Las Vegas – This Saturday, the UFC capped off an amazing year of fights with their final card of 2020, headlined by Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Geoff “Hands of Steel” Neal, at the UFC Apex Arena in Las Vegas Nevada. Here’s an analysis of how the last two UFC fights of 2020 played out and what’s next for the fighters.
Thompson vs. Neal
In the main event, and final fight of the year, we saw UFC Veteran, 2-time title challenger, and widely recognized “NMF” (Nicest Mother F… you know the rest) Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson take on the burning hot prospect Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal as they both looked to put their name on the shortlist of contenders for the welterweight crown. The fight began virtually the same way that it ended; “Wonderboy” was able to keep Neal gun shy and off-balance as he continued to outpoint him each round. This fight was a giant learning curve for Neal. Thompson has always been a tough puzzle for any fight to figure out, but Geoff will grow from this loss, and, hopefully, move forward more confidently and aggressively.
There were short spurts throughout the fight where Neal looked like he might do something, after landing a big shot or two on “Wonderboy”, but then he would immediately hit the breaks and Thompson would quickly regain the momentum. I’m not sure if this was a cardio issue or just the effect “Wonderboy” has on opponents that aren’t used to his style, but Geoff Neal was very hesitant, gun shy, and defensive for almost the entirety of the 5 rounds. The fight did, however, end in a back and forth brawl as the two decided to leave the UFC fans with something to remember as this year of fights officially went in the books.
What’s Next for the Fighters?
They tried “Wonderboy” as a gatekeeper and he has proven, twice now, that he is not accepting that role, and still has a lot of fight left in him. I would love to see him match up against any of the top 5 right now, but I think the fight to make next is him vs. Covington. The classic striker vs. grappler, both fighting to put their name in the bin for a spot in the line of number one contender at Welterweight; although the number one contender’s bought will be Edwards vs. Chimaev. Either way, Kamaru Usman still has a lot of work to do if he wants to clear out this division.
Although this was a very tough loss for Neal, it doesn’t knock him completely off track to the title. If he is able to string together one or two impressive wins again, he will be right back sniffing down the backs of that top 5 of the welterweight division. I would like to see Neal right back in there against Neil Magny next. The fight with Magny was already booked before but was unfortunately scrapped, so book it again. I think that fight makes the most sense out of the possibilities, but would also be interested in seeing Neal fight Woodley if Woodley still plans on fighting, and the UFC keeps him through this next round of cuts.
Aldo vs. Vera
In the co-main event, we saw the seasoned, former long-time featherweight champion “Junior” Jose Aldo, take on the growing star and hot prospect Marlon “Chito” Vera in a very one-sided affair foreshadowing what would be seen in the main event. Aldo was able to keep the danger of Vera low and beat him everywhere in the fight. On the feet, Aldo was able to outstrike “Chito” and land his world-renowned leg kicks on the prospect. As Aldo recognized his lead on the scorecards, he then played it safe and went to the ground with Vera, where there was a clear gap in skill. Aldo was able to ride out the majority of the third round in a body triangle lock, threatening a rear-naked choke on “Chito”. This was a very important fight for the bantamweight division and a very decisive result.
What’s Next for the Fighters?
After this performance, it is clear that Aldo still has a lot left in the tank. He called out TJ Dillashaw and, as Dillashaw’s suspension ends in less than a month, I think this is the fight to make. After two years off, Dillashaw should have at least one fight before getting an immediate title shot; Aldo is that perfect fight. If Aldo can beat Dillashaw, he is thrown right back into title contention. If Dillashaw beats Aldo, then he is ready to fight for the title again.
This is far from the end of the road for Vera. I think he should stay right at the #15 spot that he is currently ranked at, and fight someone who is a bit lower ranked than #7 in the world. I would be fine with seeing a fight between him and Cody Stamann or Song Yadong, but the fight that would interest me most would be “Chito” Vera vs. Dominick Cruz. Some might call me crazy after that performance against Aldo, but I think a matchup against the current Cruz is a favorable spot for Vera. Not only for the name value of Dominick Cruz but also stylistically, especially considering Cruz’s recent decline.
Stephen Thompson def. Geoff Neal via Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
Jose Aldo def. Marlon Vera via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Michel Pereira def. Khaos Williams via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Rob Font def. Marlon Moraes via TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (3:47)
Marcin Tybura def. Greg Hardy via TKO (Punches) in Round 2 (4:31)
Anthony Pettis def. Alex Morono via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Pannie Kianzad def. Sijara Eubanks via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Deron Winn def. Antonio Arroyo via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Talia Santos def. Gillian Robertson via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28)
Tafon Nchukwi def. Jamie Pickett via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-25)
Jimmy Flick def. Cody Durden via Triangle Choke Submission in Round 1 (3:19)
Christos Giagos def. Carlton Minus via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)