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UFC Vegas 17 start time, who is fighting tonight at ‘Thompson vs Neal’ in Las Vegas

UFC Fight Night Thompson v Neal: Weigh-Ins Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to stage its final event of 2020 as UFC Vegas 17 goes down later tonight (Sat., Dec. 19, 2020) inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ESPN+-streamed event will feature a Welterweight bout between Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal. In the co-main event, Jose Aldo will face Marlon Vera in a pivotal Bantamweight match up.

What’s Hot:

UFC is planning to close out 2020 in style, as UFC Vegas 17 is a pretty stacked card that won’t cost fans $65 to enjoy. In the main event, Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal will collide in a pivotal bout at 170 pounds. Thompson broke his two-fight skid over a year ago by defeating Vicente Luque at UFC 244. There is no telling if ring rust will be a factor here, but if it is it will be an even playing field because Neal also hasn’t competed in a year, as he was last seen knocking out Mike Perry at UFC 245 in Dec. 2019.

With “Wonderboy” being a striking specialist, this fight has the makings of an all-out stand up affair. As far as who has the advantage in that area, I’d go with “Wonderboy” being a bit more technical thanks to his karate background and proven track record. I’d give Neal the advantage in the power department, as his heavy hands have laid out the best of them. Between them, Neal and Thompson have two submissions wins, both scoring rear-naked choke victories early on in their careers, so don’t expect this fight to be a grappling affair. Thompson is trying to prove he’s not a gatekeeper, while “Handz of Steel” is looking for his sixth-straight UFC win in hopes of getting a shot at the title.

What’s Not:

There isn’t much to complain about here. The matchups are solid and the event would be even greater if it weren’t for COVID-19 canceling several matchups, including the original headlining act.

Original Card Vs. Actual Card:

The original main event was set to feature a Welterweight bout between Khamzat Chimaev and Leon Edwards before “Rocky” was forced out after testing positive for COVID-19. Dhiego Lima and Belal Muhammad were set to tango on this card but COVID-19 struck yet again, forcing Muhammad out of the fight. Ex-RIZIN champion Manel Kape was forced out of his debut bout against Alexandre Pantoja, also as a result of a positive COVID-19 test. A fight between Karl Roberson and Dalcha Lungiambula was also scratched after Roberson tested positive for COVID-19. Aiemann Zahabi was forced out of his fight against Drako Rodriguez, also as a result of coronavirus.

Injuries:

Misha Cirkunov was forced out of his fight against Ryan Spann with an undisclosed injury. The promotion was unable to find a replacement and opted to reschedule the bout for a later date.

New Blood:

Tafon Nchukwi is just four fights into his pro MMA career (all wins), but he did enough on the “Contender Series” to earn a spot on the UFC roster. In his first bout, he will be taking on Jamie Pickett, another UFC rookie and “Contender Series” alum who had to win not once, but twice on Dana White’s show in order to get an invite to the big stage. Pickett is a decade into his pro MMA career, racking up a decent 11-4 record during that time, winning all but two via knockout or submission. As for Nchukwi, all four of his victories have come by way of knockout, so this one has a good chance of ending early.

Jimmy Flick is another “Contender Series” alum who brings a three fight win streak to the Octagon as he faces off against Cody Durden. Flick’s 13 of 15 victories have come by way of submission, so it’s no secret what he prefers to do once the action gets going. Durden, on the other hand, has five knockouts and five submissions to his credit, so it’s safe to say his all-around game is a bit more polished than Flick’s. All that said, don’t expect this Flyweight fight to see the judges’ scorecards.

How The ‘Prelims’ Look:

The undercard of this event took several COVID-19 hits, leaving the event with just seven preliminary bouts. Sijara Eubanks will face Pannie Kianzad in women’s Bantamweight action. Eubanks is looking to get back on track after losing to Ketlen Vieira in her last bout, snapping her three-fight win streak in the process. Kianzad earned her second straight win by defeating former title contender, Bethe Correia, this past summer.

The promotion had high hopes for Deron Winn — Daniel Cormier’s protégé — but he has failed to live up to any expectations anyone might have had of him. After defeating Eric Spicely in his UFC debut, he then went on to lose two in a row. His opponent, Antonio Arroyo, lost his UFC debut over one year ago, so both men are in desperate need of a win.

Christos Giagos agreed to step in on short notice to face Carlton Minus after Rick Glenn was forced out of the fight. Giagos hasn’t competed in more than a year, a loss to Drakkar Klose. In women’s Flyweight action, Gillian Robertson will face Taila Santos, who is coming off a big win over Molly McMann this past summer.

To get a better look at the “Prelims” fights click here and here.

Who Needs A Win Badly:

In the co-main event, Jose Aldo will look to snap his three-fight losing streak when he battles Marlon Vera, winner of five of his last seven which includes an upset win over Sean O’Malley, bursting the rainbow-haired contender’s hype bubble via knockout. Aldo simply hasn’t looked like himself over the last two years, even if his three defeats came against the cream of the crop, including a one-sided beatdown at the hands of current Bantamweight champion Petr Yan. The promotion is in the midst of clearing room for its new blood, and Aldo could be on his way out should he suffer his fourth-straight defeat. UFC hasn’t been shy in letting go of its aging veterans, and if Aldo comes up short against Vera he could be the next one joining that growing list.

Interest Level: 8.5/10

This is a nice main card UFC put together to close out 2020. Aside from the main and co-main event bouts which we discussed earlier, the rest of the main card is pretty stacked. Marlon Moraes will look to erase the memory of his knockout loss to Cory Sandhagen a few months back. He requested a quick turnaround and got just that, though it won’t be a walk in the park as Rob Font is as tough as they come. Winner of five of his last seven, Font has taken out some of the best, including Sergio Pettis and Thomas Almeida. If Moraes isn’t on his “A” game, he could find himself in a deeper hole once the dust settles.

Two of the most exciting fighters in the game are set to collide in a pivotal 170 pound bout as Michel Pereira will face Khaos Williams. Win, lose, or draw, Pereira is all kinds of exciting and doesn’t know the meaning of pacing himself. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because Pereira has quickly become a fan-favorite thanks to his unorthodox striking style. Williams. meanwhile, prefers to get in and out as quickly as possible. In his UFC debut, he knocked out Alex Morono in 30 seconds. In his follow up fight, he slept Abdul Razak Alhassan in just 27 ticks of the clock. I don’t foresee this fight ending so quickly, but perhaps that’s just wishful thinking because this matchup has all the makings of an instant classic.

Greg Hardy will look for the trifecta in 2020 as he goes for his third consecutive win against Marcin Tybura. Believe it or not, this will be Hardy’s eighth fight inside the Octagon, and it will undoubtedly be his toughest test to date. That’s because Tybura is a 12-fight UFC veteran, owner of a three-fight win streak and has spent time inside the cage with some of the best at Heavyweight including Fabricio Werdum, Derrick Lewis, Andrei Arlovski and Ben Rothwell, just to name a few. If Hardy can get a win, it will be a huge notch on his belt. And the same goes for Tybura.

Anthony Pettis is on the last fight of his UFC contract, and since he didn’t sign an extension with the promotion it could be his final fight inside the Octagon. The former Lightweight champion recently revealed he got back to basics in hopes of returning to the “Showtime” of old. He is coming off a second win over Donald Cerrone, though prior to that he suffered two straight defeats at the hands of Nate Diaz and Carlos Diego Ferreira. This time around, Pettis will be facing Alex Morono, winner of four of five. A win here would be huge for Morono, while a loss could be catastrophic for Pettis. That’s because he could lose some leverage with whomever he starts having contract discussions with post-fight. Either way, it’s a must-win for Pettis.

UFC Vegas 17 Full Fight Card:

UFC Vegas 17 Main Event On ESPN+:

170 lbs.: Stephen Thompson vs. Geoff Neal

UFC Vegas 17 Main Card On ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):

135 lbs.: Jose Aldo vs. Marlon Vera
170 lbs.: Michel Pereira vs. Khaos Williams
135 lbs.: Marlon Moraes vs. Rob Font
265 lbs.: Greg Hardy vs. Marcin Tybura

UFC Vegas 17 Prelims Card On ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):

170 lbs.: Alex Morono vs. Anthony Pettis
170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Dhiego LimaCANCELED
135 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Pannie Kianzad
185 lbs.: Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Karl RobersonCANCELED
195 lbs.: Deron Winn vs. Antonio Arroyo
135 lbs.: Drako Rodriguez vs. Aiemann ZahabiCANCELED
185 lbs.: Tafon Nchukwi vs. Jamie Pickett
125 lbs.: Cody Durden vs. Jimmy Flick
160 lbs.: Christos Giagos vs. Carlton Minus
125 lbs.: Gillian Robertson vs. Taila Santos

***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 17 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 17: “Thompson vs. Neal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.