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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: 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

UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs Neal – Early 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.

EARLY PRELIMS

Jimmy Flick (15-5) vs Cody Durden (11-2-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

This fight was originally scheduled to take place at UFC Vegas 16, but was scrapped due to a non-COVID related illness on fight night. Here is the prediction from that event.

Cody Durden saw a seven-fight win streak end with a draw in his UFC debut against Chris Gutierrez back in August and will look for a win against the mightily impressive debutant in Jimmy Flick. Flick has 13 submission wins from 15 professional wins and is currently on a three fight win streak coming from Dana White’s Contender Series in September. Durden is pretty well rounded and has a physicality edge for sure, so if he ends up in a dominant position on the ground then don’t be shocked to see him hold his own. The problem would be if Flick gets a dominant position, he fishes constantly for submissions and always always ends up finding one to end the fight. I think Flick is able to do that here with an impressive rear-naked choke in the first round, but it won’t look as easy as it sounds.
PICK – Jimmy Flick via Submission, Round 1

Tafon Nchukwi (4-0) vs Jamie Pickett (11-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

A UFC debut for Cameroonian fighter Nchukwi as he steps in to take on another Contender Series graduate in Jamie Pickett. Nchukwi has won all four of his professional fights by knockout, beating Al Matavao with a vicious head kick back in September. Pickett has won his last two-in-a-row including his own KO win on the Contender Series, his third appearance on the show following two defeats previously. Nchukwi is a skilled striker but is still very green. He has usually fought at 205lbs and looked quite slow, although powerful, so a move down to 185lbs is interesting. With that said, Pickett’s defence isn’t great and he has a habit of being backed up against the cage. That spells danger against someone as powerful as ‘Da Don’ so I expect a big knockout win.
PICK – Tafon Nchukwi via Knockout, Round 1

Aiemann Zahabi (7-2) vs Drako Rodriguez (7-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

The brother of the legendary trainer Firas, Aiemann Zahabi entered the UFC with six first round knockouts under his belt, then won his company debut in 2017. Since then though, he’s suffered back-to-back defeats against Ricardo Ramos and Vince Morales. This will be his first fight since May 2019. Drako makes his UFC main roster debut in this one, following a successful win on Dana White’s Contender Series in September, thanks to a first-round triangle choke submission. Zahabi is a technical striker but Rodriguez has shown in the past that he has a real killer instinct and is more than happy wherever the fight goes. Rodriguez isn’t completely outclassed on the feet and has good wrestling to go with his submissions. It’s a close fight, but I’m going with the more well-rounded fighter in Rodriguez.
PICK – Drako Rodriguez 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.

Leon Edwards vs Khamzat Chimaev Scrapped Following Positive COVID Test

UFC Vegas 17 has lost it’s main event as Leon Edwards has been forced to withdraw from his fight with Khamzat Chimaev after testing positive for COVID-19.

The huge welterweight fight was due to headline the final UFC card of the year on December 19th, with the undefeated prospect Chimaev challenging the No.3 ranked Edwards in his first fight against a ranked opponent.

Edwards hasn’t fought since July 2019, after he saw a bout with Tyron Woodley scrapped in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then he has called for fights against anyone in the top five but when they all refused to fight him or were booked against someone else, he opted to call out the high-flying Khamzat Chimaev who took the UFC by storm this summer.

After making his debut on Fight Island by destroying John Phillips, he then made a ten day turnaround to obliterate young Rhys McKee too. He followed those incredible wins with a 17 second knockout of experienced UFC veteran Gerald Meerschaert at UFC Vegas 11 back in September.

It’s reported by Brett Okamoto of ESPN that Edwards had a pretty bad case of COVID-19, with the Englishman unable to train at all during his battle with the virus and losing 12lbs in just four days.

But with the fight now scrapped, ESPN are reporting that the fight will be re-booked for early 2021 and there will be no replacement fight on the card later this month. Instead, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson’s fight with Geoff Neal is likely to now be boosted into the main event slot.

The main event cancellation makes it SIX consecutive UFC main events to be completely scrapped or amended to close out what has been a crazy year for the organisation.

First Islam Makhachev was forced to withdraw from his fight with Rafael Dos Anjos and was replaced by Paul Felder on five days notice. The following event was UFC 255, where the original main event had Cody Garbrandt challenging Deiveson Figueiredo for the flyweight title. He suffered an injury and Alex Perez stepped in to claim his title shot.

Following that Curtis Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19 moments before the weigh-ins and his fight with Derrick Lewis was cancelled, with Anthony Smith and Devin Clark stepping in on one day’s notice to take the main event slot. Jack Hermansson is on his third opponent now following withdrawals of Darren Till and Kevin Holland for his UFC Vegas 16 main event, where he will now take on Marvin Vettori.

UFC 256 has been the most affected card, with three different title fights falling apart since announcement. Kamaru Usman withdrew from his fight with Gilbert Burns due to injury, which led to Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling stepping in for a bantamweight title fight. Amanda Nunes was forced to withdraw from her title defence against Megan Anderson through injury, before the Yan/Sterling fight fell apart also. That will now be headlined by Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno making a three-week turnaround to fight for the flyweight championship.