Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight scrappers Geoff Neal and Neil Magny will collide this weekend (Sat., May 8, 2021) at UFC Vegas 26 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Neal rode a five-fight UFC win streak with a handful of knockout wins into his first main event slot back in Dec. 2020. Unfortunately for “Handz of Steel,” that man opposite him in the cage was Stephen Thompson, and “Wonderboy” has seen it all. Now, Neal will attempt to rebound from the first defeat of his UFC career. Magny is also looking to return to the win column after a main event defeat, but the veteran has been here before. He’s one of the most consistent athletes on the roster, an excellent test for any fighter looking to break into the title picture.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Belal Muhammad (UFC Fight Night 143), Niko Price (UFC 240), Mike Perry (UFC 245), Frank Camacho (UFC 228)
Key Losses: Stephen Thompson (UFC Vegas 17), Kevin Holland (Xtreme Knockout 34)
Keys to Victory: Neal is a sniper. The Southpaw applies the classic double threat of left hand and left kick better than perhaps anyone in the division, firing both strikes with a serious ferocity. So far, he’s knocked out eight of his opponents.
This is a great match up for the Texan because Neal has the perfect style to pick apart Magny. Historically, Magny struggles when faced with dedicated out-fighters. Despite his range, Magny’s punches are not the quickest, and his lankiness tends to leave him vulnerable to power kicks.
Neal is a better athlete than his opponent — important for clinch wrestling — who excels at managing distance. At range, Neal will have the ability to blast Magny out of stance with his left leg, and that same kick can easily end the fight with a clear connection to the liver or head. To further muddy the waters, Neal could take a page from Lorenz Larkin’s book by mixing in left kicks up the middle.
If Neal is kicking his opponent to pieces, Magny will have two choices: walk through the fire in the hopes of clinching or hang back and accept defeat — a pair of bad options.
Key Wins: Kelvin Gastelum (UFC Fight Night 78), Johny Hendricks (UFC 207), Hector Lombard (UFC Fight Night 85), Carlos Condit (UFC 219), Rocco Martin (UFC 250), Li Jingliang (UFC 248), Robbie Lawler (UFC Vegas 8)
Key Losses: Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC Fight Night 140), Michael Chiesa (UFC Fight Island 8), Demian Maia (UFC 190), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC 215), Lorenz Larkins (UFC 202)
Keys to Victory: Magny’s best weapon is his pace. Whether working tirelessly from the clinch to score takedowns or peppering his foe at distance with long jabs and kicks, Magny always looks to set a higher rate of action than his foe can match.
Against Neal, Magny cannot be defensive. He doesn’t have the firepower to back Neal off if “Handz of Steel” gets going, and at least early on, the takedown/clinch is going to be hard to come by. If Neal feels confident and starts letting off combos, Magny is in danger.
To avoid such a violent fate, Magny has to press forward. Neal may be a competent counter puncher, but Magny’s reach can help keep him safe there ... provided he gets full extension on his punches. Regardless, risk is unavoidable when fighting a nasty puncher like Neal, and in this case, Magny will be safer if he’s the man leading the dance.
Double jabs, calf kicks and clinch work represent Magny’s best chance at scoring the upset.
Both men need this win.
Neal has an opportunity here to bounce right back into the mix. He has such clear potential and puts on tremendous fights — no one is going to hold losing to a resurgent “Wonderboy” against him that harshly. If Neal can deny another wrestler and knock him out in the process, well, there are a lot of wrestlers atop the ranks at 170 lbs. Wins like that get people excited!
As for Magny, he’s seemingly stuck in a gatekeeper to the elite role. The only way to change that is a series of consecutive wins against really tough competition. Neal certainly qualifies as just that, so it would be a valuable victory to start that journey at least.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 26 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 26, Geoff Neal and Neil Magny will dual. Which man will have his hand raised?