last week at UFC 256, we had a poor showing as we scored just 4/10 on the night on a night of incredible fights. That moved us to 185/292 (63.36%) with 80 perfect picks (43.24%) since starting predictions back in June.

With so many fights the predictions will be split into three parts this week, starting with the early prelims here and now with the rest of the prelim card.

PRELIMS

Gillian Robertson (9-4) vs Taila Santos (16-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

Gillian Robertson was supposed to face off against Andrea Lee at this event while Taila Santos was supposed to fight against Montana De La Rosa at UFC Vegas 16, only for both to fall out and the women agree to face each other instead. Robertson has won her last two, submitting Courtney Casey in June before outclassing Poliana Botelho back in October. Taila Santos destroyed Molly McCann in July after losing her UFC debut to Mara Romero Borella. Santos is a very good striker who has a jiu-jitsu black belt, although we’ve not really seen her go to ground so far in her UFC career. If Robertson can get a takedown and dominate from the top, she will be confident of coming away with a comfortable win. If Santos is able to deny the takedowns though, she has a massive edge on the feet and will pick Robertson off. It’s all about the takedown and I think Santos will be able to deny the attacks of the 25-year-old and get the win.
PICK – Taila Santos via Decision

Deron Winn (6-2) vs Antonio Arroyo (9-3) – (Catchweight/195lbs)

A return to the octagon for Deron Winn following consecutive defeats, sees him come in against short-notice step in Antonio Arroyo in a catchweight bout. Arroyo won twice on Dana White’s Contender Series before getting a contract, only to be beaten in his debut by Andre Muniz in November 2019. Winn is a wrestler by trade and has come under the wing of former double-champ Daniel Cormier but has struggled to make his wrestling impactful so far in the UFC. Arroyo is a fine striker, who is often brought into camps for the opponents of Thiago Santos due to their style similarities. He has a nine-inch height advantage and a three-and-a-half inch reach advantage but his takedown defence isn’t the greatest. Physically, Winn is stronger but Arroyo is a good scrambler off his back and carries decent power. Winn will eventually be able to get a takedown and control the fight on the ground, but Arroyo definitely has a path to victory here. It will be a close bout that really depends on if Winn can close the distance and get his takedown. I believe he will, so I’ll take him for a career-saving win.
PICK – Deron Winn via Decision

Karl Roberson (9-3) vs Dalcha Lungiambula (10-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A return to the octagon for Karl Roberson following his submission loss in a grudge match against Marvin Vettori back in June, as he takes on Lungiambula who moves down to middleweight after his defeat to Magomed Ankalaev in November 2019. Roberson is a fantastic kickboxer who is also a pretty decent wrestler too, and has fought some top class fighters already. Lungiambula was trying to fight at a more natural weight class at 205lbs but was often undersized and struggled against top wrestlers because of it. This move down is good for him, but Roberson is just a level above him. He outclasses him on the feet by keeping the range and should be able to take him down too if he wants, so should get back into the win column.
PICK – Karl Roberson via Decision

Sijara Eubanks (6-5) vs Pannie Kianzad (14-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A dominant performance against Julia Avila saw Sijara Eubanks make a quick turnaround to fight Ketlen Vieira at UFC 253 just two weeks later. She got beaten in that one, and now looks to close out the year trying to keep her winning record. She comes up against Pannie Kianzad, who has won her last two fights against Jessica-Rose Clark and Bethe Correia on Fight Island in July. Eubanks is a solid wrestler and does her best work in top control but Kianzad has an excellent takedown defence rate. She’s lengthy and a good striker from range and so long as her takedown defence holds up, Kianzad should make it three in a row in a closely contested affair.
PICK – Pannie Kianzad via Decision

Anthony Pettis (23-10) vs Alex Morono (18-6) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis recently made the move up to welterweight and holds a knockout win over main eventer Wonderboy Thompson. He then lost to Nate Diaz and Diego Ferreira, before getting back in the win column against Donald Cerrone back in May. He fights out his contract against Alex Morono, who beat young prospect Rhys McKee just last month in a great three round performance. Morono is a good wrestler who prefers to brawl on the feet, but Pettis is arguably the better striker of the two with his excellent kickboxing skills. Should Morono choose to purely wrestle with Pettis and use his jiu-jitsu black belt on the ground he’s capable of getting a win, but with the style that both men tend to employ regularly I’d be surprised if Pettis doesn’t make it consecutive wins at 170lbs.
PICK – Anthony Pettis via Knockout, Round 2

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