UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs Neal
Key Stats: 3.93 strikes landed per minute, 2.73 strikes absorbed per minute, 10 knockdowns landed (tied 3rd all-time among WW)
What It Means: One of the most decorated kickboxers on the roster, “Wonderboy” is as unique a matchup any fighter can face in their careers. His karate-based style is difficult to replicate as he is constantly switching side-facing stances and has great dexterity in his kicks. His lateral movement and ability to bounce in and out of range quickly causes problems for many striking-based opponents, whose patience gets tested as Thompson sets traps throughout a fight.
Key Stats: 2.25 knockdowns per 15 minutes (3rd all-time), 6 strikes landed per minute (2nd all-time among WW), +2.28 striking differential (2nd all-time among WW)
What It Means: Neal is a knockout artist with much more patience than you’d assume from “Handz of Steel.” He sits back and makes reads early, knowing he can change the pace of the fight in a blink. His straight left hand is his bread-and-butter punch, but he is by no means a one-trick striker. He put away the always-tough Mike Perry with a left high kick, and Neal’s instincts when he has an opponent hurt allow him to manage distance and range in order to land the finishing shots.
What to Look For in the Fight: This fight figures to be a striking battle and a great test of where Neal is at in his rise up the welterweight rankings. His strength of schedule has been solid thus far – he holds wins over Belal Muhammad, Niko Price and Mike Perry – but Thompson is going to test his striking ability to the highest degree. Thompson’s constant movement and tricky karate-based striking style might give Neal’s more straightforward approach some fits at first, so how he adjusts accordingly will prove critical. Moreover, Thompson has only been knocked out once – a out-of-nowhere superman punch from Anthony Pettis – and so Neal might be looking at going the distance with Wonderboy.
Co-Main Event: Jose Aldo vs Marlon Chito Vera
Every UFC Finish By Jose Aldo
Every UFC Finish By Jose Aldo
Key Stats: 90% takedown defense, 3.48 strikes landed per minute, 62% striking defense
What It Means: Although Aldo’s bantamweight run hasn’t been a winning one through two fights, the former featherweight king has shown he doesn’t have a problem making the weight and still has the goods to give elite fighters plenty to think about. His left hooks to the body are particularly devastating, and he doesn’t discriminate with where he aims any of his strikes. Whether he is pressuring forward or waiting to counter with a lightning-fast combination, Aldo is still plenty dangerous at 135 pounds.
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Marlon Chito Vera
Top Finishes: Marlon Vera
Top Finishes: Marlon Vera
Key Stats: 8 finishes (tied 1st all-time among BW), 1.45 submissions per 15 minutes (3rd), 3.7 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: “Chito” Vera is a slick, ever-improving fighter with a well-rounded skill set. He uses a variety of kicks well, from teep kicks to the body to low leg kicks, and he works his striking off those longer-range weapons. In close, he uses his wiry frame to gain leverage and, in grappling scrambles, Vera has an adept ability to find a submission off his back or from on top. Whichever avenue presents the simplest way to a finish, Vera seems most inclined to take the fight there.
What to Look For in the Fight: A lot of this fight feels like it’ll be determined by how Aldo comes out and attacks. If he sits back, Vera could find some success early with his diverse kicking game, if he avoids the counter boxing combinations Aldo surely will throw. Aldo could try to pressure Vera and snuff out those rangy strikes Vera uses so well, but that brings the danger of Vera’s grappling and submission ability.
Other Fights to Watch (Marlon Moraes vs Rob Font)
Key Stats: 0.85 knockdowns per 15 minutes (5th), 66% takedown defense, 3.43 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: Moraes is one of the most explosive strikers in the division. His kicks are especially powerful and quick, and he uses his switch kick well to the body and head. His work rate stays steady, but he often waits to explode with a combination or big kick, and he utilizes the threat of his power well to walk opponents down. He is adept at fighting off the back foot and countering, but he is best when he can pick his shots at his pace. His submission game is underrated and tricky when he is in a comfortable spot, depending on how his cardio is at that particular moment in the fight.
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Key Stats: 4 KO/TKO wins (tied 3rd), 5.11 strikes landed per minute (10th), 0.78 knockdowns per 15 minutes (8th)
What It Means: Font is a well-rounded fighter, but his boxing is probably his best attack. He is best when moving forward and applying pressure, and he can string together combinations well off his jab. While he is most dangerous on the feet, he is strong when the fight moves into the clinch and he connects well off the break.
What to Look For in the Fight: This fight should be a battle on the feet, and success could be determined by who keeps the fight at their pace and range. Font will open at a higher pace, but that’s also when Moraes is most dangerous. His switch kicks are some of the most lethal on the roster, but if Font can keep the pressure high and string together punches, he could wear Moraes down over time. He can’t take his foot off the gas though – Moraes remains dangerous throughout a fight because of his speed and power. If the fight gets into the clinch, watch for Font’s wrestling and how Moraes might attack a submission if he has the gas to do so.