Dubai: The UFC will host its final event of a rollercoaster 2020 season on Saturday at the Apex Arena in Las Vegas - with the highlight being a welterweight fight between former title challenger Stephen Thompson and rising contender Geoff Neal.
Thompson, the UFC’s No. 5 ranked welterweight, last fought in November 2019 when he recorded a unanimous-decision win over Vicente Luque at UFC 244. It was a morale-boosting victory for the 37-year-old following his devastating knockout loss to Anthony Pettis.
However, the South Carolina native is confident that he’s not finished yet and still has plenty in the tank to challenge for the title. “ I went 10 rounds with Tyron Woodley, beat Jorge Masvidal hands down, had a controversial loss to Till and then getting knocked out by Anthony Pettis, of course doesn’t help, Thompson told Just Scrap Radio on BJPENN.com.
“Well, it helps me to be honest because now I know what it feels like, and it’s not that bad. Getting knocked out really isn’t that bad. I literally just woke up in the back, and I was fine. I feel like my last two opponents have been ranked fairly high, and I haven’t fought anybody ahead of me.
“Hopefully, they’re not trying to make me that gatekeeper — I’m not a gatekeeper. I’ve still got fight left in me, and I want that title shot.”
Neal, who is undefeated in the UFC, is on a five-fight winning streak including a massive victory over the dangerous Mike Perry. “He’s heavy-handed. He looks like a really strong welterweight,” said Thompson.
“I know Geoff Neal likes to throw that left high kick. He’s got a left hand and if he touches you with it, you’re going out. He’s been putting people to sleep with that, with his left hand. So that’s something that I have to prepare for, and that’s what I’ve been preparing for.”
With a win over Thompson, Neal believes he will enter the picture for a shot at a No.5 opponent and open a door for a title shot. “I get this win, and then maybe I have one more fight (before a title fight), maybe not,” Neal said. “We’ll see how that plays out and the landscape of the division. I’m really hoping to gain a lot of fans after this.”
Saturday’s co-main event is a bantamweight scrap between former featherweight champion Jose Aldo and contender Marlon Vera. Aldo will attempt to shake off three straight losses, the most recent of which being against Petr Yan at UFC 251 in July and climb back into the upper echelons of the division.
The No. 7 ranked Aldo is arguably the greatest featherweight of all time while the No. 15 ranked Vera is coming off the biggest win of his career, a first-round TKO stoppage of Sean O’Malley at UFC 252 in August.
A win over Aldo would demonstrate that he’s a top contender.
UFC FIGHT NIGHT: STEPHEN THOMPSON VS. GEOFF NEAL
• Date: Sunday, Dec. 20 (UAE)
• Prelims: 1:00 am
• Main card: 4:00 p.m.
No 5 Stephen Thompson vs No 11 Geoff Neal.
Co Main Event
No 7 Jose Aldo vs No 15 Marlon Vera