The last couple months have seen the UFC in what appears to be a constant scramble. As COVID cases once again surge across the US, the promotion has been dropping headlining bouts like flies through the month of November. And even with just a few events left before the end of the year, December hasn’t been any easier.
The final card of 2020 – UFC Vegas 17, planned for December 19th at the Apex facility – had been originally slated to feature a welterweight bout between top-ranked title contender Leon Edwards and Chechen phenom Khamzat Chimaev. Unfortunately, after reports that both men had contracted the coronavirus in the weeks leading to their bout, the fight was summarily scrapped—most likely to be rescheduled for sometime early in 2021.
In it’s place, MMA Fighting reports that the event’s scheduled co-main contest between Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal has been re-booked as a 5-round main event bout. ‘Wonderboy’ enters the fight having been out of competition for the entirety of the past year, having dealt with ongoing hand issues. He last competed at UFC 244 back in November of 2019, defeating Vicente Luque via unanimous decision. That win marked the Serra-Longo fighter’s first since defeating Jorge Masvidal back in 2017, breaking a two-loss streak to Darren Till and Anthony Pettis.
For Neal, This fight represents the Fortis MMA product’s first shot at the upper echelon of the welterweight division. ‘Handz of Steel’ has built an increasingly rock solid reputation as a top-tier finisher in the UFC, having entered the promotion back in 2017 off a first round KO of Chase Waldon on season 1 of the Contender Series. Since then, Neal is 5-0 inside the Octagon, with four of those victories coming by way of stoppage. Most recently he TKO’d Mike Perry back on December 14th of 2019 in just 1:30 of round 1. Unfortunately, Neal has missed the entire last year in part due to a health scare leading up to a planned August bout against Neil Magny, where he suffered a severe case of septic shock.
Alongside the main event, UFC Vegas 17 is expected to feature a heavyweight bout between Marcin Tybura and Greg Hardy, as well as bantamweight fights between former title contender Marlon Moraes & Rob Font and between former featherweight champion Jose Aldo & Marlon Vera. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and notes as fight night approaches.