Stephen Thompson picked up the final win of 2020 in the Octagon with a unanimous decision over Geoff Neal to close out UFC Vegas 17 from the Apex Facility on Saturday.
Thompson turned in a vintage performance, as his karate style flummoxed Neal, who was making his first appearance in a main event. Neal couldn't seem to cut off Wonderboy's movement, and the striking specialist picked all the right spots to unleash his offense.
As the fight wore on, the disparity in the striking acumen of Thompson and Neal became more evident. Neal was coming off five straight wins in the UFC, including a TKO win over Mike Perry, but he found a much more experienced and skilled fighter in Thompson.
Former UFC fighter and analyst Kenny Florian gave props to Thompson's striking clinic:
It was one of the best performances that Thompson has put on in his career. He's making a habit of teaching up-and-comers the ropes in the welterweight division. He now has back-to-back wins since losing back-to-back fights to Darren Till and Anthony Pettis.
This is Neal's first loss in the UFC. However, this could very well be a learning opportunity that helps him bounce back. He kept coming forward despite taking a ton of damage and was able to land some power shots against a tough opponent to nail down in Thompson.
- Stephen Thompson def. Geoff Neal via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
- Jose Aldo def. Marlon Vera via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Michel Pereira def. Khaos Williams via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Rob Font def. Marlon Moraes via first-round TKO
- Marcin Tybura def. Greg Hardy via second-round TKO
- Anthony Pettis def. Alex Morono via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Pannie Kianzad def. Sijara Eubanks via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Deron Winn def. Antonio Arroyo via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Taila Santos def. Gillian Robertson via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-28)
- Tafon Nchukwi def. Jamie Pickett via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)
- Jimmy Flick def. Cody Durden via first-round submission
- Christos Giagos def. Carlton Minus via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-28)
Jose Aldo def. Marlon 'Chito' Vera
In some respects, fans were treated to a vintage Jose Aldo performance in the co-main event. Gone is the dominance with which Aldo would have dispatched a fighter like Vera even a few years ago, but back was some of the leg kicks that were his signature when he was king of the featherweight division.
The King of Rio turned back the clock while also beating Vera with vicious counterpunches to the body. To Vera's credit, his volume was successful against Aldo at times. He landed more strikes, albeit ones that were doing less damage than those of the former champion.
There was even a rare Aldo grappling sight in the third round. He locked in a body triangle and spent much of the final frame in control to lock in the decision win.
The win shows just how good Aldo is as a fighter, and he still has some juice left. He was on a three-fight losing streak, but two of those losses were to champions.
As it turns out, you still have to have some championship credentials to claim a win over the WEC and UFC legend.
Michel Pereira def. Khaos Williams
The welterweight battle between Michel Pereira and Khaos Williams figured to be one of the most intriguing on the cards, and while it's surprising it went the distance, it did provide some fun moments.
The two fighters couldn't have more disparate styles. Pereira was a lot of movement with action sprinkled in. He mostly moved around Williams while varying his attacks. Gone were a lot of the theatrics we've seen from him in the past, though.
Williams, on the other hand, was hesitant to pull the trigger often. But when he did, he threw with bad intentions. Ultimately, some late takedowns and Pereira's busier style were enough for him to get his hand raised by the judges.
A more calculated version of Pereira is an interesting prospect, while this exposed some things that Williams needs to work on. He won his first two UFC fights in a combined 57 seconds, so getting a three-round fight under his belt will be an important learning experience.
Rob Font def. Marlon Moraes
Rob Font has been fighting in the UFC for six years, but his first-round TKO win over Marlon Moraes may be his best performance to date.
Font's striking turned out to be too sharp and too powerful for the third-ranked Moraes. Font dropped Moraes with an uppercut but also rocked him with a jab. Moraes was visibly rocked and was given multiple chances to get back in the fight in a stoppage that was probably a little late.
The win is the third straight for Font. Despite making his UFC debut in 2014, he has never put together a three-fight win streak until now. With that kind of striking, he has the ability to continue to make noise, as Moraes is no pushover.
Moraes has now dropped three of four, but those losses have come to Henry Cejudo, Cory Sandhagen and now Font, who appears to be in peak form. So it's hard to tell if the former World Series of Fighting star is shot or just taking on high-quality competition.
Either way, Font should be seeing another top-five opponent soon.
Marcin Tybura def. Greg Hardy
For one round, it looked like Greg Hardy was going to turn in the best performance of his career. Unfortunately for him, the bout was scheduled for three rounds.
Hardy controlled the action in the first frame with an improved boxing game. His striking has never looked so tight, and he was backing Tybura down with his jab and a strong right hand.
In the second frame, that production tapered and Tybura took things to the mat. From there, Hardy's relative inexperience was exposed. The Polish heavyweight went to work with ground-and-pound, and the former NFL defensive end had no answer, forcing the referee stoppage.
Hardy is now 4-3 with a no-contest in the UFC. He made his MMA debut less than three years ago on Dana White's Contender Series, so there's still time to grow. But it's fair to wonder if the 32-year-old can develop a good enough ground game to be relevant at this point.
For Tybura, this was the capper on a big 2020. The 35-year-old has now won four fights in 2020 after going 0-2 in 2019.