Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson wants another crack at a title. Another win could put him in contention in 2021.
The main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night from Las Vegas, sees Americans Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal square off in a welterweight bout.
This is most likely a fight to gauge where Neal sits in the welterweight division and a win could move him up the rankings and into some big money fights in 2021. Thompson opened as a slim favourite at -120 on the MMA odds with Neal at -110.
Stephen Thompson UFC Vegas 17 Odds
Thompson (15-4-1) is a dangerous veteran and two-time title challenger, but he hasn’t fought in over a year. After going on a two-fight skid that saw him drop a unanimous decision to Darren Till and then suffer a KO loss to Anthony Pettis, Thompson finished 2019 strong, with a unanimous decision win over Vincente Luque at UFC 244. There is a lot riding on the line for the 37-year-old, as a win on Saturday could set him up for another title shot.
Ranked as the No. 5 welterweight fighter in the UFC, Thompson relies on his kickboxing background to constantly stay on the move before inflicting punishing and painful kicks. He averages 3.93 significant strikes per minute (absorbs 2.73) with 44 per cent accuracy and 59 per cent defence and his 10 knockdowns landed is tied for third all-time among welterweights. With the Pettis fight the only time Thompson has ever been knocked out, look for him to keep his distance and carefully pick his spots before he strikes. A win over a younger, up-and-coming fighter like Neal would go a long way in showing the UFC that Thompson still has a lot left in the tank.
Geoff Neal UFC Vegas 17 Odds
This is a fighter to watch out for. Riding a seven-fight win streak in his professional career, Neal (13-2) has won all five of his UFC fights since debuting in February 2018. Wins over Belal Muhammad and Niko Price combined with a brutal head kick to knockout Mike Perry in 90 seconds have helped put Neal on the UFC map, but a win over a former title contender like Thompson would vault Neal into the welterweight Top 10 and prime him for a title shot of his own.
Neal is a knockout artist with a rare patience that is not often seen in strikers of his caliber. He is second all-time among welterweights with six significant strikes landed per minute (absorbs 3.78) and is also second all-time among welterweights with a +2.28 striking differential. Neal will need to make adjustments to his more straightforward approach, as Thompson is one of the more elusive fighters he will have ever faced. With a good instinct for managing the distance and range of his opponents and knowing when to land finishing shots, Neal is as dangerous a striker as they come.
UFC Fight Night Prediction: Thompson vs. Neal
Both of these fighters have proven to be patient strategists who defend well against striking attacks, which could see this fight go the distance. With only two wins in the last four years, Thompson just doesn’t look like the threat he once was. Neal has put the work in and looks like he’s ready for a title shot, so look for Neal to win by unanimous decision.