Dubai: The UFC staged its final extravaganza of 2020 in Las Vegas on Saturday night to put on show for the ages with all but two of the electrifying fights going the distance.
To experience the best action that MMA has to offer was to have watched Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson bamboozle up-and-comer Geoff Neal, Rob Font’s stunning first-round TKO upset of Marlon Moraes and Polish heavyweight Marcin Tybura hand former NFL star Greg Hardy a career-first knockout.
In addition, former featherweight champion Jose Aldo rolled back the years to defeat Marlon Vera via unanimous decision, while Octagon newcomer Jimmy Flick earned a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus when he scored a stunning flying triangle choke submission to tap out Cody Durden.
There were so many highlights befitting a season finale as there were fights, paramount to the phenomenal growth of the UFC heading into the new year.
The thrill-a-minute card was both a testament to the Las Vegas-based promotion’s resilience as it was to the tenacity of its supremo, Dana White, who dismissed all doubters to stage fight-after-fight through the COVID-19 pandemic that destroyed most of 2020’s major sporting events.
From the March 14 full fight card that the UFC staged in an empty arena in Brazil’s Sao Paulo, the promotion’s bandwagon travelled between Las Vegas and Yas Island in Abu Dhabi to stage some stalwartly fight nights featuring monolithic figures such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje and Kumaru Usman.
It was like watching history in motion as every Saturday night since March offered the legions of MMA fans events of the highest standard. And the year-ender on Saturday was no different.
Former welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson (16-4-1 MMA, 11-4-1 UFC) and Geoff Neal (13-3 MMA, 5-1 UFC) brought the curtain down on the season when they squared off in the final fight of the year.
Ever the tactician, Thompson comfortably picked off Neal with a flurry of kicks, jabs and straight rights and is now eyeing a potential fight with Jorge Masvidal as the next step to his much bigger goal for 2021. “Wonderboy is still here, baby,” Thompson said. “That title? 2021 is going to me mine, brother. You watch and see.”
Meanwhile, Jose Aldo (29-7 MMA, 11-6 UFC) may not be the powerhouse that was a couple of years ago, but he still looked great as he delivered a technical performance to beat Marlon Vera (18-7-1 MMA, 10-6 UFC).
With the victory, Aldo snapped a three-fight losing streak that saw him lose to Petr Yan, Marlon Moraes and Alexander Volkanovski, and called out former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw.
“I don’t have anything personally with TJ,” Aldo said at the post-fight news conference while donning a festive Christmas hat. “I just want to make a great fight for the fans. I think TJ is a great former champion. I think this fight makes sense for everybody. I’m so happy for today. I think I needed to give a great show for the fans and the win, because sometimes, I’ve made a great show but I’ve lost.”
Dillashaw (16-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) has not competed since failing a USADA drug test in January 2019.
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 first-round TKO
Marcin Tybura def. Greg Hardy via second-round TKO
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 (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)
Jimmy Flick def. Cody Durden via submission — Round 1, 3:18
Christos Giagos def. Carlton Minus via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)