To close out the last event of the year 2020, the UFC have matched up Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson and Geoff 'Hands of Steel' Neal. Neal comes into the fight on a five-match winning streak whereas Thomson has won only two of his last five.
Wonderboy looked wonderful in the fight against Vicente Luque. The former kick-boxer used his long-range weapons to keep the Brazilian at the edge of his reach.
Thompson is adept at using his front leg side kicks from either stance to the knee or the mid-section. The Karate Black-Belt switches the kicks with round kicks and back kicks which are similarly accurate.
However, what really looked impressive in the fight against Luque is his hands. Thompson used his jab to keep prodding at Luque before angling off outside his range.
The 37-year-old also did what he has rarely done in his career, build off the jab. He often used the jab to lure in Luque and lean back to use his one-two or throw a high-kick behind it.
The Kickboxer is confident that he will beat Neal to secure another shot at the Welterweight title in 2021:
"We all know Geoff Neal is a tough and big welterweight. A good win over him, (and) they gotta be putting me up against somebody in the top 5 next. So, not giving up on the title, in 2021, I am gonna be champ."
Interestingly, the fight was scheduled to be a 3 round fight, before being extended into a five-round main event. However, that doesn't worry the veteran striker:
"Even though it was originally three five-minute rounds, I always prepare for five; the championship rounds. My cardio is there, even though it has been a year. I’m ready to go out there and do some work and have some fun," he said.
Neal made his way into the UFC through the Dana White Contender Series in 2017. The southpaw hasn't looked back since picking up wins against Frank Camacho, Belal Muhammad, Niko Price and Mike Perry.
The American definitely has the gift of power in his hands. But, although Neal is quite basic in his set-up, he has very solid fundamentals.
Neal uses the three-pronged southpaw attack of left-straight, left roundhouse kick to the body or the left high kick to the head to confuse his opponent. It is difficult to telegraph these three attacks as it follows the same twitch on his shoulders.
However, it won't be as easy for Neal to line up Wonderboy. Thomson keeps switching stances and rarely finds himself lined up for big shots.
Interestingly, Neal feels he's the superior striker against Wonderboy:
"I’m faster than most people think I am, I’m explosive, so I’ll have explosive movements going forward. I’m strong, so he’s probably going to avoid my power more than he did previous opponents.
"I see him as the best striker, and I really want to fight the best striker in the division so I can take that title and carry it with me to the belt."
Assuming the fight is contested on the feet, it is most likely going to be a chess match. Wonderboy knows to avoid the power-side of Neal, but his opponent has also shown to be positive and patient in his approach.
We predict Neal to pick up the victory in the 4th round via a TKO after he gets used to Thomson's movement.Published 19 Dec 2020, 20:00 IST