No. 5 welterweight contender Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson (15-4, 7 KOs, 1 SUB) meets the surging Geoff Neal (13-2, 8 KOs, 2 SUBs) in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal this Saturday, December 19 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card airs live on ESPN+ starting 5pm ET. In the co-main event, heavyweight veteran Marcin Tybura (20-6, 7 KOs, 6 SUBs) squares off with former Dallas Cowboy Greg Hardy (7-2, 6 KOs). Stay tuned for the latest betting odds, prop bets and more at our UFC online sportsbook. Let's break down a few key storylines of the night.
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It's really, really crowded at the top of the welterweight division. Champion Kamaru Usman still need to fight Gilbert Burns, Colby Covington is lurking as the No. 1 contender, Leon Edwards is still gunning for a title fight, and Jorge Masvidal has no problems throwing his starpower around. Currently, "Wonderboy" is ranked No. 5, but it's a tenuous situation at best. Neal has a major opportunity to jump into title contention in this matchup.
Stephen Thompson (15-4, 7 KOs, 1 SUB)
The past few years have not been kind to Thompson. After coming up short in back-to-back title fights against Tyron Woodley, the 37-year old has managed a 2-2 record. The good news: his wins came against Jorge Masvidal and Vicente Luque (his most recent outing). Those dudes are top-notch fighters. The bad news: he dropped a UD to Darren Till and was knocked out cold by an upjumped lightweight in Anthony Pettis. Despite his ranking, Thompson isn't somebody that's seriously considered a candidate to fight for the title - especially since his second fight with Woodley was one of the worst championship matches of all time.
By now, the secret is out that despite his cool-looking striking style, Wonderboy is not a fan-friendly fighter. Ok, ok we'll just say it: dude is boring. But that doesn't mean he's not good - he's a stellar points striker that's extremely difficult to take down. Just think of him as the striking equivalent of Jake Shields or Demian Maia.
Geoff Neal (13-2, 8 KOs, 2 SUBs)
"Handz of Steel" was an excellent pickup from DWCS after honing his craft in the respected Legacy Fighting Championships. Since getting called up in 2018, Neal has been nothing but money. Five wins, five finishes, zero losses. More impressive is who he's been beating: Belal Muhammad, Niko Price and Mike Perry. Ok, so Perry is off the rails now, but Muhammad nad Price are well respected. Those wins already prove that Neal is more than a mid-level guy. Now we get to see if he can jump into the elite tier.
The 30-year old is an excellent striker with a lot of depth, but he's also shown excellent fight IQ, making midfight adjustments against Muhammad. Against Price, Neal showed that he could fight under extreme pressure from a legit knockout artist. That was the same story against Perry, where Neal displayed an ability to pick apart a shorter opponent from range. Now, he's got a difficult puzzle to solve in a points karate stylist.
Significant Striking Stats
Strikes landed per minute: Thompson 3.92 / Neal 6
Striking accuracy: Thompson 44% / Neal 49%
Strikes absorbed per minute: Thompson 2.73 / Neal 3.78
Striking defense: Thompson 59% / Neal 65%
Takedowns per 15 minutes: Thompson 0.36 / Neal 0.9
Takedown accuracy: Thompson 45% / Neal 50%
Takedown defense: Thompson 78% / Neal 92%
Submissions per 15 minutes: Thompson 0 / Neal 0.45
Thompson is a tough, tough matchup for Neal - I can understand taking the more established "Wonderboy". But Neal's combined speed and power could give the karateka a ton of problems, and there could be a striking difference in favor of Neal when it comes to strikes thrown. It's not going to be easy, but we think Neal does enough to take the fight on points.
UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal Card & Odds
Welterweight - Geoff Neal -114 vs. Stephen Thompson -110
Heavyweight - Greg Hardy -127 vs. Marcin Tybura +103
Bantamweight - Rob Font +123 vs. Marlon Moraes -147
Bantamweight - Marlon Vera +117 vs. Jose Aldo -141
Welterweight - Khaos Williams -102 vs. Michel Pereira -122
Catchweight (195) - Deron Winn +127 vs. Antonio Arroyo -152
Women's Bantamweight - Pannie Kianzad +134 vs. Sijara Eubanks -162
Bantamweight - Aiemanna Zahabi +158 vs. Drako Rodriguez -191
Middleweight - Jamie Pickett +235 vs. Tafon Nchukwi -293
Lightweight - Carlton Minus +257 vs. Rick Glenn -323
Welterweight - Alex Morono +191 vs Anthony Pettis -235
Flyweight - Cody Durden +127 vs. Jimmy Flick -152
Women's Flyweight - Gillian Robertson -107 vs. Taila Santos -117
Middleweight - Karl Roberson -255 vs. Dalcha Lungiambula +207
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