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Geoff Neal believes he has all the necessary pieces to make a run at the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title. The question now becomes whether or not he can fit them together.
The Fortis MMA export will lock horns with Neil Magny in a UFC on ESPN 24 welterweight showcase on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, where he attempts to rebound from his first loss in nearly four years. Neal, 30, has rattled off seven victories across his past eight outings. He last appeared at UFC Fight Night 183, where he wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Stephen Thompson in their Dec. 19 main event.
As Neal makes final preparations for his confrontation with Magny, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He rubbed shoulders with an all-time great on the gridiron.
Neal played football with and graduated as part of the same senior class as Robert Griffin III at Copperas Cove High School in Texas. Griffin went on to star at Baylor University, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 before moving on to a career in the NFL with Washington, Cleveland and Baltimore. Neal signed with Texas Lutheran University but chose to pursue a career in mixed martial arts instead.
2. He packs plenty of punch.
The Austin, Texas, native has thus far lived up to his “Handz of Steel” moniker, as Neal has recorded 1.29 knockdowns per 15 minutes of UFC competition—the third-highest rate in the history of the welterweight division. Only Abdul Razak Alhassan (2.24) and Anthony Johnson (1.81) rank ahead of him.
3. His fists do the majority of his talking.
Neal outstruck each of his first five opponents in the UFC, as he defeated Brian Camozzi, Frank Camacho, Belal Muhammad, Niko Price and Mike Perry in succession.
4. Ancillary weapons make him a total package.
Despite his reputation as a striker, Neal does have two submission wins on his resume. He dispatched David McAfee with a rear-naked choke 2:15 into the first round of his professional debut under the Xtreme Combat Productions flag on Aug. 25, 2012 and took care of the aforementioned Camozzi with the same maneuver 2:48 into the first round of his Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 126 on Feb. 18, 2018.
5. The mileage on his actual odometer remains low.
While Neal has made the rounds—he has fought in eight different promotions during his 16-fight career—in MMA, he has never competed outside of North America. Fifteen of his 16 bouts have taken place in the United States. The other went down in Canada when he wiped out Niko Price with second-round punches in a UFC 240 welterweight showcase at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.