Geoff Neal had to battle through some adversity but he still got the job done to win a hard-fought split decision over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC 269.
In the battle of strikers, Neal used his counter punches to keep Ponzinibbio off balance throughout the fight while also increasing his output in the third and final round to secure the win. The judges scored the fight 30-27 and 29-28 in his favor with the third official giving a 29-28 score to Ponzinibbio.
It was still enough for Neal to get the victory as he returns to the win column after suffering back-to-back losses in his past two outings in the octagon.
“It was a good fight,” Neal said following the fight. “I really needed that. I kind of threw him off with my movement, which I was planning on doing. I got the [win]. I’m not in a position to call shots. That’s my first ranked in. Whatever comes, I’m ready for it.”
Showcasing a strong counter striking game, Neal was making Ponzinibbio pay almost every time he was moving forward with aggression while displaying fast hands and some well-timed kicks. Ponzinibbio was undeterred as he continued to come after Neal with his combinations while seeking to find a home for one of his power punches.
While Neal was still connecting with his best shots whenever Ponzinibbio was moving forward, he was also cautious not to leave himself overextended during the exchanges. As time moved forward deep into the second round, Ponzinibbio’s output continued to increase while Neal was slowing down, which kept the fight close on the scorecards.
In between rounds, Neal’s head coach Sayif Saud read him the riot act about getting too comfortable in the cage and not making Ponzinibbio pay when trading strikes on the feet.
The fiery speech definitely led to a more active Neal in the final five minutes but he still had to be cautious because Ponzinibbio was never giving him much room to breathe or set up his shots.
With less than a minute remaining, Neal popped Ponzinibbio with a stinging combination that put the Argentinian on his heels as he looked to secure the victory. Neal followed that with another hard shot that rattled Ponzinibbio and it likely helped him sway the judges in his favor as he got back on track following a tough run in his last two fights.
While he had to suffer through those setbacks, Neal remains a tough out for anybody in the welterweight division and he’ll look to build another win streak after finding success on Saturday night.