After some uncertainty about the lineup, UFC Fight Night 183 is set for December 19th at UFC Apex, Las Vegas, with Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal set to slug it out at the top of the bill. Two heavy-handed welterweights – both considered among the top strikers in the division – will be making their first appearances this year, headlining after the bout between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev was delayed after both contracted coronavirus. No title is on the line, but a victory for Thompson and Neal – ranked No. 5 and No. 11 respectively – will mean bragging rights as well as throwing them in the mix for a shot at the belt. This is familiar ground for ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, as he has challenged for a title before, but a dominant performance for Neal will surely put him on the radar of the top fighters at 170lb.
UFC Fight Night 183 (also known as UFC Vegas 17) was scheduled to be co-headlined by the Thompson vs Neal contest, alongside another welterweight contest between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev. However, on November 29th it was announced that Chimaev had tested positive for COVID 19. Shortly after that Edwards also tested positive, and was reported to have severe symptoms. But in UFC the show must go on, and Thompson vs Neal is the main event, and pundits reckon it could be a wild ride. Although No. 5 ranked welterweight Thompson is now 37, he says he still has plenty of fight left in him. And Neal, rated at No. 11 is hungry to put himself in the mix at the very top level.
2020 has been a year of frustration for sporting stars and spectators alike. Neither Thompson nor Neal have fought at all this year – a significantly long lay off in UFC terms. Ring rust could play a part in determining the outcome, but bettors familiar with the best online casino and sports betting sites will know that Thompson is a slight favorite due to his experience, rating and standard of opposition. But Neal is seven years younger than his rival, and at welterweight, speed and stamina play key roles. He is also hungry to propel himself into the top five in the division and is hoping a big, decisive victory would do just that. Both are exceptional strikers with both fists and legs, and many are predicting that the fight won’t trouble the judges’ scorecards.
Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson burst onto the scene after five MMA fights, making his debut at UFC 143 at the iconic Mandalay Bay in February 2012. He defeated Dan Stittgen in round one with a devastating head kick, earning himself ‘knockout of the night’, but more importantly establishing himself as an exciting, crowd-pleasing fighter. He possesses power in both fists as well as fearsome kicking prowess, a testament to his kickboxing background. Thompson began kickboxing at age three, under the tutelage of his father, himself a kickboxing champ from the 1970s. Thompson excelled at the sport, finishing with an unblemished 58-0 record in both amateur and professional contests. He holds black belts in American Kickboxing, Kengo and Jiu-Jitsu, and trains with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Carlos Machado, who is also his brother-in-law. In the octagon, his style is described as fast, explosive and powerful, with some hailing him as the top striker in the welterweight division.
Currently undefeated in his UFC campaign with a record of 5-0, Geoff ‘Hands of Steel’ Neal is keen to move up in class and home in on a title. Only one of those five UFC contests has gone to the scorecards, a unanimous decision over Belal Muhammed last year. Neal played football at college, but transitioned into MMA under the watch of trainer Sayif Saud. Like Thompson, he is fast and powerful, with excellent striking skills, although he has won one bout via submission. At UFC 240 in Edmonton, Canada, he fought Niko Price, winning with a TKO in the second round and earning his first ‘performance of the night’. UFC Fight Night 183 is his first headlining show, and he puts his relative obscurity down to being a quiet guy – something he intends to work on should he win against Thompson.
“After this fight, I’m going to start – not running my mouth – but being more vocal and getting people behind me so I can get those fights I want.”
Neal has recovered from a health scare earlier this year when he went into septic shock after a blood infection. He and his team insist that this won’t affect his performance on December 19th.
“I was worried about not being 100%, but I’m not worried anymore.”
With some big names including Jose Alda and Michel Pereira on the undercard, UFC Fight Night 183 is looking exciting. The main event looks like it could be a classic, and though no title is at stake, a shot at the crown won’t elude the winner for long.