Tag Archives: Stephen Thompson

UFC Vegas 45: Lewis vs Daukaus – Main card predictions

The final UFC event of 2021 is upon us and will be headlined by heavyweight bangers in Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

The two are at different ends of their career realistically and are fighting to carry the torch of the division into 2022.

In the co-main we’ll see welterweight contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson enter the last chance saloon for title contention when he takes on Belal Muhammad, who is looking to break into the top five of the rankings for the first time.

Last time out at UFC 269 we went 9/14 on the night in a fantastic card to move to 500/779 (64.18%) with 211 perfect picks (42.2%).

We’ll look to end the year on a high here and after starting with the early prelims on this 14-fight card then picking the rest of the prelims here, we move onto the main card now.


Cub Swanson (27-12) vs Darren Elkins (27-9) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A very fun featherweight fight between two vetereans of the fight game. Swanson earned a big KO win over Daniel Pineda at UFC 256 before getting smoked by Giga Chikhadze last time out at UFC Vegas 25. Elkins on the other hand has won his last two-in-a-row with a submission against Luiz Garagorri at UFC Vegas 13 before a knockout against Darrick Minner at UFC Vegas 32.

Swanson is a fantastic jiu-jitsu fighter with great power in his hands and plenty of experience to his name with 15 stoppage wins in his career. Elkins on the other hand is a pressure fighter with plenty of strikes and great wrestling in his weaponry. This will be an interesting fight because they are both well matched up and well-rounded.

Both of these guys will come forward and continue to pressure as usual, but I think Swanson has the edge on the feet and has enough about him to see off any wrestling attacks or submission threats and ultimately earn a judges decision.
PICK – Cub Swanson via Decision

Diego Ferreira (17-4) vs Mateusz Gamrot (19-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A very fun lightweight bout here as the veteran Ferreira takes on the very hot prospect in Gamrot. Ferreira has lost his last two against Beneil Dariush via decision at UFC Vegas 18 and then Gregor Gillespie at UFC Vegas 26 when he got KO’d. Gamrot on the other hand bounced back from the first defeat of his career in his debut at UFC Fight Island 6 by earning wins over Scott Holtzmann at UFC Vegas 22 and then a submission over Jeremy Stephens at UFC Vegas 31.

Ferreira is a very good grappler, with great jiu-jitsu skills and some decent striking too earning him seven submission wins from ten stoppages in his career. Gamrot on the other hand is a machine when it comes to the wrestling, earning multiple takedowns and then using position to land solid ground-and-pound and threaten with submissions too to earn 11 stoppage wins in his career.

Gamrot is the physically bigger fighter and he seems stronger, which plays into his advantage in the grappling game. Ferreira is probably the better striker of the two, but he doesn’t really have the power to put Gamrot off coming forward. If ‘Gamer’ gets hold of him he should be able to take him down and control him, and I think his relentless pace earns him a ground and pound finish.
PICK – Mateusz Gamrot via Knockout, Round 2

Raphael Assuncao (27-8) vs Ricky Simon (18-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

An interesting bantamweight fight between two guys on very different trajectories in their career. Assuncao has lost the last three fights he’s had, with a KO on the buzzer against Cody Garbrandt at UFC 250 in his last outing. Simon on the other hand has won three-in-a-row, earning a decision over Ray Borg before submitting Gaetano Pirrello at UFC Fight Island 8 and claiming another decision against Brian Kelleher at UFC 258.

Assuncao is a powerful striker with a great pace and some solid leg kicks, but he comes into this one aged 39 and on the decline big time. Simon on the other hand is a pure wrestling specialist who looks to secure positions on the ground and dominate from there on to usually grind out decisions. Assuncao has got great submission skills, claiming ten wins via tap-out in his career but Simon isn’t a scrub in the grappling.

Simon has got the ability to go into the octagon and wrestle for as long as is needed, whether that be 15 minutes, 25 minutes or an hour. He’s also a pretty good striker and can use that to set up his takedowns in this one, against a dangerous opponent. In the end though, Simon should be able to get the fight down and I back him to defend himself from top position to earn a victory.
PICK – Ricky Simon via Decision



Amanda Lemos (10-1-1) vs Angela Hill (13-10) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

An interesting strawweight clash between two wannabe contenders gets a high slot on this card. Lemos is on a four-fight win streak, including back-to-back knockout wins over Livinha Souza at UFC 259 and then Montserrat Ruiz at UFC Vegas 31. Hill on the other hand has lost three of her last four but has turned in great performances in every one, dropping decisions to Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson at UFC Vegas 10 and Tecia Torres at UFC 265 with a win against Ashley Yoder at UFC Vegas 21 pausing the rot.

Lemos is a very powerful striker, with seven knockout victories in her career and some good defensive wrestling on her side too. Hill is a pressure fighter who can mix up her game really well, using kickboxing skills to mix in takedowns and a decent ground game too. Lemos will walk forward in this fight looking to land power shots, knowing that Hill isn’t powerful at all.

Hill will likely use her speed to step away, but Lemos will likely look to throw a hard low kick to stop that movement from being so effective and use that power to earn her a judges decision.
PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision

Stephen Thompson (16-5-1) vs Belal Muhammad (19-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Ranked welterweights go head-to-head in the co-main event here. ‘Wonderboy’ saw a two-fight win streak snapped recently, after his win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17 was countered by a dominant decision loss against Gilbert Burns at UFC 264. Belal Muhammad is unbeaten in six, having battered Dhiego Lima at UFC 258 before his no contest against Leon Edwards. He then returned to dominate against Demian Maia at UFC 263.

Thompson is as pure a striker as you will find in the UFC, with his karate game making him an expert in movement, range control and kicking as well as his brilliant counter striking. Muhammad is a well-rounded fighter, who can mix volume and pressure with some good wrestling too to figure out his opponents. This is by far the highest level striker he has ever fought though and it’s going to be tough for Muhammad to get that wrestling going.

Muhammad will look to set up takedowns with his boxing skills, but he isn’t as good a striker as Thompson and ‘Wonderboy’ has got brilliant takedown defence regardless of Burns’ success last time out. I like Muhammad, but this is too big a step up and stylistically it stinks for him. ‘Wonderboy’ will move around for 15 minutes and land big enough shots without taking damage to earn a decision win.
PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision

Derrick Lewis (25-8) vs Chris Daukaus (12-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Main event time and it’s a banger at heavyweight. Derrick Lewis was on a four-fight win streak with KO’s against Alexei Oleinik at UFC Vegas 6 and Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19 before he was beaten by Ciryl Gane at UFC 265 in an interim title fight. Daukaus on the other hand is on a five-fight win streak with all knockouts, with his most recent one coming impressively against Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 266 after he stopped Oleinik on the Blaydes-Lewis card.

Lewis is a one-shot killer, with ridiculous power in both hands and explosive power that can shut out anyones lights in an instant. Daukaus is a super powerful striker too with tremendous hand speed, but it’s the jiu-jitsu black belt that makes this extra intriguing. If Daukaus looks to take this fight to the ground, Lewis will throw uppercuts and knees before trying to explode to his feet. If they go on the feet, Daukaus will look to use volume and speed like Gane did before going for a killshot.

This is hard to predict, because a fighter with the power of Lewis is impossible to write off. But with Daukaus’ speed advantage, solid power himself and grappling expertise he has far more routes to victory and I think that ultimately he will be able to shake up the heavyweight division by claiming a knockout win.
PICK – Chris Daukaus via Knockout, Round 3

Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in last chance saloon at UFC Vegas 45

It’s been a little over five years since Stephen Thompson first challenged for a UFC welterweight championship against Tyron Woodley.

In a tactical bout, the first ended in a draw before their rematch five months later saw Woodley claim the victory via a majority decision. Since then it’s been a winding road for ‘Wonderboy’.

He has won just three of his last six fights and is coming off another loss to Gilbert Burns at UFC 264 most recently.



It ended a two-fight win streak fort he karate fighter, who previously dispatched of both Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17 with relative ease.

But now he goes head-to-head with Belal Muhammad, who is five places below him in the UFC rankings in number ten in order to get back to winning ways and find the top of the mountain once more.

His loss to Darren Till was more than questionable, with many believing he won convincingly but the home crowd swayed the judges in England and he was defeated.

He was dominating the fight against Anthony Pettis before an explosive, flash knockout meant he was finished for the first time in his professional career. But the following victories proved he is still among the very best strikers in the organisation.

In this handout image provided by UFC, Stephen Thompson punches Geoff Neal in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on...

His angles and footwork are truly brilliant, and while he doesn’t really possess fight changing knockout power he does have the skills to make anyone look silly.

When he takes on Muhammad he will be facing someone with an excellent gas tank and decent wrestling and kickboxing skills. An all-rounder, Muhammad is trying to prove himself as someone who can compete with those right at the top of the division.

If he can win, he’ll enter the top five and likely end any and all hopes ‘Wonderboy’ has of becoming champion. But if Thompson can recapture his form and get back to winning ways, he’s right back in the hunt.

He’ll keep his top five ranking and likely set up a rematch with Luque or potentially face off against Colby Covington in 2022. He would still be behind Leon Edwards and Burns in contention for the title shot, but he moves one step closer and gives himself the opportunity of reaching the pinnacle.

Thompson will be 39 by the time his next fight after Muhammad rolls around. Time is running out for him to get there, so this fight is a legitimate must-win bout.

UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor 3 – Results (Highlights)

**Hu Yaozong vs Alen Amedovski was cancelled just before the card started due to COVID-19 protocols.

EARLY PRELIMS

Zhalgas Zhumagulov def Jerome Rivera via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (2:02)

Good start to the fight from Rivera as he uses that long reach advantage to stab some kicks into the gut. Zhumagulov starts throwing some nice overhand right hands and is moving well but Rivera is putting the pace on him. Zhumagulov lands a nice left hook that drops Rivera and then synches up a nasty looking standing guillotine and forces the tap! Huge win!

Brad Tavares def Omari Akhmedov via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28 x2)

Great start to the fight from Tavares as he uses his boxing well to light Akhmedov up nice and early. A nice exchange in the pocket and Tavares comes out on top of it. Nice low kick from Akhmedov but Tavares counters with a nice right hand. Akhmedov shoots in for a takedown and after a bounce on the cage gets it, but Tavares bounces straight back up. A few more takedown attempts but Tavares denies them all and lands some nice strikes in the exchanges to end the round. 10-9 Tavares.

Akhmedov steps into the second round with a nice jab and then a takedown attempt and while he gets him down he can’t hold him there and Tavares gets back up early. Tavares starts landing some heavy leg kicks and Akhmedov is feeling it. Nice jabs from Tavares but now Akhmedov is landing some heavy leg kicks of his own. Tavares steps in for a clinch and lands a big knee to the face, followed by a heavy low kick again. Akhmedov goes for another takedown but Tavares defends it well and should claim that round too. 20-18 Tavares.

Fast start to the final round from Tavares but staying patient with the volume of strikes, just pressing forward and forcing Akhmedov backwards. Tavares throws a heavy leg kick that drops Akhmedov, then lands another big one as he gets back to his feet. Great movement from Tavares and his jab is landing clean too. Akhmedov goes for a takedown but Tavares stuffs it brilliantly. Final minute and Tavares has rocked him! Big strikes just miss but Akhmedov is stumbling. Tavares lands a nice kick to end the round, great fight. 30-27 Tavares.

Jennifer Maia def Jessica Eye via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Interesting start as both women stay standing and Eye is landing really well. Nice kicks and some good hooks but Maia fires back too with a big knee up the middle. Eye lands some more short strikes and is just too fast so far. Some nice shots from Eye land and send Maia stumbling backwards and then Eye goes for a takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Eye.

Another good start from Eye as she continues to walk forward and lands short shots and apply pressure to Maia, who is being forced to fight on the back foot. Eye throwing some nice leg kicks but Maia is responding with a nice one-two up the middle that is landing well and often. Maia is pushing the pace now and landing big strikes. An accidental clash of heads opens up a massive cut on the head of Eye as the round ends. 19-19.

Final round and Maia is staying patient and not going straight for the cut. Lots of short strikes again but Eye is coming forward and landing some decent hooks and leg kicks of her own. Maia is doing really well to land the right hand and counter Eye’s pressure on the back foot. Big strikes from Maia as she applies heavy pressure herself with Eye bleeding heavily now. Great scrap, 29-28 Maia for me

PRELIMS

Dricus Du Plessis def Trevin Giles via Knockout, Round 2 (1:41)

A very tense start to the fight for both guys as they both show lots of feints and bouncing on their feet. Du Plessis throwing some leg kicks to get some score with the judges and just misses with a flying knee. Du Plessis goes for the takedown against the cage and gets it, then passes into mount immediately. He starts targeting submissions but Giles defending fairly well and scrambling to safety. Du Plessis ends up back on top and looks for a big elbow but ends the round on top. 10-9 Du Plessis.

Good start to the round from Giles as he steps forward looking to land big heavy strikes early on. Du Plessis staying patient and avoids a big flying knee but backs up to the cage after landing a nice left hand. He throws a left jab that misses then throws a big right hand that lands flush and puts Giles out! He lands some follow up punches but this one is all over! What a knockout!

Ilia Topuria def Ryan Hall via Knockout, Round 1 (4:27)

Very tense start to the fight with Hall backing up against the cage and Topuria pressuring him. Hall throws a big spinning back kick that lands well. He starts rolling for emenari rolls but Topuria is avoiding them all and doing really well to skip out. Several minutes pass of Hall rolling for legs but missing, and then Hall goes for another spin kick. Topuria catches it and forces Hall to the ground, then lands some heavy shots that put Hall out! Huge win for Topuria!

Michel Pereira def Niko Price via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Slow start to the fight as Pereira lands a nice jab and Price starts to go for some takedowns against the cage. Pereira defends well against the cage and starts firing off some big shots and his speed is troubling Price. Some superman punch attempts just miss but Pereira is doing well to keep attacking with volume. Rolling thunder attempt to finish the round and it’s 10-9 to the Brazilian.

Second round and Pereira is coming out strong, throwing a nice body kick that hurts Price. He goes on the attack and starts throwing some heavy strikes and gets Price down to the ground. Pereira starts looking for an americana submission but Price defends it, so Pereira starts raining down strikes instead. Price is just about surviving and Pereira moves to his back looking for a choke, but Price is able to roll out and get back to his feet before the round ends. 20-18 Pereira.

Final round and Price is pouring on the pressure nice and early as he sees Pereira is tiring. Price landing some big shots and Pereira just doesn’t have the same pop to his counters or movement in his legs anymore. Price pouring it on and landing some big strikes but Pereira is surviving. Nice left hand from Pereira but Price keeps coming forward. He goes all out before the end of the round but it’s likely not enough. 29-28 Pereira for me.

Max Griffin def Carlos Condit via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Hugely impressive start to the fight from Griffin as he lands some heavy leg kicks early that are getting big reactions from Condit. Griffin keeping a big pace and is doing lots of work on Condit who just can’t get going at all. Griffin landing some big strikes and Condit is in trouble! Griffin goes for the finish but Condit survives and the round ends. 10-9 Griffin, potentially even a 10-8.

Second round and Condit has come out and is walking forward and Griffin has slowed down considerably. Condit more willing to take the strikes as he comes forward and Griffin has so far completely stopped with the leg kicks. Condit continuing to step forward and landing some nice strikes but Griffin not getting hurt too much and is trying to counter. Condit lands a few more as the round ends, 19-19.

Griffin coming out much more aggressive in the final round and landing some nice jabs. Few big haymakers from Griffin are getting through, and Condit is being forced to back up now as he starts to tire. Condit starts firing back with some heavy body shots and a right hand, but Griffin throws a couple of leg kicks to snap the momentum immediately. Nice right hand again from Griffin and Condit backs up, so Griffin goes for the takedown and keeps the fight there until the round ends. 29-28 Griffin for me. Great fight.

MAIN CARD

Sean O’Malley def Kris Moutinho via Knockout, Round 3 (4:33)

Solid start to the fight from O’Malley. Suga is pushing the pace and landing some really nice jabs. Lots of heavy strikes landing but Moutinho stepping forward and looking for a right hook. O’Malley continues with the jabs and hooks through the guard and he is beating Moutinho up badly. Big right hook lands and drops Moutinho and then he goes for a spin kick that just misses. Lots of strikes and Moutinho is getting pieced up. O’Malley throws a pull right cross counter and drops Moutinho! He goes for the guillotine submission but time runs out. 10-8 O’Malley.

Second round and O’Malley is doing more of the same, just landing heavy strikes and really beating Moutinho up. Moutinho keeps storming forward though and is just missing with his right hooks. O’Malley smashing hooks and jabs through the guard but starting to tire. Moutinho keeps going forward and is talking to O’Malley and surviving the beating somehow. 20-17.

O’Malley comes out in the third round firing once again but Moutinho is just a zombie coming forward. O’Malley throwing knees, kicks, strikes and uppercuts but Moutinho is talking to him and smiling. O’Malley is fading but still throwing beautiful jabs and combinations. As the round comes into the final 30 seconds O’Malley lands a huge combination and Moutinho is hurt! He’s still standing but the referee waves it off after an accumulation.

Irene Aldana def Yana Kunitskaya via Knockout, Round 1 (4:35)

Good start to the fight from Kunitskaya with some kicks to counter the boxing attack of Aldana early on. Kunitskaya goes for a spinning wheel kick and then clinches up looking for a takedown, but Aldana defends it really well. Aldana slips a charge and lands a big right cross to the nose and then a jab, then lands a beautiful left hook to the body that hurts Kunitskaya. Some good jabs and slips and then she lands a big left hand again that drops Kunitskaya. Aldana rains down ground and pound but Kunitskaya tries to survive it by holding her hands for control. Aldana gets on top of her, slams big strikes into her face and the referee steps in to end it! Huge performance from Aldana!

Tai Tuivasa def Greg Hardy via Knockout, Round 1 (1:07)

Tuivasa comes out and lands some heavy leg kicks to start that Hardy immediately feels and struggles with. They start going wild with strikes and Hardy tags Tuivasa bad! He rushes in for the finish but Tuivasa counters with a crazy left-hook that puts Hardy out!!! Wow! What a knockout!!

Gilbert Burns def Stephen Thompson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Very cagey start to the fight from both guys as they look to feel each other out. Burns steps forward with some looping hooks but Thompson avoids and moves out of range once again. Burns shoots in for a takedown against the cage and after a stalemate gets the fight down. He holds top position for the remainder of the round without landing too much damage. 10-9 Burns.

Thompson comes out more on his toes and lands some good side kicks and lots of body shots to keep Burns at distance. Some nice right hands and Burns bites down on his mouthpiece to fire back but Thompson is out of the way swiftly. More kicks from Thompson and as the round comes to an end Burns gets Thompson down once again and lands some decent strikes but that’s a Thompson round. 19-19.

Final round and Burns comes out hot and heavy ready to go. Nice right hand lands and then Burns shoots for the takedown and gets it around halfway through the round. Burns sits on top of Thompson and applies pressure, with good ground and pound and just staying heavy to take what should be a decision win for him. 29-28 Burns.

Dustin Poirier def Conor McGregor via Doctor Stoppage (Broken Ankle), Round 1 (5:00)

McGregor comes out and lands two sharp spinning kicks to the body followed by his teet kick. Poirier coming forward but McGregor slams some hard leg kicks into him to slow him down. Poirier responds with a couple of his own but McGregor going for the kicks. McGregor lands a nice left hand but Poirier responds with a combination that seems to buzz McGregor. McGregor clinches and Poirier goes for the takedown, but McGregor looks to sink in a guillotine choke. Poirier avoids and starts slamming in some heavy ground and pound shots, big elbows to McGregor who’s hurt! Poirier piling on the pressure and looking for a finish but McGregor is surviving for now. Poirier lets McGregor back up and he throws a punch that misses but as he plants his back foot his leg gives way and snaps! Poirier lands some shots on McGregor while he’s down as the round ends.

McGregor tells the referee and doctor his leg is broken and the doctor waves the fight off immediately! What an anti-climax to a crazy fight and trilogy!

UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor 3 – Main card predictions

The biggest trilogy fight in UFC history arguably is finally upon us as Dustin Poirier takes on Conor McGregor to break the deadlock between them at UFC 264.

McGregor knocked Poirier out in their first fight back in 2014, but Poirier got his own back in January at UFC 257 with a knockout win of his own to level it up at 1-1. The winner of this bout is highly likely to challenge for the lightweight title in their next bout, so the stakes could not be any higher.

In the co-main event we have a huge welterweight contender fight too as former title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson go head-to-head with each other to try and climb towards another shot against Kamaru Usman in the near future.

Also on the card is the return of ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley as he opens up the main card, while the prelims are full of exciting bouts too.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 30, we went 12/6 with two perfect picks for our selection for a not so good outing. That took us to 352/554 (63.54%) with 160 perfect picks (45.45%) since starting up.

We’ll look to improve that with this huge 13 fight card, and after starting with the early prelims here and the rest of the prelims here, here are our main card picks.


Sean O’Malley (13-1) vs Kris Moutinho (9-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A fun fight to open up the main card as ‘Suga’ returns to action against short-notice opponent Kris Moutinho, making his UFC debut. O’Malley bounced back from the first defeat of his career to Marlon Vera at UFC 252 with a stunning knockout win against Thomas Almeida at UFC 260, while Moutinho has won his last two including most recently in May.

O’Malley is a phenomenal striker, with quick kicks and bricks for hands as well as his excellent jiu-jitsu skills too. Moutinho is a good striker too, with good front kicks and a nice right cross to go with it. His issue in this fight is going to be the speed difference, where O’Malley absolutely blows him out of the water.

He’s too fast, too strong and too precise and this is more of a showcase fight for O’Malley than anything else.
PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 1

Irene Aldana (12-6) vs Yana Kunitskaya (14-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A very fun fight in the women’s bantamweight division between two potential title contenders in the near future. Aldana lost her last fight, getting dominated by Holly Holm while Kunitskaya has won her last two in a row via decision against Julija Stoliarenko at UFC Vegas 6 and Ketlen Vieira at UFC Vegas 19.

Aldana is a very good boxer, with a good reach and a great left hook that knocked out Vieira in the past. She’s quite one dimensional though and Kunitskaya is very good at battling against her opponents strengths since she is so well rounded herself. She has good punches and kicks and some good takedown abilities, much better than Holm at least who dominated Aldana on the ground.

That leads me to believe that Kunitskaya will be able to do the same and if she can avoid getting hit clean and hard early on, but I’m not sure she will.
PICK – Irene Aldana via Decision

Tai Tuivasa (12-3) vs Greg Hardy (7-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

The big boys are on the card once again as the heavyweights take up the midway point of the main card. Tuivasa had lost three-in-a-row but has since bounced back with big knockout wins over Stefan Struve at UFC 254 and then Harry Hunsucker at UFC Vegas 22. Hardy on the other hand won two in a row including a KO win over Maurice Greene at UFC Vegas 12 before getting KO’d himself by Marcin Tybura at UFC Vegas 17 last time out.

Tuivasa is a juggernaut who has legitimate one-punch knockout power but he also has a great calf kick to set up his big right hand and okay cardio for a heavyweight. Hardy is ever improving and has good power in his hands too, but is still struggling with pacing himself in fights and often blows his load in the cage. Both guys have the power to put the other away but I trust Tuivasa’s chin more than Hardy’s and he paces himself better too.

Overall it won’t be the highest quality but there will be bombs thrown and I expect Tuivasa to land one on Hardy’s chin that sends him to a new realm of consciousness.
PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 2

Gilbert Burns (19-4) vs Stephen Thompson (16-4-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

An absolute banger of a bout at welterweight in a real contender bout at 170lbs between Burns and Wonderboy. Burns went on a six-fight win streak to earn himself a title shot against Kamaru Usman at UFC 258 but he was knocked out in the third round by his former teammate. Thompson on the other hand has overcome a bad run to win his last two, including a dominant win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17.

Burns is a jiu-jitsu fighter predominantly but he has recently fallen in love with his hands and has terrific power in both his fists for a knockout, while Thompson is a karate-style fighter who uses excellent footwork to move and his long range to score points on his opponent. Burns is at a disadvantage in height and reach and that means he has to come forward to close the distance, which is where Thompson is at his best.

He hasn’t been taken down in over four years and his striking looks crisper than ever before, so I think this could end up being quite a one-sided decision win for ‘Wonderboy’.
PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision

Dustin Poirier (27-6) vs Conor McGregor (22-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

The biggest fight of the year so far for the UFC and there isn’t a title in sight as Poirier and McGregor look to end their stalemate once and for all. Poirier is currently on a run of seven wins in nine (one no contest) with the only defeat coming to Khabib Nurmagomedov, and his most recent wins coming over Dan Hooker at UFC Vegas 4 and McGregor himself in January. ‘Notorious’ has actually lost three of his last six stretching all the way back to 2016.

Poirier is a boxer with good grappling skills and some solid kicks too as seen in the most recent bout between the two. McGregor on the other hand is a sensational kickboxer who took a more boxing heavy approach last time out to his detriment. It’s the same fight as six months ago in reality, with the difference going to be who makes the better adjustments from that bout.

The crowd being back will be a boost for McGregor but Poirier is legitimately one of the all-time great lightweights ever and he seemed to be able to take Conor’s left-hand in the first round last time. If he can do that again, the longer the fight goes the better it is for Poirier and I see him taking a unanimous decision win in a scrap that will send fans home happy.
PICK – Dustin Poirier via Decision

‘Wonderboy’ can work himself back to the top with a win over Gilbert Burns at UFC 264

It’s been a long, windy road back to the top of the mountain for Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson but he’s arguably now just one fight away from earning himself another welterweight title shot in the UFC.

‘Wonderboy’ steps into the octagon and goes head-to-head with former title challenger Gilbert Burns in the co-main event at UFC 264 this weekend, knowing that a win puts him on a three-fight win streak and right back in the conversation to face Kamaru Usman for the belt.

But it hasn’t been easy since his double headers against Tyron Woodley back in 2016 and 2017.

That decision loss to Woodley in their second fight was the first of three defeats in four fights for Thompson, including the first and only knockout loss of his career against Anthony Pettis.

Since then however he has re-grouped, re-focused and scored dominant, bonus-earning decision victories against Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal to put himself back inside the top five. A win over Burns, who is currently ranked at number two, would elevate him straight into title contention for the first time in four years.

Dana White has already stated and confirmed that Colby Covington will receive the next title shot against Usman later this year, while Leon Edwards’ win over Nate Diaz at UFC 263 should have earned him the winner of that fight in theory.

But Thompson has the chance to grab the headlines on one of the biggest cards of the year when he takes on Burns, where a spectacular performance could arguably see him leapfrog Edwards into that spot to further rub salt into the wounds of the Brit.

The most likely option is probably for Edwards to fight the winner to set up the number one contender, but he won’t be keen on that after rattling off ten fights unbeaten since his last defeat back in 2015 to the current champion.

Burns is no pushover, so talk of Wonderboy just waltzing into that position is false anyway. But this is the opportunity that the karate expert has been waiting for and talking about for years. This is arguably his last chance to get there, considering he’s now 38-years-old.

A defeat relegates him from the conversation once more and with his injury issues and how stacked the division is, he’ll find it hard to get back into the conversation any time soon.

But this is a fight that is favourable to him stylistically and has huge implications on the rest of the division’s future. ‘Wonderboy’ has a chance to get back to the top of the mountain on Saturday night and take all the welterweight headlines at UFC 264.

UFC announce several high-profile bouts for second quarter of 2021

The UFC have announced a host of huge main event bouts for the remainder of the second quarter of 2021 as they look to return to normality following the COVID-19 pandemic.

After it was announced that the company would return to a full, sold-out, capacity crowd for UFC 261 on April 24th – headlined by Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal 2 for the welterweight title – they have looked to put together some mega fights and cards as we close out the first half of the year.

UFC 262 will also take place in front of a sold out arena on May 15th, with the vacant lightweight title on the line as Charles Oliveira takes on Michael Chandler in the main event. That card will also feature Leon Edwards taking on Nate Diaz in the first ever non-title five-round co-main event in UFC history, while Tony Ferguson will battle Beneil Dariush also.

Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will then meet in their much anticipated rematch for the flyweight title at UFC 263 on June 12th before the big trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor at UFC 264 on July 10th.

With the pay-per-view main events set for the foreseeable future, the UFC have now announced some of their Fight Night main events and some other notable bouts too.

After UFC 261, former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes returns to the octagon following his defeat at UFC 253 when he takes on Jiri Prochazka on May 1st in their main event bout. Prochazka made his UFC debut at UFC 251 with a stunning knockout win over Volkan Oezdemir to shoot himself into contention for the top five. This fight was originally scheduled for February but Reyes was forced to withdraw due to injury.

The bantamweight division will then see its next contender rise to the top of the rankings as Cory Sandhagen takes on returning former champion TJ Dillashaw in the main event on May 8th. Sandhagen impressively knocked out Marlon Moraes on Fight Island in October before flatlining Frankie Edgar in February and was expected to challenge for the title before the controversial finish to Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259.

These two will now battle it out for the number one contender spot, with Yan and Sterling certain to compete in a rematch later this year. Dillashaw makes his return to the octagon after serving a two-year suspension after admitting to injecting EPO ahead of his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo in 2019.

The following weekend will see UFC 262, before a return to the bantamweights headlining as Cody Garbrandt takes on Rob Font in a battle of heavy hands. ‘No Love’ last fought at UFC 250 with a highlight reel knockout over Raphael Assuncao, before being scheduled to move down to 125lbs for a flyweight title fight against Figueiredo. Garbrandt was forced to withdraw with injury and ‘Deus da Guerra’ instead fought Alex Perez at UFC 255.

Font on the other hand made it three wins in a row when he took out Marlon Moraes in the first round of their bout at UFC Vegas 17 in the final card of 2020. A win for him will push him into the title picture too as he currently sits at number three in the rankings.

UFC 217 Weigh-ins : News Photo
TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt will both return to the octagon in May

Moving into June, at UFC 263 welterweight jiu-jitsu king Demian Maia will make his return to the octagon for the first time since being brutally knocked out by Gilbert Burns at UFC Brasilia last year – the first event to take place without fans due to the pandemic – when he takes on Belal Muhammad.

Muhammad stepped in on short notice to fight Leon Edwards last month but the fight was unfortunately cut short after an eye-poke from the Brit meant ‘Bully’ was unable to continue. He’s seemingly been rewarded for the short-notice step in though, as he’ll shoot up the rankings with a win as he takes on number eight Maia despite currently sitting at number 13.

The following Fight Night card on June 19th will be headlined by two top featherweights as the Korean Zombie returns to the cage to take on Dan ’50K’ Ige. Zombie was given a striking lesson in his last bout when he was dominated by Brian Ortega on Fight Island, while Ige bounced back from a defeat to Calvin Kattar last summer with a huge knockout win over Gavin Tucker at UFC Vegas 21 to live up to his nickname with a performance bonus.

Following on from that on June 26th, two heavyweight contenders will main event a Fight Night card as Alexander Volkov and Ciryl Gane meet in the octagon. Both giants have already picked up main event wins in 2021, with Volkov knocking out Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18 before Gane dominated Jairzinho Rozenstruik to remain unbeaten at UFC Vegas 20 just a few weeks later.

With the top of the division currently at a standstill as Jon Jones and the UFC have a contract impasse and Derrick Lewis waiting on a decision to see if he will fight new champion Francis Ngannou next for the title, Volkov and Gane have chosen to stay busy and look improve their own situations in the running for a potential title shot in the future.

That fight will be backed up by a bantamweight banger between two of the most underrated fighters in the division as Raoni Barcelos takes on Timur Valiev. Barcelos returned after nearly a year away from the cage with a masterful performance against Khalid Taha at UFC Vegas 13 before seeing his next three bouts fall through for various reasons. He has won his last nine fights professionally and is 5-0 in the UFC.

Valiev earned himself a unanimous decision win over Martin Day at UFC Vegas 18, which followed a no-contest against Trevin Giles who failed a drug test following their bout at UFC Vegas 7. Valiev was knocked out in that fight but since it was overturned, he is officially unbeaten in eight bouts in a row.

Last but not least, the UFC also announced blockbuster welterweight co-main event for UFC 264 on July 10th when Gilbert Burns returns to the cage to take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

Burns was on a tear at 170lbs and fought Usman for the title at UFC 258 in February, only to suffer a third round TKO loss to his former teammate. He’ll be taking on former title challenger Thompson who has won his last two fights in a row, defeating Vicente Luque and then Geoff Neal most recently at UFC Vegas 17 in December. Both men are looking to get back into the title picture as soon as possible and with Leon Edwards hoping that a win over Nate Diaz at UFC 262 can earn him a fight against the winner of Usman vs Masvidal later this year. A win for either of these two competitors in July could see them challenge next for the title, especially if they can do it impressively.

UFC Vegas 17 Fallout: ‘Wonderboy’ Outclasses Neal, Aldo Wants Dillashaw Next

UFC closed out the year with it’s final card in a fantastic way as the veterans showed that the passing of the guard isn’t quite a thing just yet.

Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson dominated for 25 minutes against prospect Geoff Neal, to give ‘Handz of Steel’ his first UFC defeat and snapping his seven-fight win streak in the main event.

‘Wonderboy’ used his kicking range and excellent footwork throughout the fight to avoid the big exchanges and just picked Neal apart. A clash of heads saw both men face adversity at the end of the first round, but Neal never seemed to get out of first gear throughout and seemed gun-shy in his first UFC main event.

Following the win, Thompson promised to win the welterweight title in 2021 and called for a rematch with Jorge Masvidal for his next fight.

The two met at UFC 217 back in November 2017, with ‘Wonderboy’ dominating him in a similar way to this fight and getting a unanimous decision victory on the night. Since then though, Thompson had seen himself beaten controversially by Darren Till and then knocked out by Anthony Pettis which pushed him down the pecking order.

But now with back-to-back wins, he’s back pushing for a fight against a top five ranked opponent. He was originally calling for Leon Edwards, but with the Briton already booked against Khamzat Chimaev and Gilbert Burns already getting the next title shot, that leaves either Masvidal or Colby Covington left. They could fight each other but if not, Wonderboy is waiting.

In the bantamweight division, Jose Aldo snapped a three-fight losing streak to defeat prospect Marlon Vera in a very good fight. Aldo used his sharper boxing and eventually his jiu-jitsu grappling to etch his way to a unanimous decision win, but Vera was very game throughout.

The body shots of Aldo were once again a huge weapon, with the patented left-hook to the gut landing freely throughout the bout and visibly taking the air from Vera as the fight progressed.

Following the win the featherweight G.O.A.T called for a fight with TJ Dillashaw, who is arguably the best bantamweight we’ve seen.

Dillashaw was the champion at 135lbs and dropped down to 125lbs to try and become the double champ, only to test positive for a banned substance and get a two-year suspension. He admitted to taking the substance and is eligible for a return to action in January.

Many have called him out for his return bout, while Dillashaw himself has called for an immediate title shot. While that won’t be happening, a win over Jose Aldo could potentially push him into that conversation once again.

UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs Neal – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Christos Giagos def Carlton Minus via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)

Fast start to the round from Christos Giagos here as he comes out with a big overhand right hand that goes straight into a level change for a takedown. Minus immediately tries to scramble out but gives up his back and Giagos goes straight into full mount. He’s floating well and landing some good ground and pound, while also threatening with a rear-naked choke relentlessly. Minus gets back up but Giagos is more than comfortable on the feet and gets it back down again as the round ends. Potentially a 10-8 for Giagos.

Second round is essentially the exact same thing as first. Complete domination on the ground from Giagos with plenty of attempts at head and arm chokes, rear naked chokes and ground and pound. Minus is being totally controlled but doing just enough to avoid being finished. Potentially 20-16 after two rounds in favour of Giagos.

Third and final round starts in the same way as the previous two, with Giagos circling before eventually securing a takedown that Minus just can’t defend. Minus gets back up this time though as Giagos is clearly fatigued and starts landing some nice jabs and one-twos. Minus lands a stiff uppercut as the fight draws to a close, with Giagos just circling to survive the final 60 seconds. Easy win in the end for Giagos, 30-25 on my scorecard.

Jimmy Flick def Cody Durden via Submission (Triangle choke), Round 1 (3:18)

Great start to the fight from Durden as both fighters exchange strikes before he grabs a takedown and moves quickly to take the back. He lands some decent punches on the ground but Flick gets back to his feet relatively quickly and they separate. Durden looks explosive and lands some big punches, as Flick covers up well and keeps his guard high. Flick goes for a head kick that Durden catches, but Flick turns it into a flying triangle choke! He pulls him into his guard, tightens the choke and gets the tap! Unbelievable! Wow!

PRELIMS

Tafon Nchukwi def Jamie Pickett via Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-26 x2)

Nchukwi makes a fast start and comes across the cage throwing heavy strikes but Pickett tries to avoid using his speed and mobility. Nchukwi throwing combinations and ending with a head kick a lot, but not landing them. Pickett scores a nice takedown against the cage, but Nchukwi does well to get back to the feet without taking too much damage. Nchukwi gets the fight down to the ground himself and shows good control but Pickett gets back up. Spinning elbow lands from Nchukwi as his cardio seems to be holding up well, with lots of knees to the body landing in clinches too. 10-9 Nchukwi.

Fast start against from Nchukwi as he powers out of the traps with a big overhand right hand. Nchukwi is still pressuring Pickett against the cage and whenever they clinch he starts dirty boxing with lots of body strikes and knees to the body too. Left hand landing a lot from Nchukwi but it’s lacking the big power now, although still doing damage. Pickett lands a nice one-two that snaps Nchukwi’s head back, but then he returns with a right hand of his own. Pickett lands a big four or five punch combination that sends Nchukwi backwards. Pickett comes forward and there’s a big clash of heads as the buzzer goes. 20-18 Nchukwi but he’s slowing a little.

Before the third round starts with the doctor checking out Pickett after the clash of heads but the fight goes on. Nchukwi lands a big left hand out of the gate as the round begins and Pickett looks dazed still. Nchukwi is starting to land more flush now and Pickett is hurt. Big knees to the body against the cage again followed by a big left elbow and Pickett is down! Big ground and pound from Nchukwi but Pickett is covering up well and surviving. Nchukwi lets him back up to his feet into the final minute and continues to walk him down looking for a finish. Great fight, but that’s a 10-8 for Nchukwi and a big win. 30-26 for me.

Taila Santos def Gillian Robertson via Unanimous Decision (30-26 x2, 29-28)

A quick start to the fight for Robertson as the two end up in a clinch against the cage and she goes for a flying armbar quickly! Santos is in danger but she stays calm and eventually gets out of the position and ends up in full guard, controlling the position and landing some nice ground and pound. Robertson throwing elbows from her back to create space and damage but Santos is doing well to nullify her. Robertson tries to scramble back up to her feet but once agains Santos is able to over-power her and land strikes on the ground to see the round out. 10-9 Santos.

Second round begins and once again a clinch against the cage ends up with Taila Santos on top and landing some nice short shots to the face. Santos ties her up and ends up on top with a reverse triangle choke with the legs, but Robertson defends really well and escapes into top position. Santos slides out of the back and ends up back on top once again, landing strikes and making Robertson very uncomfortable. Impressive round from Santos. 20-18.

Santos comes out in the third round and lands two nice punches, showing her striking chops, before Robertson throws a head kick and goes for a takedown. She ends up catching Santos in a guillotine, but the Brazilian stays patient and escapes, ending up back against the cage in top position. More short strikes from Santos as Robertson keeps working for a submission but nothing is working. Robertson finally manages to isolate an arm and rolls through for an armbar but Santos fights out of it once again and ends the round taking the back of Robertson. Dominant performance from the Brazilian. 30-27 Santos.

Deron Winn def Antonio Arroyo via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Explosive start from Arroyo as he comes in with some powerful strikes before Winn hits an early takedown. Arroyo scrambles back to his feet but then Winn gets another takedown early. A third and fourth takedown follow as the pattern of this fight continues as we pass the halfway point. Arroyo throws up an armbar attempt and then gets back to his feet once Winn escapes. He lands a big knee to the face and then a combo that hurts Winn, but he steps back and recovers. Arroyo starts stalking with hands low, but Winn looks for another takeodwn. Again Arroyo gets to the feet and lands a nasty front kick to the face but Winn eats it and gets another takedown as the round ends. 10-9 Winn but Arroyo looks more likely to win it at this rate.

Winn opens up the round with a wheel kick attempt that misses before landing a takedown, which he sees keep Arroyo down a little longer this time but Arroyo eventually gets back up to his feet. The round continues with the same pattern of Winn landing lots of takedowns and Arroyo getting back to his feet and landing nice strikes before going down again. Arroyo is exhausted at this point, throwing lazy kicks and accepting the position on his back while Winn lays on top to take a breather also.

Third round and once again Winn continues to blast takedown after takedown, taking him into double figures officially for the fight. Arroyo is exhausted and is accepting the position, being lazy off his back throwing up-kicks before Winn lets him back up. A nice head kick lands but Winn just goes straight back in for another takedown as we enter the final 30 seconds of the fight. They get back to the feet and Arroyo lands a body kick as the round comes to an end. Should be a win for Deron Winn.

Pannie Kianzad def Sijara Eubanks via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

A strong start for Eubanks as she lands a flurry of punches before getting the takedown at the first attempt. Lots of floating position and some good strikes from top control as Kianzad is clearly at a disadvantage in these instances. Eubanks controls the entire round with top control and ends the round taking the back of Kianzad, but she runs out of time before she can sink in a choke. 10-9 Eubanks.

Kianzad starts the second round well, landing some good strikes and then defend against the takedown attempt from Eubanks. Kianzad lands some nice knees to the body in the clinch and some good body shots that are doing some damage. Eubanks blasts a takedown and gets it but Kianzad immediately throws up her guard and defends. She looks to sink in an armbar from her back but Eubanks escapes well and Kianzad manages to get back to her feet. A few more body shots land and the round ends with Kianzad throwing elbows to the side of the head as she defends a takedown. 19-19, big round incoming.

Third round continues from where the second left off, as Kianzad keeps the fight standing and starts landing some nice jabs. Eubanks looks laboured now but then lands a big right hand on Kianzad that gets her attention. Kianzad throwing knees to the body again and her jab is landing but Eubanks is walking forward. Both women exchange jabs in the centre before a wild left hook misses the target completely. Final minute now as Eubanks lands a right hand before Kianzad steps in and out landing a nice one-two. Big left hook from Eubanks lands but Kianzad responds with a hook of her own. Fight comes to an end with the women exchanging blows in the centre. 29-28 Kianzad for me but that’s a great fight.

Anthony Pettis def Alex Morono via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

A blistering start to this fight as Morono charges across the cage and gets an immediate takedown with a hook in to take the back. He starts raining down huge punches and busts the nose of Pettis early. Body lock tightens as Morono looks for a rear naked choke, but Pettis rotates into him and reverses the position well before getting back up to his feet. Pettis starts flicking out strikes, looking for his big left hand but Morono countering well and forcing Pettis to move backwards. Big spinning kick from Pettis lands clean to the chest but Morono eats it and continues to come forward. Morono goes for another takedown and drags Pettis down to the mat but Pettis reverses it perfectly and ends the round on top. 10-9 Morono but great fight so far.

Fast paced start for the second round as Pettis comes out looking for jabs and kicks but Morono still coming forward. He’s beginning to slow down now a bit though as Pettis looks for a huge spinning elbow but hits fresh air. Pettis throwing some nice leg kicks and a straight left that is causing Morono some trouble, as Pettis throws an axe-kick that grazes the face of Morono. Body kick from Morono as he continues to come forward, but Pettis is landing shots and avoiding any big damage coming back his way. Body kick lands and then a jab from Pettis as both men look for spinning attacks at the end of the round. 19-19, Pettis looking good right now.

Morono lands a nice strike to open the round, before Pettis throws another axe kick that grazes the head. Pettis turns his back after a strike attempt and Morono charges for a takedown, but Pettis rolls through and ends up on top in control. Pettis doing brilliant work to remain on top, stacking Morono against the cage and landing short shots to stay busy. Morono battles back to his feet but Pettis controlling head position and landing knees to the body as we enter the final minute. Separation from the clinch and Morono charges forward with a flurry, but Pettis responds with a clean uppercut. Spinning wheel kick lands to the top of the head by Pettis and Morono is wobbled! Pettis charges for the finish and drops him, but then goes for a guillotine which he doesn’t quite get and ends the round on top raining down punches.

MAIN CARD

Marcin Tybura def Greg Hardy via Knockout, Round 2 (4:31)

An interesting start to this fight as both guys looking to fight from range using jabs, while Tybura looking to add a few kicks too. Hardy lands a nice right hand but Tybura eats it and throws a nice body kick. Hardy lands three big right hands in a row and Tybura is wobbled! Hardy slows it down again and Tybura goes for a single leg takedown but it’s defended well. Hardy then lands SEVEN heavy right hands in a row that really hurts Tybura but the round comes to an end. Best we’ve seen Hardy. 10-9.

Better start to the round for Tybura this time as he starts to time the shots of Hardy and countering well. He’s walking Hardy down and throwing kicks and jabs, feinting takedowns constantly too. Tybura shoots in for a takedown this time against the cage and Hardy defends it well at first before ending up flat on his back. Tybura flattens Hardy out onto his back and starts throwing bombs down! Hardy starts covering up and Tybura keeps punching until the referee stops the fight! Big comeback win for the Polish fighter!

Rob Font def Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)

Explosive start to the fight from Font as he comes out with two big hooks, which makes Moraes change levels and get a takedown quickly. Font manages to reverse the position and lands some nice knees to the body, but then Moraes picks him up and slams him down and takes control from top position. Font gets back to his feet and Moraes lands a nice head kick that sends Font backwards. Font then throws some bombs that rock Moraes and he drops him with a beautiful uppercut. He jumps on him for the ground and pound and the referee stops it! Wow! What a knockout!

Michel Pereira def Khaos Williams via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

A very tactical start to the fight with both guys throwing feints and just testing their range for the opening minute. Pereira throws a big one-two and a front kick to the body that connects hard, but Khaos doesn’t flinch. Halfway through the round, Khaos throws some leg kicks as the two clinch and separate quickly. Body kick from Pereira is caught by Khaos and the throws a big one-two that wobbles Pereira. Another front kick by Pereira is caught and another big right hook lands flush, but Pereira eats it and continues to come forward. Right hand lands by Pereira now and he follows it up with a knee up the middle. Flying knee attempt at the end from Pereira but it’s a tight round. 10-9 Khaos.

Another slow start to this round, but it bursts into life as Pereira counters a low kick with a straight right hand flush on the chin. Khaos comes forward and launches a flurry, that leads to a clinch in the centre that ends in a stalemate. Some nice leg kicks land from Khaos and then he starts attacking the body. Pereira responds with a body kick of his own and Khaos charges across the cage throwing punches, landing three in a row to the chin. Clinch against the cage and Pereira throws big knees to the body before they separate. Seconds to go and Pereira jumps on the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke, but runs out of time. Super close round, 20-18 Khaos for me though.

Fancy footwork from Pereira as he looks to get in and out with powerful strikes, but Khaos is throwing hooks that are landing too. Pereira goes for a weird mule-kick but misses completely and then Khaos throws a flurry of shots to the body and head. Pereira throws a body kick again and then changes levels to secure a takedown. Pereira tries to pass into mount but Khaos defends well and gets back to his feet as we enter the final minute. Khaos eats a kick to the head and then Pereira changes levels again and gets another takedown, ending the round with lots of ground and pound strikes. 29-28 Khaos at the end for me but could go either way.

Jose Aldo def Marlon Vera via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Tense start to the fight as Vera and Aldo stand in boxing range and exchange leg kicks early before Vera initiates a clinch against the cage. Aldo eats some knees to the thigh before reversing the position and separating. Big left hook to the body from Aldo gets a reaction from Vera and he throws it again shortly after. Straight right and a big leg kick from Aldo followed by a third body shot, as Vera throws straight kicks to the lead leg of Aldo. Vera throws a head kick which Aldo avoids then throws a big body shot and right hook combo. 10-9 Aldo as the round ends.

Aldo starts the second round with another big left body shot followed by a right hand to the head. Vera still throwing that stabbing leg kick to Aldo’s lead leg, but Aldo is countering with good head shots. Aldo catches a body kick and Vera spins and lands a back fist, moving out of range of Aldo’s counter at the same time. Clinch against the cage as Vera throws knees to the thigh, then looks for a trip. Aldo stays on the feet and throws a knee to the body before they clinch up again against the cage. Better round for Vera there, could well be even.

Vera charges across the cage to start strong but misses a strike and Aldo latches on to the back and locks in a body triangle. He jumps up to the back and eventually flattens Vera out, before eventually rolling through as he looks for a rear-naked choke. Vera is battling the position but Aldo controlling from the back. Vera manages to stand up with Aldo still on his back and walks him over to his corner, slamming him down, but Aldo keeps the body triangle synched up. Aldo keeps the back for the rest of the round and threatens the choke but the buzzer goes and that’s that. Should be an Aldo win.

Stephen Thompson def Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x3)

Competitive start to the fight from both men as Wonderboy manages the distance expertly as usual, using kicks and jabs. Neal marching him down, looking to close distance to then explode with flurries of strikes but Wonderboy landing combos and then evading. Wonderboy looks very sharp, landing good strikes. Both men go for an exchange of strikes but clash heads, opening up a cut on both men just above their eyes. Fight is paused for a short while but only lasts for another 5 seconds before the end of the round. 10-9 Wonderboy.

Neal comes out in the second round and looks to engage in a clinch, but Wonderboy defends well and they separate quickly. Wonderboy then lands a stiff one-two down the middle, followed by some clean body kicks. Neal responds with a body kick of his own but Wonderboy counters with short strikes and stabbing body kicks. Straight right lands from Wonderboy as he continues to evade Neal’s attacks with excellent footwork. Neal traps Wonderboy against the cage and finally lands a big left hand, but Wonderboy eats it and responds with a strike of his own to end the round. 20-18 Wonderboy.

Wonderboy continues in the third as he has gone in the first and second so far with good kicking and nice one-twos before moving out of the way. Neal closes the distance and gets a clinch position against the cage, throwing knees to the thigh. Wonderboy swivels and separates well and goes back to landing strikes from range. Both throwing jabs, with Neal landing a couple of nice ones in particular before another clinch against the cage with Neal leaning on Wonderboy, but the veteran separates well then lands a lovely combination. Big straight right hand from Wonderboy lands twice before Neal lands a big left hand just before the buzzer. 30-27 Wonderboy.

More of the same in this fourth round, with Wonderboy using his jab perfectly. Big right hand lands flush and Neal looks like he’s hurt, so Wonderboy lands three more. Nice body kick lands on Neal, that causes an audible burp in the octagon, but Neal is just being outclassed right now. Clinch situation against the cage at the end of the round, Wonderboy is cleaning up right now. He ends the round with what looks like a knee injury though… 40-36.

Final round and Neal comes out aggressive, throwing his big left hand and Wonderboy is clearly compromised by that injured leg. Big exchange against the cage and both men land some big bombs but nobody flinches yet. Body shots from Wonderboy as Neal gets a clinch against the cage. Big body shots from Neal with 70 seconds left as they separate in the clinch, Wonderboy steps forward with a couple of right hands of his own. Neal lands two clean shots but Wonderboy returns with shots of his own as they trade in the centre of the cage to end the round. Great fight, vintage Wonderboy performance. 50-45 for me.

UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs Neal – Main Card 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 with the rest of the prelim card here. We move into the main card now.

MAIN CARD

Marcin Tybura (20-6) vs Greg Hardy (7-2) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A heavyweight clash between the Polish fighter looking to go 4-0 in 2020, against the former NFL star who looks to make it three wins in a row. Tybura is coming off wins over Sergey Spivak, Maxim Grishin and most recently Ben Rothwell, while Hardy got the TKO win over Maurice Greene in October. Tybura is a well rounded fighter who carries power and has submission skills, although he hasn’t won via tap-out since 2014. Hardy is a powerhouse, who uses boxing to get in close and tries to take your head off quite simply. Tybura has been KO’d in each of his last three defeats, so Hardy will take encouragement from knowing that if he lands clean he can put Tybura away. Should this one get out of the first round, Hardy will start to gas and the Pole can then take over and using his good range striking and grinding takedowns against the cage. For that reason, Tybura takes a decision win after surviving the early pressure of Hardy.
PICK – Marcin Tybura via Decision

Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) vs Rob Font (17-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

‘Magic’ Marlon Moraes returns to the UFC after his defeat to Cory Sandhagen back in October where he was dominated and knocked out in the second round. Rob Font makes his first appearance in over a year but is coming off a two-fight win streak having beaten Sergio Pettis and Ricky Simon. Moraes is a phenomenal striker in the Muay-Thai discipline and carries scary speed with his punches and kicks. Font is a kickboxer who has a great jab and is more than durable enough to have an all-out war. Font is a pretty standard striker style-wise, who tends to step forward and is very traditional with his footwork. Moraes is world-class when it comes to a kickboxing match and should be able to read Font’s attacks and counter with heavy hands to earn himself a knockout win.
PICK – Marlon Moraes via Knockout, Round 2

Michel Pereira (24-11) vs Khaos Williams (11-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

The human highlight reel that is Michel Pereira looks to make it back-to-back wins following a beautiful submission win against Zelim Imadaev back in September. Khaos Williams has won his last eight fights in a row, including his two UFC fights so far. He smashed through Alex Morono in 27 seconds back in February, before annihilating Abdul Razak Alhassan in just 30 seconds with a violent one-punch knockout in November. This fight is highly unlikely to see the judges scorecards, with both guys carrying insane power in their hands and happy to engage in a war for the fans. Pereira has great submission and jiu-jitsu skills, but his go-to is always to strike with venom in his heart. He’s got great kicks and really good head movement, but he doesn’t have the one-punch power of Khaos. If Williams can land, there is every chance it ends there and then but if Pereira can use his movement and avoid using his wild antics to encourage a slug-fest then he should win. I just don’t think he does that and therefore gets chinned into unconsciousness.
PICK – Khaos Williams via Knockout, Round 1

Jose Aldo (28-7) vs Marlon Vera (16-6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

One of the greatest pound for pound fighters in UFC history, Jose Aldo has had a rough time recently. He’s lost five of his last seven, including his last three in a row including a knockout loss to Petr Yan in their vacant title fight on Fight Island. Marlon Vera though is on an upwards trajectory, having won six of his last seven including a shocking knockout win over Sean O’Malley back at UFC 252. Aldo is one of the best boxers the UFC has ever seen, with phenomenal counter-striking and dangerous leg kicks and speed. Vera has a good kicking game himself and has a great ground game but everywhere he excels, he’s just a level below Aldo. While Vera is super talented in his own right, this is just a step too far for the Ecuadorian. Aldo completely outclasses him on the feet and eventually gets a TKO win.
PICK – Jose Aldo via Knockout, Round 2

Stephen Thompson (15-4-1) vs Geoff Neal (13-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

‘Wonderboy’ makes his first appearance in the octagon in over a year following his big win over Vicente Luque in November 2019. Geoff Neal saw a fight with Neil Magny fall through earlier this year and steps into the cage for the first time since KO’ing Mike Perry in December last year. ‘Wonderboy’ is an excellent striker, using his karate style to stay out of range and use his kicks phenomenally well. He’s also a tremendous counter striker which could come in handy against ‘Handz of Steel’. Neal is one of the best finishers in the UFC and has legitimate one-punch power, but is also a very composed and accurate striker too. He throws great volume and has shown the ability to maintain a good pace throughout three rounds, although this is his first five round bout. Thompson is without a doubt the best striker Neal has ever fought and his range management is phenomenal. It’s a really close fight because Neal has never had a step up in competition like this, but he is clearly good enough to be at this level. With that said, I think ‘Wonderboy’ has a style so hard to beat. He was dominating Pettis before a shock knockout and most people had him beating Darren Till in that decision loss. For that reason, I think Thompson stops the Neal train in it’s tracks with a clinic.
PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision

UFC Vegas 17: Geoff Neal Looking to Follow The Lead to Become Welterweight Contender

As the UFC looks ahead to their final card of the year, there is a growing trend right now of new contenders coming to the attention of everyoe.

In recent weeks we’ve seen Marvin Vettori move into the top five of the middleweight division, while Kevin Holland grabbed the headlines with a stunning knockout of Jacare Souza. We’ve also seen Charles Oliveira dominate Tony Ferguson to enter the lightweight title picture, while Brandon Moreno stitched his name into the minds of MMA fans around the world with his performances at UFC 255 and UFC 256.

After Leon Edwards’s bout with Khamzat Chimaev was scrapped due to the Briton testing positive for COVID-19, the main event was changed as Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Geoff Neal stepped up from the co-main slot.

That means the welterweight division stays in the limelight, but these two warriors now have the chance to leapfrog the two in the scrapped main event in the title scene.

Currently, Kamaru Usman is scheduled to fight Gilbert Burns for the welterweight championship in the first quarter of 2021. While a date isn’t announced, Usman is the heavy favourite for that fight. Should he win, his next contender is up in the air.

Edwards is currently on an eight-fight win streak, while Chimaev has cut through the UFC roster like a hot knife through butter so far. Chimaev’s rise and Edwards’ record had that fight pitted as the number one contender bout going into this card.

But with the fight scrapped until further notice, an impressive win for either Wonderboy or Neal could propel them ahead in the pecking order.

UFC 217: Thompson v Masvidal : News Photo

Wonderboy has challenged for the title twice before, fighting Tyron Woodley to a draw before losing the rematch back in 2017. Since then, he has gone 2-2 with wins over Jorge Masvidal and Vicente Luque while being beaten by Darren Till and Anthony Pettis.

Neal on the other hand is on a seven-fight win streak and is undefeated in the UFC, with his most recent win being a 90 second knockout of grizzly veteran Mike Perry.

‘Handz of Steel’ has earned his nickname from eight knockout wins in ten finishes and he moves into this fight knowing he makes a big step up in competition.

This will be the toughest fight of his career, against a fighter who is notoriously hard to hit with his style and range control. He has been knocked out before, by a bloated Pettis, but his performance against Luque proved he is still as good as ever.

Neal, and everyone with a brain, knows that his best hope of winning this fight is either by knockout or if he can get the fight down to the ground and control the fight from there. To do that though, he needs to get past the kicking and striking game of a world class karate fighter in Wonderboy.

The winner of this bout will undoubtedly see their stocks rise once again but the expectation is on Neal. He is the bookies’ favourite ever so slightly but also the one the fans want to see progress up the rankings.

Neal will be hoping to follow the current trend of new contenders heading into the new year, while Wonderboy will be hopeful that he can run it back to a title shot one more time.