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UFC Vegas 17 live blog: Stephen Thompson vs. Geoff Neal

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

This is the UFC Vegas 17 live blog for Stephen Thompson vs. Geoff Neal, the welterweight headliner for Saturday’s fight card at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

Thompson returns 13 months after stopping the rise of slugger Vicente Luque at UFC 244, a bout that left him with serious hand injuries that took him out of action for much of 2020.

Neal comes into the fight on a seven-bout winning streak. One year ago, he became the first fighter to knock out Mike Perry with a 90-second stoppage at UFC 245; a serious health scare kept him benched afterward.

Check out the UFC Vegas 17 live blog below.

Round 1: Thompson tries out a couple of kicks at distance, countering with a right when Neal comes back. So far, classic Wonderboy. Neal trying to get around and cut an angle, his hands high on defense. Taking Thompson’s shots and closing in, waiting for his moment. Thompson explodes to keep him off, but Neal unloads a combo before the two-time title challenger can counter. Another charge, and Thompson slips on a high kick. Neal covering up as Thompson jabs and kicks on his advance. Thompson trying to break Neal’s rhythm with quick shots, nails a spinning back kick and peels off. Neal opens a combo with a high kick, but so far, he’s being outworked as Thompson ducks and dodges, sticking left hands as Neal comes forward. Neal misses again on a jab and resets, comtemplating his next move. That’s an invitation for Thompson to go offensive, and Neal finds himself covering up more as combos come his way. Wheel kick nearly clips Neal, who pressures and explodes with a shot. Unfortunately, a clash of heads opens a very bad gash on Thompson’s right eyelid. Blood right away, and ref Marc Goddard pauses the action. Checks on both, and Thompson doesn’t look too bad. Looks like Neal is cut, too. Back at it, and Neal tries to get inside again. Before can, time runs out.

MMA Fighting scores the frame 10-9 for Thompson.

Round 2: Neal closes and draws more quick counters from Thompson. When he doesn’t cut off the cage, this is Thompson’s bread and butter. More kicks at distance, and Neal shoots in and ties up against the fence. That stops Thompson, who trades short punches in close. Thompson shucks Neal with an underhook and gets free. Nice right straight in between Neal’s punches. Neal is just a bit too slow with a hook. Thompson getting loose with his kicks. Neal is covering up fairly well, but the volume game doesn’t favor him. Thompson eventually finds his way through on kicks and punches at distance. Straight right still good for Thompson, who’s still moving laterally, countering as Neal closes and then circling out to reset. Rinse, repeat and Neal is looking increasingly outclasses. This is exactly the kind of fight where Thompson excels, and Neal doesn’t seem to have a plan B. His eye is also bleeding now, and Thompson’s quick punches aren’t helping anything. He’s getting in and out as Neal tries to pin him down. More punches from Thompson to deflate Neal’s advance, but Neal finally scores with a left hand against the fence as Thompson goes high with a kick. It’s not enough to get Thompson’s attention, and the frame comes to an end.

MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 for Thompson, who’s up 20-18.

Round 3: It’s do or die time for Neal, who’s down two rounds and needs to shift momentum if this thing goes to the scorecards. If Thompson continues to do what he’s doing, that’s not going to happen. And initially, it appears Thompson is doing his thing, punching as Neal approaches and peeling off with kicks. Nice high kick on the exit from Thompson. Neal powers in with a few punches and ties up against the fence. Thompson tries to frame but settles for a left underhook. The two slap-fight in close as the action slows down. Neal works the legs with knees, and Thompson pushes off. Wonderboy getting closer to sneaking in that high kick, and his jab is doing damage, Nice right in mid-combo, but Neal now has his moment. He’s getting closer, but he’s still just short of landing a big shot. Nice jab from Neal, but Thompson dodges the follow ups then replies with the straight right that lands. Another clinch from Neal, who loses his mouthpiece, and they briefly pause. Thompson free, and a head kick lands with a punch combo. Thompson letting his hands go as Neal is getting more aggressive. Neal covering up for a lot of the shots, and he sneaks in a left. They touch gloves a second before the actual end of the frame, and the round comes to an end.

MMA Fighting scores the frame 10-9 for Thompson, and he’s up 30-27.

Round 4: Championship rounds, and Neal starts with a circle before resetting. Whenever he takes off the gas, Thompson advances and scores with combos. That prompts Neal to charge back, which draws the jabs and straight rights that have worked so well for Thompson for the fight thus far. Distance is still Thompson’s advantage, as is volume. Neal is still covering up well and avoiding the worst of it, and he closes to clinch, missing with a backfist. As Thompson escapes, he lands a straight right, then another on the heel off a flurry of jabs. Nice straight left from Neal is met by a right elbow. Neal is still walkingn into shots. Another elbow from Thompson - might that be an indication of another hand injury? Neal slips on a kick, and Thompson lets him up. A spinning wheel kick gets a clip from Thompson, and Neal lets him up. On the next trade, Thompson again beats him to the punch with jabs and straight rights. Neal circles off again, and he takes a body kick. High kick from Thompson misses, and Neal’s reply does same. Neal punches in and clinches with less than one minute to go. They both take a break, working a few knees. Thompson tries to escape, but Neal won’t let him, and time runs out.

MMA Fighting scores the frame 10-9 Thompson, and he’s now up 40-36.

Round 5: Neal closes and lands a left hand, and they’re trading hard in close. Both land shots, but Thompson gets clear and goes back to his usual countering attack. Neal covers up and continues to advance, and Thompson again meets it with quick punches and a kick. Thompson doesn’t need the kicks that are clearly not working for him with an apparent leg injury, as his hands are working just fine. But he’s not as mobile, and Neal pops him with a left, perhaps the best punch of the round. Neal jabs forward and just misses with a left, and Thompson comes right back with a flurry of jabs and a big right. Left for Neal, and Thompson peppers him with short shots in close. In close, Neal grabs an arm and muscles Thompson to the fence. Escape fails for Wonderboy, and Neal beats the body. Finally, Thompson gets free, and they touch gloves after a Neal burp. Thompson spins with a kick and they trade in close. Thompson lands a couple of shot, and Neal spins with an elbow. Couple big punches for Neal and in close, he lands again. Thompson cut bad, and they trade more shots as the frame comes to an end.

MMA Fighting scores the frame 10-9 for Neal, but it’s not enough to overcome the previous four rounds, with Thompson sealing the 49-46 decision.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Stephen Thompson def. Geoff Neal via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)