UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs. Neal Odds, Schedule, Predictions

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2020

UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs. Neal Odds, Schedule, Predictions

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The final UFC card of the year features an intriguing lineup of fights headlined by welterweights Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal from the APEX Facility in Las Vegas. 

    It's a matchup between one of the mainstays of the division in Thompson and an up-and-coming Neal looking to prove himself to be in the top five. The 30-year-old Neal has left a path of destruction as he works his way into bigger and better fights, while Thompson has two title fights and eight years of competing in the Octagon. 

    The rest of the main card is a fun one, too. Jose Aldo and Marlon "Chito" Vera will meet in the co-main event. Vera is another rising contender in his division, with Aldo playing the role of accomplished veteran opponent. 

    The rest of the card features appearances from Greg Hardy, Marlon Moraes and Kalinn "Khaos" Williams. In short, the UFC is set to end the year with plenty of action.

    Here's a look at the complete schedule and predictions for the night's biggest clashes. 

Fight Card and Odds

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    Jose Juarez/Associated Press

    Main Card (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

    • Stephen Thompson (+100, bet $100 to win $100) vs. Geoff Neal (-121, bet $100 to win $82.64)
    • Jose Aldo (-150) vs. Marlon Vera (+120)
    • Khaos Williams (+100) vs. Michel Pereira Lima (-124)
    • Marlon Moraes (-155) vs. Rob Font (+125)
    • Marcin Tybura (+100) vs. Greg Hardy (-124)

    Prelims (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

    • Anthony Pettis (-240) vs. Alex Morono (+188)
    • Sijara Eubanks (-162) vs. Pannie Kianzad (+130)
    • Deron Winn (+134) vs. Antonio Arroyo (-167)
    • Gillian Robertson (-112) vs. Taila Santos (-112)
    • Tafon Nchukwi (-305) vs. Jamie Pickett (+235)
    • Cody Durden (+130) vs. Jimmy Flick (-162)
    • Christos Giagos (-315) vs. Carlton Minus (+240)

    Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

Thompson vs. Neal

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    Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    Thompson is one of the more mystifying figures in the UFC. When he's pushed by an action fighter, he is capable of landing highlight-reel knockouts. When he is drawn into a chess match with gloves, he's willing to wait it out with the best of them. 

    Fortunately, Neal's style is one capable of drawing out a fun fight from Thompson. He's more sophisticated than your average brawler, but with 6.04 significant strikes landed per minute, he's willing to push a good pace. 

    The downside to that is that Neal is hittable. He'll never be confused with a defensive marvel and absorbs 3.57 significant strikes per minute. 

    This is a perfect test to see where Neal's striking skills truly are compared to the best in the division. Thompson is not an easy opponent to figure out—his karate style and stance are not duplicated often in the Octagon. 

    Vicente Luque found out the hard way how difficult it can be to time up Thompson. He was picked apart in a unanimous decision loss in Thompson's last fight. 

    However, Neal appears to be a little more calculating than Luque. If he can pick his spots well and find the right angles, he could test the chin that failed Thompson when he lost to Anthony Pettis via knockout from a straight right hand. 

    Prediction: Neal via third-round TKO

Aldo vs. Vera

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Vera couldn't be facing a more different opponent in his first fight since a first-round knockout win over Sean O'Malley. The 26-year-old O'Malley is a largely unproven prospect considered to be the future. The 34-year-old Aldo is one of the most decorated champions in UFC history. 

    Aldo made his name and legendary career at 145 pounds. A move down to the bantamweight division to extend his career has brought mixed results.

    His debut was a strong showing in which he dropped a tough split decision to Marlon Moraes. His second was a blowout loss to Petr Yan. The Russian knocked him out in the fifth round to capture the vacant bantamweight championship. 

    Now Aldo gets a fighter in Vera who dropped a decision to Song Yadong in May before knocking out O'Malley in August. The hot start for Vera in that fight will be important to replicate against Aldo. The Brazilian is typically a strong starter while Vera has dropped early rounds a few times in his career. 

    There's no time for that against Aldo. He loves to establish his low kicks and will be throwing his best stuff early in the fight. If Vera can match that intensity and draw him into a firefight early, that might not be something the former champion wants to mess with at this stage in his career. 

    Prediction: Vera via decision

Williams vs. Pereira

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    This fight may be the most heavyweight fight of all time to not take place in the actual heavyweight division. Both of these men are known for their otherworldly power and the aggression with which they use it. 

    Michel Pereira is not above trying anything in the cage. He won his UFC debut with a flying knee, did a backflip mid-fight and will routinely throw spinning back kicks. He's as unconventional as it comes, even if it doesn't always make for the most effective attack. 

    He is just 2-2 in the UFC, although one of those losses was a disqualification against Diego Sanches for an illegal knee. 

    It's hard to get a read on Williams' game outside of having enormous power. His two UFC fights have lasted a grand total of 57 seconds. It took him 27 seconds to knock out Alex Morono in his debut, and he slept Abdul Razak Alhassan in just 30 seconds. 

    Pereira has only been knocked out once in his career. However, it was in the first round to Dusko Todorovic in Serbia. Todorovic has since made his way to the UFC and is still 10-0, so he's quality competition, but Williams looks like he is too at this point. 

    Prediction: Williams via first-round TKO

         

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