You can sign up for a free seven-day trial of ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC on ESPN+ 1 live on your computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
Rising prospect Geoff Neal will step inside the Octagon for the third time when he takes on Belal Muhammad at UFC Fight Night 143 on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The event serves as the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut on ESPN Plus.
Some fans may not know much about Neal since he joined the UFC in 2018, but he has quickly become one of the promotion’s most exciting young welterweights and a definite person of interest in 170 pounds. Ahead of his showdown with Muhammad, Neal provides the material for the latest installment of The Film Room series.
At just 28 years old and with less than a year of UFC experience under his belt, Neal is already one of the most polished strikers in the promotion, with the footwork and distance management to tie it all together. On the lead, Neal is a patient and intelligent striker who will feint his way into the pocket for a quick combo before resetting the action at a safe distance. Something to notice about his leading attacks: the number of feints and misdirection he uses before actually throwing anything. His liberal use of shoulder feints and rear-hand feints allows him to draw reactions from his opponents off of which he can strike.
Neal’s feint-heavy striking style also allows him to simultaneously mix in his leading attacks with counters. Notice in most of these exchanges that Neal with either feint the jab or use a variety of shoulder feints to trick the opponent into striking, at which point he can step back and counter or intercept their strike with one of his own. In his finest performance to date against Frank Camacho, Neal routinely feinted the lead hand to draw a jab out of Camacho before countering with a left straight over the top.
Neal is generally a patient and tactical striker, but he does occasionally mix in wild exchanges in the pocket to keep opponents honest. Although these exchanges may seem untamed, if you pay close attention you will notice Neal is calm and never overextends on his strikes while taking the majority of his opponents strikes on his forearms and shoulders.
Neal will also occasionally fire off a controlled flurry of strikes when his opponent is stuck on the fence. Just like his exchanges in the pocket, notice how Neal never overextends while staying defensively responsible and mixing up his attacks to the head and body before resetting. Neal’s ability to mix in his standard patient attack with controlled flurries and exchanges in the pocket makes him even harder to predict.
Something else Neal has shown and is not seen nearly enough in MMA is striking off grappling and clinch exchanges. Often when fighters break off from the clinch or a grappling exchange there is sort of an unwritten rule where both fighters will give themselves a second to reset the action. Neal knows this is an opportune time to land some offense and allows no buffer zone when breaking the clinch.
As mentioned earlier, Neal is exceptional at rolling with punches and taking strikes on the forearms and shoulders. His sole loss since 2013 came against Kevin Holland in 2017, when Neal was coming off of a two-year layoff and had to fight in a square cage where his movement and feinting-based style were nullified. Since joining the UFC and fighting in an Octagon where he has room to move, Neal has looked almost impossible to hit cleanly. It will be interesting to see what Muhammad comes up with to limit his movement.