UFC FIGHT NIGHT: Thompson decisions Neal, Aldo picks up win

Photo courtesy: UFC

UFC Fight Night Report: Stephen Thompson defeats Geoff Neal. Jose Aldo picks up his first bantamweight win against Marlon Vera

By: Eric Marcotte 

On Saturday evening, the UFC held their final event of the year at the UFC Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card originally headlined by a bout between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev, but after a positive COVID-19 test from Edwards, the fight was canceled and fellow welterweight contenders, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Geoff Neal stepped into the headlining slot. Thompson had been inactive since November of last year following his Fight of the Night victory over Vincente Luque. Neal was coming off of a year’s layoff himself, with his last fight being his ninety-second knockout of Mike Perry. After dealing with some health complications earlier in the year, this was a huge opportunity for Neal to pick up a big win over an established name in a headlining slot (on a stacked card). For Thompson, this fight was very much a must-win for him, as age and injuries have limited his octagon appearances since his last title fight in 2017. In the co-main event, the great Jose Aldo looked to end his current skid of losses against Marlon Vera, who had won his last six fights at bantamweight.

The commentary team for this card consisted of Brendan Fitzgerald, Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping. Performance bonuses were awarded to Stephen Thompson, Marcin Tybura, Rob Font, and Jimmy Flick.

QUICK RESULTS:

*Christos Giagos def. Carlton Minus by unanimous decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)

*Jimmy Flick def. Cody Durden by flying triangle choke at 3:18 of Round 1

*Tafon Nchukwi def. Jamie Pickett by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)

*Taila Santos def. Gillian Robertson by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28)

*Deron Winn def. Antonio Arroyo by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

*Pannie Kianzad def. Sijara Eubanks by unanimous decision (29-28)

*Anthony Pettis def. Alex Morono by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

*Marcin Tybura def. Greg Hardy by TKO at 4:31 of Round 2

*Rob Font def. Marlon Moraes by TKO at 3:47 of Round 1

*Michel Pereira def. Khaos Williams by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

*Jose Aldo def. Marlon Vera by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

*Stephen Thompson def. Geoff Neal by unanimous decision (50-45 all)

CHRISTOS GIAGOS (17-8, 159.5) VS CARLTON MINUS (10-2, 1 NC, 159) – CATCHWEIGHT

Giagos cracked Minus with an overhand right, and he proceeded to take Minus down with a double leg. He wasn’t able to keep Minus down for long, but Giagos gave him no room when they got back to their feet, and he took Minus right back down. Giagos locked in a body triangle, and landed some strong ground and pound shots, before eventually moving into full mount. Minus escaped from under Giagos, but once again, he found himself on his back moments later. This was a very dominant opening round for Giagos.

A minute into the second round, Giagos took Minus down, and immediately transitioned to mount yet again. On the ground, Minus looked a bit lost, and Giagos was transitioning between positions with ease. Minus worked his way up late in the round, but Giagos climbed up his back and they went back to the ground within seconds. Minus defended a late takedown attempt, but once again, this round was all Giagos.

Minus began the third round with a solid leg kick. Even though Giagos was tired, he was still able to take Minus down early in the round and transitioned to Minus’s back yet again. He wasn’t able to secure a submission, and Minus was able to get back to his feet with about half of the final round remaining. Minus tried to make something happen, but he wasn’t able to get the finish he was looking for. I scored the fight 30-26 for Christos Giagos, giving him a 10-8 for the first round.

WINNER: Christos Giagos by unanimous decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)

Minus was the biggest favorite on the card, but despite taking the fight on only a few days’ notice, Giagos was able to smother Minus on the ground for the vast majority of the fight. The takedowns seemed almost effortless over the course of the first two rounds, and he was able to weather the storm late in the third after he gassed out. Giagos is now 3-2 in the UFC.

JIMMY FLICK (15-5, 125) VS CODY DURDEN (11-2-1, 126) – FLYWEIGHT

Durden took Flick down, and he managed to take Flick’s back seconds after they hit the ground. He landed some strong ground and pound shots before Flick picked himself up, and Durden caught Flick with a strong jab. They exchanged leg kicks, and Durden connected with a right hand. Flick tried to get a takedown of his own, but it was defended and Flick ate a combination for his efforts. The momentum was all on Durden’s side, but then Flick proceeded to jump up onto Durden, after Durden caught a head kick, and Flick locked in a triangle on his way down. It was tight, and Durden was forced to tap out.

WINNER: Jimmy Flick by flying triangle choke at 3:18 of Round 1

This was one of the more impressive submissions I’ve seen this year. It’s not too often you see a flying triangle, and to do it after getting lit up for the majority of the first round, made it even more impressive. This was Flick’s first fight in the UFC, but he had an excellent 2020, going 4-0 throughout the year, with four submissions. In his post-fight interview, he wished a happy birthday for anybody with a birthday today.

TAFON NCHUKWI (4-0, 186) VS JAMIE PICKETT (11-4, 184.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT

Nchukwi swarmed Pickett early, throwing heavy hooks his way. Nchukwi was landing every time Pickett moved in, but Pickett eventually changed levels and took Nchukwi down near the cage. He wasn’t able to keep him down long, and Nchukwi continued to walk him down when they returned to their feet. Nchukwi defended Pickett’s next takedown attempt but ate a left hand. 10-9 Nchukwi.

Nchukwi began the second round with the same intensity as the first. They spent a lot of time in the pocket, where they exchanged short shots to the body. Nchukwi was still landing the bigger shots and landed some solid knees to the body. Pickett connected with a pair of right hands, and he swarmed Nchukwi with a combination late in the round. Pickett backed off instead of going for the finish, and there was a nasty collision of heads near the end of the round. I thought Pickett came close to stealing this round in the final minute, but he didn’t do quite enough to get the nod in my opinion.

The headbutt clearly affected Pickett, but the fight continued and he seemed to have collected himself. Nchukwi backed Pickett up with a combination of hooks and then clinched him up near the cage. Nchukwi continued to attack the body with knees, and he landed a clean head kick that rocked Pickett. He followed it up with yet another knee to the body, and Pickett went down. Nchukwi followed Pickett to the ground and attempted to finish the fight with ground and pound. Pickett did enough to show the referee he was still defending himself, and he made it back to his feet with a minute remaining in the round. The fight went the distance, and I scored the fight 30-26 for Tafon Nchukwi (giving him a 10-8 for the final round).

WINNER: Tafon Nchukwi by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)

Nchukwi is huge for a middleweight. It’s Paulo Costa levels of shocking that this guy made the middleweight limit, but he managed. He looked good here and is clearly experienced on the feet, but I think he might have some trouble against the quicker middleweights. I think a move back to light heavyweight might be a good move for him, but for now, this is a guy to keep an eye on at 185lbs, and this was a fun UFC debut.

GILLIAN ROBERTSON (9-4, 125) VS TAILA SANTOS (16-1, 126) – FLYWEIGHT

Robertson pulled guard less than a minute into the fight, and she almost secured an armbar on the way down. Ultimately, Santos ended up on top, working from Robertson’s guard. Robertson connected with some decent elbows from her back, but she wasn’t able to get back to her feet or move into top position. I thought this was a tough round to score because Santos didn’t do much with her top position, but I thought she did just enough to secure the round.

Santos quickly brought Robertson back to the ground to begin the second round. She attempted an inverted triangle, and Robertson was gushing blood (she was cut from an elbow in the first round), but she escaped the submission attempt and moved into top position. She tried for an armbar, and Santos was able to roll back on top to escape the danger of the submission and get back into the dominant position. This was a clearer round for Santos.

Robertson jumped for a guillotine in the opening minute of the third round and ended up on her back. Santos landed some decent elbows, but much like the first round, she was winning the round based on her control time. Robertson went for another armbar late in the round, but she couldn’t get it, and Santos ended the round on top. 30-27 Santos

WINNER: Taila Santos by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28)

Santos is known for her striking, but she more than held her own on the ground here against Gillian Robertson. This was a pretty dominant performance, and she’s looked good in her last couple of fights after dropping her UFC debut in a split decision. Seeing this part of her game gives me a lot of faith in regards to her future as a potential player in the division. She is now 2-1 in the UFC.

DERON WINN (6-2, 194.5) VS ANTONIO ARROYO (9-3, 194) – CATCHWEIGHT

Winn attempted to bring the fight to the ground early, and he was successful, beginning to work from half guard. Arroyo picked himself up, but Winn brought him right back down near the cage. Arroyo threw up a triangle that allowed him to get back to his feet, and he landed a series of solid strikes shortly after. Winn shot for another takedown, but he couldn’t quite finish it, and they ended up in a bit of a stalemate. Arroyo landed a front kick but was taken down one last time to end the round. Very close opening round, but I gave the edge to Arroyo.

Arroyo went for a spinning back kick early in the second round, and Winn capitalized, taking him down for the fifth time. Arroyo escaped yet again, but Winn landed a pair of hard right hands before shooting for another takedown. This one Arroyo defended, partially because of a hard knee to the body that he countered Winn with. Once again, Winn secured a takedown and Arroyo popped back up. Winn completed one more takedown to end the round, and I thought he won this one. 19-19.

To the surprise of no one, Winn immediately took Arroyo back down to begin the third round. Arroyo threatened a heel hook, got back to his feet, and was promptly taken right back down. This was Winn’s tenth takedown of the fight. Arroyo got up and landed a couple of kicks. I feel like a broken record, so to summarize the remainder of the fight: “Winn took Arroyo down. Arroyo got up. Winn took Arroyo down. Arroyo got up”. I scored the fight 29-28 for Winn.

WINNER: Deron Winn by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

This was a very frustrating fight to watch. Winn was able to take Arroyo down at will but was unable to do anything of significance with any of his twelve takedowns. Arroyo was gassed after the first round, and it felt like he was barely attempting to defend Winn’s takedowns by the end of the fight. Nonetheless, this was a big win for Deron Winn, who desperately needed a win here (I’m sure there is a pun to be made here). He is now 2-2 in the UFC.

SIJARA EUBANKS (6-5, 136) VS PANNIE KIANZAD (13-5, 135.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT

Kianzad looked decent on the feet in the opening seconds of the fight, but Eubanks took her down near the cage. It looked like Kianzad was going to make it back to her feet, but Eubanks literally just picked her up off the ground and placed her down a couple of feet away from the cage. Eubanks was in Kianzad’s guard, and Kianzad threatened an armbar, but Eubanks used the attempt to pass her guard and move into side control. She took the back of Kianzad with seconds remaining in the round but didn’t have the time to finish it. 10-9 Eubanks.

They wrestled in the clinch against the cage to begin the second round. Kianzad landed some solid shots in the clinch and avoided Eubanks’ attempt to bring the fight back to the ground. With about two minutes left in the round, Eubanks got her down, and Kianzad went for another armbar. Eubanks avoided it, but Kianzad was able to get back to her feet his time. She defended one last takedown attempt from Eubanks, and I had the fight at 19-19 going into the third.

Kianzad was able to keep the fight on the feet in the third round, and she continued to have a slight edge in the striking department. About halfway through the round, Eubanks landed a solid right hand, but more often than not, Kianzad was able to do her work and then get out of range before Eubanks returned fire. They traded hands to end the third round, and both fighters landed some solid shots to end the round. I scored the fight 29-28 Kianzad.

WINNER: Pannie Kianzad by unanimous decision (29-28)

Eubanks had a strong opening round, but Kianzad rebounded in round two to shift the momentum in her favor. They really bit down on their mouthpieces and traded at the end of the fight, and I felt as though Eubanks gave a good account of herself as well. Kianzad is now 3-2 in the UFC, and she is currently riding a three-fight win streak.

ANTHONY PETTIS (23-10, 170) VS ALEX MORONO (18-6, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT

This fight headlined the preliminary portion of the card.

Pettis immediately went for a jumping switch kick and slipped on his way down. Morono jumped on him and took his back. Pettis was bleeding a bit from his nose following some shots on the ground from Morono, and he was unable to shake him off his back. About halfway through the round, Pettis was able to make his way on top, and he returned to his feet. Morono connected with a right hand, and he was able to avoid most of Pettis’s strikes to the head. He did get tagged with some kicks to the body, however, including a strong spinning one late in the round. Morono ended the round with another takedown, but it was Anthony Pettis who ended the round on top. 10-9 Morono.

Pettis’s looping hooks were finding their home a couple of times in the opening minute of the second round. Morono was the one moving forward and applying pressure, but it felt like Pettis was leading the dance as he circled and avoided most of Morono’s offense. Pettis was missing on his bigger shots as well, but his jabs and straights were fairly effective. Close round, but Pettis landed more and I thought that this was his round.

Pettis partially connected on a head kick to begin the third round. Pettis rolled out of a takedown from Morono, and ultimately found his way on top in the scramble. Pettis racked up quite a bit of control time here, and by the time Morono worked his way back to his feet, there was only a minute remaining in the fight. Pettis connected with an uppercut, and then he rocked Morono badly with a beautiful spinning wheel kick to the head. Morono shot for a desperation takedown, and while Pettis easily defended it, the attempt was enough to help Morono survive to the final bell. 29-28 Pettis.

WINNER: Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

Things weren’t looking great for Pettis in the opening minutes of the fight, but he looked better every minute as the fight wore on, and he showed off his signature flashy striking near the end of the fight. After a rough loss to Diego Ferreira to begin the year, Pettis rebounded with a pair of wins, and he’ll go into 2021 in a better place than he went into 2020. Remarkably, this is the first win streak he’s been on since losing his UFC Lightweight Championship in 2015.  In his post-fight interview, Pettis expressed his desire to go back to 155lbs and reclaim the lightweight title. There was quite a bit of discussion going into this card regarding Pettis’s future in the UFC, but a statement like that may indicate that his future lies in the UFC.

MARCIN TYBURA (20-6, 255) VS GREG HARDY (7-2, 266) – HEAVYWEIGHT

Both fighters were active in the opening minute of this one. Tybura was firing off a lot of kicks, and Hardy was doing a good job of shaking Tybura off of him when he tried to close the distance. Hardy caught Tybura with a strong body shot and then hurt him with a left hook. Tybura recovered quickly, but he was walking into a lot of counter shots from Hardy. Hardy defended a takedown attempt and landed about seven consecutive right hands. This was a very clear round for Greg Hardy.

Tybura landed a left hand after exchanging leg kicks to begin the second. He landed that looping left hook again, and he began to move forward. His hooks were beginning to land a lot more after putting Hardy on the retreat, and he finished a strong takedown with about ninety seconds remaining in the round. Tybura began to throw down ground and pound strikes, and Hardy just had no answer for him. The referee warned Hardy that he needed to improve his position, but he was unable to, and the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Marcin Tybura by TKO at 4:31 of Round 2

This was Tybura’s fourth straight win and his first finish since 2017. Hardy looked as good as he ever has in the opening round, but Tybura came back and exposed every hole in Hardy’s game in the second. Hardy’s cardio has always been suspect, and he just didn’t know what to do when Tybura got him down. This was one of Tybura’s biggest wins in the UFC, and I daresay he’ll find himself across the cage from a top ten opponent again soon, following a fantastic 2020 where he went 4-0.

MARLON MORAES (23-7-1, 135.5) VS ROB FONT (17-4, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT

Moraes took Font down seconds into the opening round. He went for a guillotine, which allowed Font to get back to his feet, but he was taken right back down. Moraes moved into side control, and he rode about half the round in this position. Font made it back to his feet, and Moraes threw a head kick that partially landed. They began to trade heavy combinations, and Font got the better of the exchange, stunning Moraes. Shortly thereafter, a jab from Font hurt Moraes badly, and he followed it up with an uppercut that dropped Moraes. He followed Moraes to the ground and rained down some vicious ground and pound until Moraes stiffened out and the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Rob Font by TKO at 3:47 of Round 1

Wow. This was a huge win for Rob Font, who brutally finished one of the most dangerous bantamweights of all time in the opening round here. I thought this was a late stoppage (as did Daniel Cormier), and it probably could have been stopped about ten seconds before the fight was ultimately called, but refereeing is, of course, a very difficult job. Font is now on a three-fight win streak, and he will be placed in the top ten of the division when the rankings are updated. He sort of called out TJ Dillashaw in his post-fight interview, but he stated he was open to anything that would bring him closer to a title fight.

For Marlon Moraes, the former title challenger has now lost three of his last four fights, with that one winning coming against Jose Aldo, in a fight that most people seemed to think he lost (although I was in the minority that scored the fight for him). He came into this fight with a wrestling heavy game plan, but unfortunately, it didn’t do much for him here. He’s a fighter who seems to be at somewhat of a crossroads in his career, and if he wants to return to title contention, he’s going to have to make some adjustments. 

MICHEL PEREIRA (24-11, 2 NC, 170) VS KHAOS WILLIAMS (11-1, 169.5) – WELTERWEIGHT

The contrast between Pereira dancing to the cage, and Williams standing motionless, giving Pereira the death stare was hilarious.

Pereira landed a solid 1-2 and a kick to the body to begin the fight. Williams caught a kick and flurried forward, but Pereira seemed unaffected. Williams caught another kick and landed a strong combination later in the round. This sequence repeated itself, and Pereira responded with a knee to the body. It was a bit of a slow round, with brief moments of fireworks. 10-9 Williams.

Pereira connected with a strong straight right, and Williams flurried forward again in response. I thought that Pereira was getting the better of their exchanges in this round, but Williams was still landing a bit more. Williams leg kicks were a big difference maker on the strike count. Pereira landed a front kick to the body, and Williams had some success when he blitzed forward again. Pereira landed some strong knees to the body, a pair of straight right hands, and with seconds left in the round, he wrapped himself around Williams and dragged him to the ground with a rear-naked choke attempt. I gave the round to Pereira.

Williams continued to attack Pereira’s leg in the third round. Pereira began to showboat a bit this round, as he is known to do, but Williams kept him from getting too crazy by punishing him with strong hooks. Pereira scored a big takedown with two minutes left in the round, and he began to work from side control. Williams got back to his feet, and they separated with a minute remaining. Pereira landed a head kick that Williams just ate, and Pereira scored another takedown with thirty seconds remaining. Every round of this fight was close, but I gave the edge to Michel Pereira.

WINNER: Michel Pereira by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

This fight was not the insanity that you may have expected from looking at the names, but it was a very close one, and Pereira edged it out by finishing the last two rounds strongly. Williams was on a roll going into this fight, riding an eight-fight win streak, including two sub-minute knockouts in his two UFC bouts, so this was a big win for Pereira. He called out Anthony Pettis in his post-fight interview, for a fight in two weeks time on a weekend in which the UFC does not have an event, but hey, it’s all part of his charm. Pereira is now 3-2 in the UFC.

JOSE ALDO (28-7, 136) VS MARLON VERA (16-6-1, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT

Aldo checked an early leg kick from Vera. He proceeded to defend a takedown attempt from Vera but found himself with his back to the cage. Aldo broke away with about two minutes remaining in the round and landed a pair of strong hooks to the body. He was getting some big reactions when he went to the body, and he mixed in a heavy low kick. Aldo continued to dig into the body, and I thought he won this round.

Vera connected with some leg kicks of his own to begin the second round. He had over thirty leg kicks by the two-minute mark of the second round. Vera was doing a much better job of backing Aldo up in this round, but he was definitely still eating some strong counter shots. Vera caught Aldo with a back fist, and attempted to take him down again, to no avail. Aldo landed a knee to the body on the break, but Vera responded with a strong counter left not long after. He pressed Aldo against the cage for the remainder of the round, and I thought he evened things up going into the final round.

Vera wasted no time in closing the distance, and Aldo attempted to take him down near the cage. Aldo jumped onto his back and got him down, and began to search for the choke. Aldo had a strong body triangle locked in, and Vera was having trouble escaping the position. He worked his way to his feet, but Aldo stuck on his back. They went back to the ground, but Aldo was glued to him. He couldn’t shake Aldo off of him, and this was a very clear final round for Jose Aldo. I scored the fight 29-28 for Aldo.

WINNER: Jose Aldo by unanimous decision (29-28 all)

After three straight losses (albeit to two current champions and a close decision against Marlon Moraes), this was a much-needed win for the former featherweight king. He showed off his well-rounded game here, attacking the head, body, and legs, defending takedowns, and he showcased his own strong jiu-jitsu game to seal the win. In his post-fight interview, Aldo called out T.J. Dillashaw, which would be a fantastic fight, although I would definitely be disappointed if we never got Jose Aldo versus Dominick Cruz. This was Aldo’s first win since moving down to bantamweight.

STEPHEN THOMPSON (15-4-1, 170) VS GEOFF NEAL (13-2, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT

Thompson looked sharp in the opening minute. He landed a number of body kicks, and Neal began to just bite down on his mouthpiece and blitz in. Both men landed some solid shots when they went into these exchanges. Thompson connected with a spinning kick to the body and dug in with a right hand. Neal’s left hand was coming close, but Wonderboy was getting his head out of the way just in time. There was a nasty headbutt late in the round that cut both men open. Both men were cut open right above their right eyes, so they were both in nasty places. 10-9 Thompson.

Thompson tagged Neal with a hard 1-2 and got out of range before Neal could counter. He was throwing a ton of kicks and was doing some great work to the body. Neal was having a lot of trouble finding Wonderboy and was walking into a lot of straight right hands. Neal landed a solid body kick of his own late in the round, and Thompson responded with one of his own. Both men were bleeding badly from their first-round cuts, and it looked like Neal was having difficulty seeing out of his right eye. 20-18 Thompson.

Neal closed the distance and brought Thompson against the cage, after a strong opening minute for Wonderboy. Thompson eventually broke away and got back to work. He was still controlling things on the feet, but I thought Neal was doing a better job of connecting with his own offense in this round. A head kick and a three-punch combination from Thompson connected. Wonderboy ended the round strongly, and I had him ahead 30-27 going into the fourth.

The fourth round began much like the prior ones. Thompson was fighting an excellent fight. Wonderboy connected with a step-in elbow following a straight left from Neal. They both slipped on head kick attempts and were both allowed to return to their feet by their opponent. Once again, I scored this round for Thompson, and Neal definitely needed a finish to win this fight.

In between rounds, Thompson told his round that he hurt his leg. His leg had swollen up above his right knee, so this was definitely a big opportunity for Neal. They had a wild exchange against the cage where both men landed clean shots. Wonderboy continued to attack the body, and there were some crazy combinations exchanged here as both men looked to finish things. Even with the hurt leg, Thompson’s movement was exceptional, and Neal looked to keep him in one place by engaging him in the clinch against the cage. In the final thirty seconds, they continued to just trade in the middle of the octagon, and this was a crazy finish to the final fight of the year. I scored the fight 50-45 for Stephen Thompson.

WINNER: Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision (50-45 all)

This was an excellent performance from Stephen Thompson. While Geoff Neal was always in this fight, this was a masterclass in striking from Wonderboy. In his last two fights, he’s turned back two rising prospects at welterweight, and I think it’s time for him to get back in there with one of the top contenders in the division. He called out Jorge Masvidal in his post-fight interview, which was a strange callout considering the fact that he beat Masvidal with ease a few fights back, but Masvidal is a big name right now and ranked higher in the division, so I understand his reasoning. Thompson has gone 3-2 since his last title opportunity in 2017 against then-champion, Tyron Woodley.

About Eric Marcotte 134 Articles
A graduate of Laurentian University, Eric reports on Mixed Martial Arts at POST Wrestling.