Vicente “Silent Assassin” Luque (21-8-1; 14-3 in the UFC), currently ranked #6 in the welterweight division, is set to fight the #13 ranked fighter, Geoff “Handz of Steel“ Neal (14-4; 6-2 in the UFC) in the co-main event spot for UFC on
After entering his last fight on a four-fight win streak, Vicente Luque faced his first defeat in 3 years. While losing is never desired, particularly when entering the fight as a perceived favorite, the fact that he is still only 30 years old while having 17 fights in the UFC lends one to believe Luque has the youth and experience needed to re-begin his climb up the stacked welterweight division.
Meanwhile, Geoff Neal is seeking to solidify himself among the top welterweight contenders, as his position in the division is still up in the air, given he is just 1-2 over the last three fights, with his lone win coming from a split decision. Albeit his positioning is still unknown, the high-end power he possesses in his left hand will always make him a worthy adversary. And, when said power is combined with Luque’s affinity for violence, the end result is a likely fight of the night contender for this under-the-radar card.
Luque is a -175 favorite over Neal, implying a 64% win rate probability.
Simply put, Luque is one of my favorite fighters to bet on. The reasoning for this is he has very few flaws seen within his fight game. More importantly than that, he has fight-ending ability everywhere the fight ensues – 19 of 21 professional wins and a staggering 13 of his 14 UFC victories have come via finish. Having a 93% UFC finish rate for the amount of UFC fights is simply unheard of; and when you add the fact he has never been KO’d, and he has never been finished in the UFC, it lends one to reason that Luque is a complete unicorn in the octagon given he can finish fights, but he is also unable to be finished himself.
Luque is able to have so much success finishing fights because he has a rare combination of quick power on the feet with slick jiu-jitsu on the mat. His cracking power, whether it be with punches and/or kicks, is easily seen from the moment the bout starts. On the other hand, his jiu-jitsu does not surface all that often, but when done, he has demonstrated to be able to out scramble and out-submit strong grappling opponents. While the grappling prowess was superseded by the elite cerebral wrestler of Belal Muhammad in Luque’s last fight, I assure you that if Luque fights any non-elite grappler, he will have the edge in wrestling clinch fighting, and submissions. As such, Luque is truly an elite top 10 welterweight with the chin, striking, grappling, and experience to give any non-top five fighter trouble in the octagon.
Geoff Neal is a battle-tested veteran in his own right, yet, he seems to still be finding himself as a fighter. I say this because, at times, Neal can seem somewhat confused on how to attack against his opponent, and doing so, creates an output issue for him, thus contributing to him losing close fights. This passive nature, looking to ultimately land a massive cross, reminds me of the latter half of the career of a former welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley. While both Woodley and Neal have fight-ending power and have shown, at times, the ability to land said power with fight-ending force, the end result in most fights against high-end fighters is them losing – stats support this sentiment, as Neal has a negative strike differential in his career.
Keeping with the Woodley comparison, Neal has a very good takedown defense – 85%. This grappling acumen allows him to keep the fight standing, which best suits his game, and increases the duration of landing a powerful blow. Similar to an issue looming over his striking, the issue with Neal’s grappling is that he rarely offensively wrestles. The consequence of this is his opponent only needs to think about the hands contrary to worrying about a level change, as such, decreases the probability of a massive punch landing. If, however, Neal can implement a level change or two during the duration of the bout, it will allow him to alter the focus of his opponent, which will greatly increase his chances of winning the fight.
While Luque can, at times, fight in close fights, I fully expect him to dominate this bout. He has better footwork, cardio, chin, and much better grappling than that Neal. Meanwhile, the lone advantage Neal has in most of his fights – power – is met by Luque as well, as such, I see no aspect of this fight where Neal can use his skills to put Luque in an uncomfortable position. For this reason, I am confidently backing Luque, but, knowing Neal is comfortable in a striking affair and knowing he has good takedown defense – but not great once on the mat – I am apprehensive to bet a method.
Bet: Luque to win (-175 odds at BetUS)