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If the term “styles make fights” resonates with you at all, then this is the fight for you. There are certain situations where metrics and numbers just need to be tossed out the window. Matchups where you know every metric in the world won’t mean anything when you already know the few outcomes that will or will not happen stylistically.

How do I know this? Because certain matchups will tell you everything you need to know, but you need to tear it down to bare bones and wire frame it back up to get your answers.

On one side you have an opportunistic finisher with five knockouts on his seven-fight win streak. And on the other side you have a master at range management and points fighting who leaves you no room for error.

Stephen Thompson

At 37 years of age, Wonderboy Stephen Thompson has made his career in MMA utilizing his extremely high-pedigree karate background. With a fifth-degree Black Belt in Kempo, a Black Belt in American Kickboxing, and a Brown Belt in BJJ, Wonderboy adheres to his roots in a very systematic way. He was raised in tournament-style fighting, which is all about scoring.

The approach is very calculated and very well mapped out. He uses a very wide stance, looks to score and then will get back out and reset. With 15 wins and seven by KO, I wouldn’t consider Thompson a power striker, but he does do an accumulation of damage before he finds your switch.

In his four losses, he has only been finished once, by Anthony Pettis. He was winning that fight handedly until Pettis tossed out a superman punch off the cage that knocked Thompson out. Wonderboy seems to be showing a little balding of the tires here at his age, though.

After his draw with Woodley that many believe he won, Thompson lost the rematch, beat Masvidal, lost to Till, lost to Pettis, and then bounced back with a great performance against extremely tough Vicente Luque. So the riddle of Wonderboy isn’t once what it was and that is basically because speed and timing are a huge part of his game. He’s getting to spots quickly and getting out just as quick.

If you look at his overall body of work historically, he would literally chew up guys who pressed him with power and pressure. Push forward and the master of range finding and timing will slip and rip you all day. His wide stance allows him to secure the real estate and it also allows him to really lay a bead on how closely you are getting within his dance space.

The key to beating Thompson is taking away his range, and the way you do that is make the fight as filthy as you possibly can. With that said, that takes a certain style of a fighter to do so.

Geoff Neal

Neal is on a seven-fight tear with five fights by KO and it is quite clear how he gets things done. You aren’t going to get volume from Neal and you aren’t going to see this complicated blueprint out of him. He has been on a bit of a layoff which concerns me for one reason. Who he is fighting?

When you fight Wonderboy, you need to be in lockstep with his timing, even if you do not fight off timing. You need to be able to time him so you can counter back because he will not leave a window open for long.

If you miss the opportunity, Thompson will reset and already looking for the next riddle to throw at you. So the layoff for Neal does concern me a bit. There is also something to be said about conditioning in a fight against Wonderboy that you will once again need to keep up with him and his patterns, because he will not stop moving.

Even with a smaller cage, Wonderboy is going to make you second guess and he is going to force you to make a chess move. Neal has an equalizer that he will have 25 minutes to land, and if he does, then there is no doubt that he can put Thompson on skates.

However, clipping him is going to be the task at hand. Neal has never been five rounds before and you wonder how he will fare in the championship rounds when Wonderboy has been there four times and his conditioning is always ready for a five-round pace. There are many question marks looming for both men in this fight, but more red flags seem to be raising for me on Neal’s side.

I get that Wonderboy is 37 and he is on a physical decline, but he has faced fighters like Neal before and was able to just snipe them at range, where Neal has never faced anyone with the striking acumen of Thompson and might need to go five rounds. He is not going to out-strike Thompson. He will not outclass him and he most likely won’t have the conditioning of Thompson, so finding the switch early will be his best path here.

However, that’s much easier said than done.

How I’m Betting

I think the window opens a little differently for Neal in this one. Usually guys with loaded guns will have a window right out of the gate, but not here. Due to the striking style of Thompson, you can’t just look for the kill switch. You need to download and process what he is doing the best that you can.

There almost needs to be a hesitation period against Thompson and then you can start opening up a bit more. However, the window will start to close rapidly as Thompson starts making his own reads and starts to score at will. Thompson is going to see how sharp Neal’s processing power is right out of the gate, throwing different looks at him to see what he is biting on and what he isn’t is going to be something to look for quickly.

If Neal gets frustrated and starts to charge in then you can expect him to get picked apart, literally. If he stays composed and waits for his time than the chance of him catching Thompson is very, very real. With that said, the evolution of adjustments in this fight will be the ace in the pocket of Thompson. He is a full blown technician that needs to stay sharp and coherent of whats coming back at him.

One unlocked step that brings him into the range of Neal and he could literally step on a landmine that ends his night. However, in the 30 years that I have been involved in boxing and martial arts, my father would always tell me, The Boxer and The Technician will beat the puncher in the long run. Like I said about Izzy against Costa, you can’t beat what you can’t catch.

The Pick: Stephen Thompson +100.

If you are giving me WonderBoy at even money, I see some value there. I’ll take a shot here.

DFS Breakdown

Geoff Neal: $8,400 / 19 / 3

Neal’s value isn’t really predicated on whether or not he finishes here. In a five-round fight, he should be just fine if he wins. However, he will need a finish because he is not going to beat Wonderboy in a 25-minute points battle. It’s just not happening.

So if you roster him, you need to hope for a finish or bust in my opinion. In his last five fights he has hit value every single outing with scores of 108, 107, 86, 120, and 98. The 86 points came in a three-round decision. This is five rounds, so he will have no issues with covering value if he wins. I am picking him to lose here but he is very live in this spot with the power he possesses.

Thompson: $7,800 / 20 / 5 (much better value on DK)

It’s hard to believe that WonderBoy is this cheap, to be honest, but he was never really a fantasy savant when it came to scoring unless he finishes. In a five-round decision, you can expect between 85-90 on an average which is well over his price tag, but if he manages to finish the fight, Wonderboy has scored upwards of 128.

However, he is going to have to win this fight with patience and movement. He needs the finish to present itself through volume and not try to create it, because that’s when things can get hairy for him. He needs to be very mindful of range and space. Accumulation in damage is sometimes more effective then having that one equalizer in the pocket. Make some room for Wonderboy in your lineups because he’s always live, even at 37.

DFS Weights

Thompson: 5 out of 10 lineups
Neal: 3 of 10

Exciting news: FantasyLabs All Access subscribers can now purchase MadLab’s industry-leading MMA projections to use in our MMA Player Models!

You can also enter promo code FLABSXMAS to get this Saturday’s UFC betting card, plus four UFC cards in January, including the return of Connor McGregor, for just $49.99 at TheMadLabMMA.com!