UFC on ESPN+ 41: Thompson vs. Neal Preview

UFC will wrap up their 2020 schedule on Saturday night with a “Fight Night” card from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Headlining the 12-fight card is a five-round welterweight bout between Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal.

The card concludes a year which saw the UFC hold 41 events, most of which were altered greatly due to the global spread of COVID-19. Like many shows the promotion has held recently, Saturday’s show was hit hard by positive COVID-19 tests as the virus continues to intensify throughout the world. Despite the losses in fights, the card as it stands currently is one of the stronger “Fight Night” lineups the promotion has presented in the year.

The main event fight between Neal and Thompson is in the headlining spot after a positive COVID-19 test to Leon Edwards removed him from a main event bout against Khamzat Chimaev. The cancelled main event is one of the many fights which fell out of the lineup as the event neared.

Here’s a preview of the promotion’s final event of the year.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (4:00PM EST / 1:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 1: Carlton Minus (10-2) vs. Christos Giagos (17-8) (Catchweight 160 lbs)

After a COVID-19 test took Rick Glenn out of his fight against Carlton Minus, Christos Giagos has stepped in on short notice to salvage a bout on the card. Giagos returns to action on the card following after an absence from the cage through 2020. His last fight was in August of 2019, where he lost a decision to Drakkar Klose.

Minus lost his UFC debut in August, dropping a decision to Matthew Semelsberger. His lightweight bout was bumped up to a catchweight of 160-pounds after the opponent changed.

Bout 2: Jimmy Flick (15-5) vs. Cody Durden (11-2-1) (Flyweight)

Former LFA Flyweight Champion Jimmy Flick will make his UFC debut on Saturday when he fights Cody Durden. Flick earned his UFC contract in the Fall, defeating Nate Smith on TV show “Dana White’s Contender Series.” He is currently on a three-fight win streak through 2020.

Durden will look for his first UFC win on the card. His UFC debut in August against Chris Gutierrez was not satisfying, as it ended in a draw. Prior to the fight, Durden had a seven-fight win streak in MMA.

The fight was originally scheduled for a December 5th UFC card, but was removed on the day of the event following an issue with the athletic commission.

Bout 3: Tafon Nchukwi (4-0) vs. Jamie Pickett (11-4) (Middleweight)

A double debut will happen on the prelims, as undefeated middleweight Tafon Nchukwi will face Jamie Pickett. Both fighters enter the promotion after a win on “Dana White’s Contender Series” which earned them the UFC invitation.

Nchukwi fought in September, where he stopped Al Matavao with a head kick in the second round of action. Pickett’s win was just two weeks before, stopping Jhonoven Pati with strikes in the second round.

Bout 4: Gillian Robertson (9-4) vs. Taila Santos (16-1) (Flyweight)

After being removed from bookings against different opponents earlier in the month, Gillian Robertson and Taila Santos have been paired for Saturday’s UFC card.

Robertson was meant to fight Andrea Lee on December 12th, although plans changed after Lee suffered an injury. Her last win was in October, where she took a decision victory over Poliana Botelho.

Santos finds herself on the December 19th card after a positive COVID-19 test took Montana De La Rosa out of a bout on the 5th. She last fought in July, where she defeated Molly McCann on scorecards.

Bout 5: Deron Winn (6-2) vs. Antonio Arroyo (9-3) (Catchweight 195 lbs)

Deron Winn and Antonio Arroyo will both look to return to the win column when they face off on Saturday night. Winn has lost his last two fights, dropping bouts to Darren Stewart and Gerald Meerschaert. He was first scheduled to face Antonio Braga Neto on the December 19th card before he withdrew.

Arroyo lost his UFC debut in 2019, losing a decision to Andre Muniz. He has since had bad luck with fights, with three different bookings in 2020 falling through for various reasons.

Bout 6: Pannie Kianzad (13-5) vs. Sijara Eubanks (6-5) (Bantamweight)

Sijara Eubanks will aim to get a win to finish her busy year, fighting Pannie Kianzad on the prelims.

Eubanks will compete for the fourth time this year on Saturday. Her first win was in May, defeating Sarah Moras via decision. After a win over Julia Avila in September, she took a short-notice fight against Ketlen Vieira just weeks after. That fight didn’t go her way, as she lost via unanimous decision.

Kianzad has had a much slower year, as Saturday’s fight will only be her second in 12 months. She won her last fight on scorecards, defeating Bethe Correia in July.

Bout 7: Anthony Pettis (23-10) vs. Alex Morono (18-6) (Welterweight)

The preliminary card will finish with a high-profile welterweight matchup, as former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis will fight Alex Morono.

Pettis has competed at welterweight for over a year now, currently with an even record of two wins and two losses in the division. Pettis snapped a two-fight losing streak in his last fight, defeating fellow veteran Donald Cerrone via decision in May.

Morono has had a year of ups and downs. After being quickly stopped by Khaos Williams back in February, Morono has since come back with a decision victory over Rhys McKee. A win over Pettis on Saturday would easily be the biggest win of his career.

Main Card (7:00PM EST / 4:00PM PST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)

Bout 8: Marcin Tybura (20-6) vs. Greg Hardy (7-2) (Heavyweight)

Two heavyweight win streaks will be put on the line on Saturday’s main card when Marcin Tybura fights Greg Hardy.

Tybura has had a successful campaign through 2020, defeating three-straight opponents. Winning all his fights via decision thus far, Tybura has defeated Serghei Spivac, Maxim Grishin and Ben Rothwell. The series of wins is a major turnaround for Tybura, who had lost four of his last five bouts before 2020.

Hardy enters the fight after two wins earlier in the year. Hardy started his year with a decision win over Yorgan De Castro. His last fight was two months ago, where he stopped Maurice Greene in the second round.

Bout 9: Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) vs. Rob Font (17-4) (Bantamweight)

Returning following a main event loss to Cory Sandhagen in October, Marlon Moraes will fight Rob Font, who will be returning on the card after a year outside of the cage.

Moraes last competed in October, where a spinning back kick from Cory Sandhagen stopped him in the second round of competition. Before then, Moraes had a split decision victory over former featherweight champ Jose Aldo.

While he enters Saturday’s fight on a two-fight win streak, it’s hard to tell how much momentum Font carries into his fight as his two previous bouts have occurred over the last two years.

Font’s last win came in December of 2019, where he won a decision against Ricky Simon. He defeated Sergio Pettis a year prior to that.

Bout 10: Michel Pereira (24-11) vs. Khaos Williams (11-1) (Welterweight)

Both having short UFC runs that have showcased their explosive abilities and entertaining styles, it only made sense for Michel Pereira and Khaos Williams to be paired against one another.

Williams has made a name for himself in 2020 with two quick stoppage wins in the UFC. After stopping Alex Morono in 27 seconds back in February, Williams earned a knockout victory in November, dropping Abdul Razak Alhassan with a straight right in the opening minute of action. The win was his eighth-straight when including wins on the regional scene.

Pereira returned to his winning ways in September, putting together a dominant performance against Zelim Imadaev which saw him win in the third round with a rear naked choke. Pereira had two consecutive losses in the promotion before his September victory.

Pereira is most known for his flashy showman fighting style which sees him jump off cage walls and do flips, among other things.

Bout 11: Jose Aldo (28-7) vs. Marlon Vera (18-6-1) (Bantamweight)

After losing a championship fight in July to Petr Yan, Jose Aldo now finds himself looking to prevent a four-fight losing streak. He faces Marlon Vera in the co-main event when tasked with getting a win.

Aldo’s previous losses in his current skid came against other high-level fighters. After losing a decision to now-UFC champ Alexander Volkanovski in May of 2019, Aldo lost his bantamweight debut to Marlon Moraes in a split decision.

Vera looks to ride the momentum of his last win. Vera ended the undefeated record of bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley in August, capitalizing on an injury to earn a first-round win. His previous fight saw him lose a close decision to Song Yadong in May.

Bout 12: Stephen Thompson (15-4-1) vs. Geoff Neal (13-2) (Welterweight)

Geoff Neal’s undefeated UFC career will get it’s biggest challenge yet on Saturday, as he fights Stephen Thompson in the main event of the card. Not only will the fight be Neal’s biggest test since joining the UFC in 2018, it will be his first UFC fight scheduled for five rounds.

Neal has picked up five-straight wins since he joined the UFC through “Dana White’s Contender Series.” His most notable wins are against Niko Price and Mike Perry, who he both finished within two rounds.

Saturday’s fight will be Neal’s first since 2019. He was scheduled to compete on a card back in August against Neil Magny, although he withdrew from the bout eventually.

Thompson last fought 13 months ago, where he won a decision over Vicente Luque that snapped a two-fight losing streak – the longest losing streak of his career.

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