The rising star Shavkat Rakhmonov is looking to continue his unbeaten run against the always-game Geoff Neal this Saturday at UFC 285.
The Uzbekistani fighter has made a name for himself as a dark horse in the ever-competitive welterweight division, amassing an astonishing 100% finish with a 16-0 record.
Neal is also looking to ride his recent wave of success, after scoring a late third-round finish against perennial contender Vicente Luque.
Rakhmonov vs. Neal will feature on the UFC 285 PPV main card this weekend. Watch the entire Jones vs. Gane fight card live on ESPN+ PPV.
Rakhmonov enters this fight as a sizable betting favorite because of his dominant performances leading up to this fight.
The thing that makes Rakhmonov so interesting to a lot of fans has been his diverse and relentless way of finding finishes. The sambo fighter has a vast arsenal of kicks and dynamic attacks that have made him one of the trickier fighters in the welterweight division. Pair this with his extremely proficient grappling and submission threats and one can see how he’s amassed a 100% finish rate.
This is all wrapped up nicely by Rakhmonov’s grinding pace, with him easily wearing his opponents out by the second round. This has made it easier for him to find openings for hard right-hands and head kicks, as well as clinch entries that he uses to set up hard knees and quick throws. Once it goes to the ground, however, things could end quickly due to his extremely powerful ground and pound which he uses to pass and find submissions.
Neal is no slouch, however, and will likely be difficult to put away, having only been knocked out and submitted once, both of which before he made it to the UFC. Neal’s main weapon is his always-consistent boxing, using his southpaw stance to throw swift jabs and crosses with sharp footwork that moves him in and out of the pocket. He uses this to eventually back his opponents to the fence, where he often unloads uppercuts and hooks through their guard.
However, Neal showed in his bouts with Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny that he has trouble when he can’t dictate the range of a fight, which is something that Rakhmonov will likely pick up on. In those fights, he had trouble entering the pocket without taking some form of a kick or falling short on his punches. Once again, Rakhmonov uses a diverse array of kicks to the legs, midsection, and head of his opponents that often keep them at bay until he can find the distance to rush in with knees or heavy combinations.
What could give Rakhmonov problems, however, could be Neal’s takedown defense. Despite being fairly one-dimensional in his approach offensively, Neal is an extremely strong defensive grappler, sporting an 85% rate of takedown defense. The only real issue he’s had has been grappling deep into the fence, where he’s prone to being snapped down or tripped. These are weapons that Rakhmonov has, however backing Neal to the fence is easier said than done.
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Prediction and Betting Guide
Overall, despite the fact that he has the advantage in most departments of the game, Rakhmonov’s success in continuing his finishing streak will be contingent on hurting Neal on the feet in order to force him to the ground or against the fence. From there it is very likely that he’d either start putting forward fight-altering damage or forcing movement out of Neal with his relentless pace, likely in order to score some sort of submission. If not, Rakhmonov will likely coast to a decision by sticking on the outside of Neal and denying him entry into the pocket.
I’m going to go ahead and say Rakhmonov by submission (+175). The toughness and defensive capability of Neal make it really hard to see a knockout happening but I can see Shavkat somehow closing the distance to find a takedown as the fight goes on. If any fight were to snap his finishing streak, however, this could very well be the one, with Neal proving that not even some of the best could put him away ever since he’s broken into the UFC.
Bet: Shavkat Rakhmonov by Submission (+175 at MyBookie)