UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal is the last show of the year and it is a legit banger. The card features the excellent pairing of Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal in the main event, and it is supported by an incredible bout sheet, filled to overflowing with intriguing fights from both veterans and fresh prospect talent. Like most of the cards this year, it’s experienced a fair share of hiccups thanks to COVID-19, but the recovery of those lost fights has been positive, as the UFC has aimed to rebook those bouts that were forced off their predestined events.
We’ve put together a reference guide for you, a year-end guide of which fighters are worth their hefty DraftKings price tags, and which are the best deal in town. Let’s get started.
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Geoff Neal, $8,400
Neal and Thompson set the example of prime matchmaking. The pricing is perfect between two guys that know how to win fights. Whether that be by exciting finish or a grueling decision, these guys have demonstrated they can win fights handily in a variety of ways. Neal is the favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook with good reason: He’s younger, faster, has beautiful technical striking, scary knockout power and durability. Thompson is a good striker (although his is more a counterstriking game than Neal’s), a phenomenal kicker, and fights intelligently. He’s faced top tier talent, fought for the belt twice and is coming off a fantastic performance over Vicente Luque. The difference-maker here is Neal’s awe-inspiring finishing ability. He times kicks perfectly, following up with lethal punching combinations. He’s on a seven-fight win streak, too, with his last win being a massive TKO of Mike Perry. He lifted a unanimous decision off the surging Belal Muhammad. The X-Factor here is how his normally excellent gas tank will hold up after the life-threatening illness he suffered over the summer. My bet is that he wouldn’t gamble his health on returning too soon. This is such a great main event with both men capable of securing the victory and the pricing reflects that.
Anthony Pettis, $9,200
Anthony Pettis is a flashy, yet technically proficient striker. He’s equally adept with kicks and punches and has a phenomenal yet underappreciated ground game. He’s athletically gifted with speed and power and has used both successfully over the course of his career. Since moving back to welterweight, he’s looked good, taking a unanimous decision over Donald Cerrone this summer. He’ll face a talented opponent in Alex Morono ($7,000), whose aggression and durability make up for an overall lack of athleticism. Morono is also an exciting fighter who makes the most of any opportunity. Historically, Pettis doesn’t lose to fighters like Morono and I don’t see that changing here. “Showtime” might be showing soft signs of decline, but not to the extent where a fighter outside the Top 15 gets one over on him. The price gap between these two is a little steep for me, as Morono is a successful opportunist, but this really is Pettis’ fight to lose.
Sijara Eubanks, $8,800
Eubanks had a rough go of it over the last couple years, but a camp change seemed to see her turn a corner. Wins over Sarah Mora and vaunted striker Julia Avila showed new facets of her expanding skill set. I know she lost a decision to Ketlen Vieira in September, but it was Ketlen Vieira! No shame in that loss at all. Now, she faces Pannie Kianzad ($7,400), a talented athlete, no doubt, but her best win was over Bethe Correia. Kianzad will be the bigger of the two but she doesn’t use her size as advantageously as she could. She is easily bullied by pressure fighters, and since Sijara has been with Mark Henry, her striking has improved immensely, and she uses it to set a fast pace right off the bat. Once upon a time “Sarj” had issues with her weight, but she’s managed that downfall admirably, making weight successfully in her last several fights. She’s also historically had cardio issues, but hasn’t looked bad in her last few outings, so for now, I’ve given her a pass on our companion Cheat Sheet “Gas Guzzlers” category. When you stack up the pros and cons, Eubanks’ side of the equation has considerably more upside than Kianzad. The pricing here is absolutely justified.
Marlon Vera, $7,600
“Chito” has been looking better and better lately, and his win over “Suga” Sean O’Malley was a great display of his ability to capitalize on an opponent’s mistake (or injury in this case) and make the most of it. It must also be noted that even before the injury, Vera had already begun turning the fight to his advantage after O’Malley got a hot start and landed a few stingers on him. Marlon is a switch fighter, too, frequently changing stances to throw off his opponents, a facet of his game that will definitely be useful against the kick-heavy game of Jose Aldo ($8,600), who’s been known for chipping away at the legs of all those he’s shared a cage with. It’s a staple of his skill set, but one Vera is equipped to handle. Marlon is also a seasoned grappler, so if the fight hits the mat, he’ll be able to fend off submission attacks. Aldo isn’t done. I must stress that. He’s still incredibly dangerous, but I think Vera is a star on the rise, and at this price, it’s impossible for me to resist picking him to take the upset victory.
Rob Font, $7,200
Font is my boldest pick on the card. He’s durable, sets a solid pace, has shown flashes of power and can hold his own on the ground. His win over Ricky Simon was a solid performance against a super tough wrestler type that decided he was a stand-and-bang fighter instead. Font’s willingness and success fighting that style was a bit of a breakout performance, one that could be repeated in this fight. It’s a shame that injuries have hampered his activity over the last couple years, but hopefully he’s healthy and injury-free now. Rob is a pretty aggressive fighter and Marlon Moraes ($9,000) is a great counter-striker. When the phrase “Styles make fights” gets thrown around, this is the perfect example of what that means. Moraes is still dangerous, but Font’s frenetic pace and constant attacks could spell doom for the Brazilian, who’s had known cardio issues. We must not forget that Font will also enjoy a modest size advantage in both height (2-inches) and reach (3-inches). All told, this is Marlon’s fight to lose, I just happen to think Font didn’t get that memo and will surprise us all.
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