It’s easy to understand why people forget how good Stephen Thompson is. To the credit of his detractors, it has been almost five years since he secured a finish. Nonetheless, UFC Vegas 17 served as a fantastic reminder of how good the former title challenger is. With surgical precision, Thompson picked apart a game Geoff Neal for 25 minutes, even after suffering a leg injury late that limited his range in the closing round. Did I mention he dealt with a cut above his right eye for almost the entirety of the fight? And that it was caused by an accidental head butt in the opening round? Yeah, Thompson’s performance was impressive as hell.
No doubt, he’ll still have his critics as he never came close to securing a finish. However, Neal never found any sustained success and a five round shut out can be a more difficult proposition to achieve than a finish. Will it be enough to get him back into the title picture? It’s hard to say, but given a new champion reigns since Thompson was unsuccessful in his previous title bids, it’s not an impossible proposition. More than likely, Thompson will need another win before it becomes a likelihood.
As for the rest of the UFC VEGAS 17: ‘THOMPSON VS NEAL’ card….
- For all of us that have been bitching about Jose Aldo being highly ranked without a victory in the bantamweight division… we can all shut up now. Aldo picked his spots well, nailing Marlon Vera with strategically placed – and HARD — kicks to the leg and body in the first two rounds, though Vera easily outpaced him in overall volume. Desperately wanting to snap his three-fight skid, Aldo took Vera’s back in the third and stayed there for it’s entirety, securing his win.
- Fireworks were expected from Michel Pereira and Khaos Williams. If there were fireworks, they ground flowers. Pereira defied logic by fighting conservatively for the most part, throwing no flying attacks or back flips. Williams countered many of the strikes, but Pereira had a couple of moments late in the second and third that swayed the judges to see things his way in a contest that really could have gone either way.
- Houston, we have a breakout bantamweight. Weathering the early storm from Marlon Moraes, Rob Font demonstrated he might have the most powerful jab in the division, knocking Moraes silly with it before finishing the job on the mat with several more punches before the first round was out. Don’t be shocked if Font’s next contest is a five-round main event.
- No doubt Greg Hardy has been improving. He pieced up Marcin Tybura in the first round. Hell, it looked like he was going to get a finish for a bit. Unfortunately – or in the minds of most, fortunately – his stamina betrayed him and Tybura was able to ground him and pound him out the next round, giving Tybura a four-fight win streak.
- Fighting out his contract, Anthony Pettis delivered a victory over Alex Morono as he enters free agency. Of course, it wasn’t with the bang that everyone hoped as Morono took him to a competitive decision. But Pettis did secure a highlight when he landed a spinning wheel kick in the wanning seconds, only for Morono to survive. Anyone have the odds that Pettis ends up in Bellator?
- Though it suffered from a lack of defining moments, Sijara Eubanks and Pannie Kianzad put on a fun and competitive scrap. Eubanks controlled the early action with her ground game, but Kianzad edged out the final two rounds with her striking, her superior cardio proving to be the difference on the scorecards. The win gives Kianzad a three-fight win streak and a re
- While the clash between Antonio Arroyo and Deron Winn wasn’t exactly pleasurable viewing, it wasn’t as bad as Daniel Cormier’s commentary, constantly showing favoritism to his protégé Winn. It served as a strong reminder the UFC might want to be more selective of who calls what event in their rotating door of commentators. Oh, Winn won because Arroyo can’t stop takedowns.
- It wasn’t a surprise to see Taila Santos beat Gillian Robertson. What was a surprise is she did so with the fight exclusively taking place on the mat, which was supposed to be Robertson’s world. Robertson was aggressive in pursuit of submissions, but Santos escaped them all and was the only one doing any sort of damage with strikes. Santos may be developing into a dark horse at 125.
- While I doubt those who believe the UFC brought in Tafon Nchukwi too early for his own good are going to change their minds, Nchukwi did prove that he’s one scary mofo. Even as his energy levels flagged, he bullied Jamie Pickett around the cage, coming thisclose to securing a late finish. Instead, he was forced to settle for a dominant decision. Nchukwi is still one to keep an eye on.
- Cody Durden put a hell of a scare into Jimmy Flick in the first minute, but it was Flick who went home with his hand raised on the back of a flying triangle submission in the opening frame. Expect his phenomenal finish to get some play for submission of the year.
- On Wednesday morning, Christos Giagos didn’t have a fight scheduled. Saturday afternoon, after making weight the previous day, he turned in a dominant two rounds for a clear win over Carlton Minus. Giagos can be excused for slowing in the final round for the late notice, so an incredible performance overall for Giagos.
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