It’s not only the sportsbooks who are torn on this fight as the betting odds are at a virtual pick’em. The betting community can’t make up their mind either. Wonderboy did just beat Vicente Luque who may be a slightly slower but more technical and experienced version of Geoff Neal.
Well, it was a year ago but it was his last fight but that is fairly negligible because Geoff Neal hasn’t fought yet in 2020 either. There is a significant age gap between the two men as you might have assumed.
Stephen Thompson is turning 38 in a few weeks while Geoff Neal just hit the 30 mark. That is a big freaking difference. I know Stephen may be a literal model for a youthful appearance, but 37.9 years old is just that. It doesn’t appear that he is the partying type either. He never left his home of South Carolina and never stopped teaching the kids.
This will be the biggest fight in the career of Geoff Neal by far but I don’t think you can really say the same for Wonderboy Thompson. He has two world title fights with Tyron Woodley, one memorable and the other not so much.
He has been in there with former UFC world champ Anthony Pettis and Liverpool’s Darren Till. He lost both of those fights, though, albeit not by a lot. Wonderboy was beating Pettis until a superman hook aided by a kick off of the cage made for an absolutely filthy finish.
Geoff Neal, conversely, fought Mike Perry a year ago. To his credit, though, Hands of Steel got him out of there early and easily. Prior to Perry, he put away Nike Price. His most impressive win came against Belal Muhammad.
It really stinks that Belal was dropped from this fight card due to a COVID infection or probably a false positive like we have already seen happen a lot. They don’t exactly announce to the public that the test was faulty but the fighters themselves have come out and said it if you follow their social media and interviews.
I thought 2019 taught me acceptance because I spent a lot of time in Thailand getting my butt kicked by everything from teenagers to mosquitos to food to the freaking HEAT. Acceptance is usually the most important step and on paper when you’re tackling a problem, it seems like one of the easier steps.
This couldn’t be further from the truth for many. The acceptance takes the weight off your shoulders so that you have the strength to grapple a new challenge.
My point is that 2020 really taught me some freaking acceptance and even if I think wearing a mask at my Jiu Jitsu class is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, at least I can still go to class and roll.
I usually have a hard time breathing when people are choking me anyways so the mask is barely noticeable, well until it gets shoved in your mouth like a sock from your big brother.
Every day now, I wake up and hear about another martial arts academy being forced to close their doors, not just because they aren’t allowed to hold class but figuratively close their doors as in forever.
How many businesses and dreams have been lost to this? It’s horrible and I have enough passion to be mad all day long but it is what it is. This is a global initiative and I’m just a writer rambling on and avoiding picking this killer main event!
When you have two completely different styles of strikers facing off with a big age gap and the odds are practically even? The matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard did an outstanding job on this one.
This is the final UFC fight of 2020 after all.
BetOnline has the betting odds for this one. Let’s get to it!
Geoff Neal (-115) vs Stephen Thompson (-105)
You have to believe that if Neal wins, it will likely be by TKO. I think Wonderboy can get the KO as well but he hasn’t done that in a while so Stephen to win by decision is a play if that is your side.
Let’s break down the styles of the two men first, though. Geoff Neal is a forward pressure, fast hands, excellent power, good defense. Stephen is elite striking at range, odd angles, good conditioning, 5 round experience, great defense but suspect chin.
The Karate guys like Wonderboy don’t tuck their chin lick a boxer would. They rely on the range a lot more than their shoulders, hands, and elbows to block punches. They pull their chin back and up out of the way.
This is mistake #1 when you’re boxing. You don’t want to get hit so you pull back and your chin naturally goes up in the air and that’s about the time and overhand right sets you down. Stephen has always had the footwork to get himself out of those, well not always.
I would be all in on Geoff Neal here if it weren’t for Wonderboy’s most recent fight. Vicente Luque is really good but lacks the footwork and he was majorly exploited by the former title challenger.
He out landed Luque 138 to 77 in significant strikes. Let’s meditate on this number for a minute and find the hidden meaning. We know what the visible meaning is. 138 times Stephen was able to hit Luque who has a similar style and skill level of Neal.
Luque has always been pretty hittable. Let’s be honest. A power punching brawler like Mike Perry out landed him and almost won a decision. Bryan Barberena and Niko Price also out landed Luque in losing efforts.
Stephen has only gone over 100 significant strikes landed once before and his next biggest total is the 70 he put on Jorge Masvidal. I mentioned there is more to these numbers than just what grabs your eye.
Wonderboy did double Luque up but Vicente hit him almost 80 times in three rounds which is over 5 sig strikes per minute. How many times is Wonderboy normally getting hit?
What do you know? That is the most Wonderboy has been hit. I’m telling you guys. His chin is weakening.
Geoff Neal has a very intelligent head coach down at Fortis MMA in Sayif Saud. I know they will not just plod and follow Wonderboy around for 5 rounds. That is really the only thing that worries me is Neal’s conditioning.
But, and this is a big one, fighting Wonderboy is not that physically tiring. He isn’t trying to wear on you in the clinch and unless you are relentlessly trying to get him down to the mat, it’s just a striking match.
Neal is fast so that means he probably doesn’t have Diaz level conditioning and it’s a fact. He doesn’t have that UFC main event 5-round experience and Wonderboy does.
The age gap along with Stephen’s suspect chin and the fact that he got hit more than he ever had in his last fight lead me to the Geoff Neal pick here. I keep hearing people say that Neal has never fought anyone like Wonderboy.
Wonderboy just hasn’t evolved enough. I know he worked on his takedown defense and I get that but what else? You do have to lean on your strengths if you’re competing regularly but he has had time and now it’s too late to add some usable tools to his game.
The guy relies on his speed and reflexes and he is almost 38. Hmm, reminds me of my favorite fighter of all time, Anderson Silva. He was about to turn 38 and people couldn’t touch him until they did.
If you rely on strength and power, you probably have a few more years in your tank but speed starts to go in your early to mid 30s and the reflexes around 37-38. It only takes a fraction of a second at this level and against someone as fast and powerful as Geoff Neal, I just see him finding the chin of Wonderboy.
A 5 round fight almost favors him because of how dangerous he is. The man could get tired but due to their styles, I don’t see it being too bad.
I went off on some tangents today but our problems aren’t always what they seem to be on the surface. I was picking golf more successfully than MMA for over a year and it made zero sense.
I would do my research for golf predictions and did alright. You know why? It’s because I had no ego going into it. I didn’t THINK I knew anything. MMA, conversely, had been my entire life for over a decade so I thought I knew more than I did.
Once I accepted the fact that I still had a lot to learn in MMA betting, I was free to improve and eventually have about 18 months of continued success and double digit percentage returns on your investment.
This is a very tough business or else everyone would be rich and the front of the Bellagio would look more like your Aunt Shirley’s above ground pool.
2020 has, of course, been overly difficult and stressful for all of us. We can focus on the unfair situations or enjoy the fact that we don’t live in California and pay triple for everything just to be told you have no rights.
As for Saturday night’s main event, Wonderboy did look great against Vicente Luque but he was hit more than ever. I don’t think he can take the same shots from Neal and Geoff is faster and more powerful than Vicente.
The 7 year age gap is big as well.