Geoff Neal, 31, is 13-4 as a professional and is 5-2 in the UFC. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak following back-to-back decision losses. Neal’s opponent, Santiago Ponzinibbio, is entering the octagon for the third time this year. Following a three-year layoff, the 35-year-old is 1-1 with a decision win and knockout loss.
Order UFC 281
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira is tonight! Watch every UFC 281 fight here.
- Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
- Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili
- Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Neal vs. Ponzinibbio betting odds
- Neal: –105
- Ponzinibbio: -125
Neal vs. Ponzinibbio breakdown
Neal can sometimes be a frustrating fighter to watch. He has high-end power, fast hands, and reliable durability. However, he can sometimes fall into the infamous Tyron Woodley trap where, as a counter puncher, he waits and waits for the perfect shot but never finds or throws it. His low volume has resulted in Neal losing back-to-back decisions. His tendency to back into the cage and look for the perfect counter is not due to poor cardio or a worry about the takedown. Neal has gone five rounds while keeping a consistent pace, and his takedown defense is above 80%. Instead, his issue seems to game plan or fight IQ. When he lets his hands go, Neal is often the faster and more powerful striker who can shut the lights out with a single shot.
Ponzinibbio, unlike Neal, is happy to move forward and push a high volume. In his last fight, a fight of the night bonus winning war, we saw Ponzinibbio unload 270 significant strikes inside of 3 rounds. Most notably, though, was not his output; but, rather, Ponzinibbio showed his chin still holds up after a long layoff. This is important because Ponzinibbio is a skilled and technical offensive striker but still has holes in his defense. When he is flowing, he lands cleanly and with real pop while keeping his head off the centerline. But, once he is hit, Ponzinibbio can stay still and swing back without regard for his offensive technique or defensive movement. We’ve seen the “flow” from Ponzinibbio in his most recent fight; but, we’ve also seen his stand and swing approach in his knockout loss in the fight prior. Ponzinibbio is at his best when he uses his often superior experience and boxing technique to stick and move before setting up a heavy combination. But, the welterweight can be hit and dropped if he keeps his head on the centerline.
Neal vs. Ponzinibbio prediction
I see this fight going one of two ways. First, Ponzinibbio could enter Neal’s range without regarding defense and Neal could end it with a clean and cracking counter shot. The second way could be Ponzinibbio flowing for three rounds where his pressure and technique overwhelm Neal and keep the powerful counter puncher just out of range. In a fight like this, I prefer the fighter who I can trust to keep the pressure up, even if his chin gives me pause.
Prediction: Ponzinibbio by decision
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.