The final UFC show of 2020, UFC Vegas 17, was a pretty loaded card on paper. In execution, it turned out to be a lot of fun, even if a couple of the fights on offer didn’t quite live up to the hype. We saw big wins for a couple of longtime UFC veterans, while a number of prospects were stopped in their tracks. Overall, the show probably won’t be etched into everyone’s memory for too long, but it was fine nonetheless.
Here are the best and worst moments from UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs. Neal.
#1 Best: Thompson is back in contention for the UFC Welterweight title
Last night’s main event saw a major return to form for Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, as he comfortably outpointed knockout artist Geoff Neal over five rounds. The fight was Thompson’s first in the UFC since November 2019, but despite being 37 years old, ‘Wonderboy’ clearly hadn’t lost a step.
Neal had basically no success throughout the fight, and while Thompson suffered a cut in the opening round, even that was caused by an accidental headbutt. Overall, ‘Wonderboy’ landed enough clean kicks, punches and spinning strikes to take a clear-cut unanimous decision.
Sure, the fight wasn’t as entertaining as a thunderous knockout would’ve been, but it was impressive nonetheless. Neal had been knocking out anyone in his way in the UFC and ‘Wonderboy’ stopped him in his tracks here.
Is he a UFC title contender again? He probably needs at least one more win before a shot at UFC Welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, but overall, the answer is yes.
#1 Worst: Moraes looks like a shot fighter
At the start of 2020, many fans were lamenting the fact that Jose Aldo and not Marlon Moraes – who narrowly beat Aldo at UFC 245 – was being handed a shot at the UFC Bantamweight title. After last night though, Moraes couldn’t be further away from a UFC title shot.
In fact, the evidence from last night’s show suggests that Moraes may well be a shot fighter entirely. It’s fair to give credit to his opponent last night, Rob Font, as the Boston native looked fantastic, pummelling the Brazilian after escaping from an early takedown.
However, after going more than a decade without suffering a loss via strikes, it now seems like Moraes’ durability is shot entirely. He was stopped by Henry Cejudo in June 2019, was KO’d viciously by Cory Sandhagen in October, and was initially hurt by a jab by Font last night.
It may well be that Moraes returned too early from that loss to Sandhagen, but overall, his defeat last night was a worrying sign that his career may be at the beginning of a major slide.
#2 Best: Hardy’s strong year comes to a crashing halt
Last night’s main card opener saw Marcin Tybura pick up a massive TKO win over Greg Hardy, and without trying to be controversial, there probably won’t be many UFC fans out there who didn’t enjoy the fight.
Hardy looked fantastic in the first round, picking Tybura apart with his striking – particularly a heavy right hand – and it looked like he was well on his way to a win. However, he gassed out horribly in the second round, and when Tybura took him down, he had little to no defense.
Tybura passed into half-guard, kept the former NFL man firmly grounded, and then beat the hell out of him until he was rescued by referee Dan Miragliotta.
Hardy is never going to be a popular fighter due to his past transgressions involving domestic violence, but this beating also sent another message.
It hopefully told UFC fans – as well as the likes of UFC commentator Joe Rogan – that despite the NFL supposedly being home to the world’s best athletes (a largely nonsense claim), athletic gifts won’t save a fighter in the UFC if they don’t have the skills and cardio to back it up.
#2 Worst: Williams and Pereira fail to live up to the hype
While Steven Thompson vs. Geoff Neal was last night’s main event and Jose Aldo was probably the card’s biggest name, going into the event, UFC fans were almost certainly most excited by the Welterweight bout between Khaos Williams and Michel Pereira.
Both men had shown explosive striking throughout their UFC tenures, and after a wild staredown at the weigh-in, it seemed like fireworks would ensue once the two met in the Octagon.
As it was, the fight turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Williams landed a couple of heavy blows, but for the most part, he couldn’t get a handle on Pereira. The Brazilian used his movement, speed and takedowns to land enough key shots on ‘The Ox Fighter’ to pick up a decision.
Sure, Pereira’s gameplan was smart, but overall the fight was nowhere near as wild as some were expecting, particularly after such a great staredown. Essentially, it was hard not to feel a bit disappointed.
#3 Best: Aldo still has a lot to offer to the UFC Bantamweight division
After he was smashed to pieces by current UFC Bantamweight champ Petr Yan in July, it looked like Jose Aldo had reached the beginning of the end. The former UFC Featherweight champ had lost three fights in a row, and at the age of 34, retirement appeared to be beckoning.
Last night though, Aldo rolled back the years and picked up his first UFC win at 135lbs, looking impressive in the process. He outpointed Marlon Vera pretty handily, using a slick body-punching game and eventually his much-vaunted ground game to pick up a unanimous decision.
Aldo will probably never return to the form he showed in his prime – it was a decade ago, after all – but this was a strong showing against a very dangerous opponent. Overall, Aldo looked like a fighter who could easily continue to defeat high-level opponents – meaning he’s still got a lot to offer to the UFC Bantamweight division.Published 20 Dec 2020, 16:57 IST