At UFC Vegas 17, the UFC closes out the infamous 2020 year with a welterweight showdown between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (20-4-1 MMA, 10-4-1 UFC) and Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal (13-2 MMA, 5-0 UFC). In a classic gatekeeper vs rising contender matchup, Thompson will look to hold his top 5 spot in the 170 pound rankings while Neal attempts to break into the division’s elite. In a true strikers delight, fans of the sport can expect neither man to shoot a takedown in this contest. 7 out of “Wonderboy’s” 15 career wins have came by way of KO/TKO, and similarly 8 out of 13 wins by KO/TKO for “Handz of Steel.” It’s safe to say both men will be hunting for another blistering finish and performance bonus in this main event battle.
Currently, the odds have the main event a pick’em with a slight lean on the young buck Geoff Neal, who has a 7 year age advantage over Stephen Thompson. Before the night’s headliner, the fans will be treated to another loaded card filled with legends, prospects and everything in between. Let’s close out 2020 with a bang!
In this article, I will discuss two of my favorite parlay legs on the UFC Vegas 17 fight card. Please remember to always gamble legally and responsibly.
Tafon Nchukwi (-303)
Cameroon’s Tafon Nchukwi (4-0 MMA) enters the UFC at only 4-0 as a professional mixed martial artist. Despite the lack of experience, “Da Don” put on a patient yet brutal performance at Dana White’s Contenders Series back in September. A vicious, highlight reel, head kick KO win that had UFC president White’s jaw on the floor was enough to secure the UFC contract for Nchukwi. Oftentimes when fighters compete on Contenders Series so early into their pro careers, it will simply be a case where they need to go back to the regional scene to gain more seasoning and experience.
Not in Tafon Nchuwki’s case.
UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard emphasized to Dana White that Nchuwki was ready for the big show right now. At UFC Vegas 17, Tafon Nchukwi makes his UFC debut versus fellow Contenders Series alum Jamie Pickett (11-4 MMA). The bout will be contested at 185 pounds, a full weight class, and 20 pounds below Nchukwi’s most recent fight.
Tafon “Da Don” Nchukwi moved from Cameroon to Maryland in the United States, and is fully dedicated to achieving his dream of becoming a world champion and providing a better life for his family. A training partner of UFC featherweight and Nigerian-born Sodiq Yusuff, Nchuwki is surrounded by like-minded individuals inside and outside the gym all striving for the same goals. My point is, Nchukwi has the “right people” around him.
In this matchup versus Jamie Pickett, I think Nchukwi will lead the dance with his patient yet explosive fighting style. One thing I noticed about Pickett on tape was he does his best when he’s the aggressor. I do not believe that Nchukwi will allow Pickett to go first. In Pickett’s bout versus Punahele Soriano on Contenders Series, the Hawaiian didn’t win by being the more technical fighter. Soriano won by straightforwardly being the tougher guy.
I think not only will Tafon Nchukwi be the better fighter, but he’ll also be the tougher guy too. While I don’t expect there to be too many hairy moments, these are still big boys that hit hard and anything can happen. If “stuff” gets real, as they like to say, expect Nchukwi to be the fighter willing to dig deeper in those spots. While one could make the argument for Pickett winning due to his experience, I will side with the fighter I think is more equipped to hang in the UFC for the long run. And that’s Tafon Nchukwi.
At slightly over -300, Nchukwi is a solid parlay leg on a card filled with 50/50 fights.
Anthony Pettis (-227)
Former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (23-10 MMA, 10-9 UFC) faces off with tough Texan Alex Morono (18-6 MMA, 7-3-1 UFC) in the main card opener at UFC Vegas 17. Despite mixed results ever since his first title defense against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181 in 2014, Pettis has fought nothing but the elite of the elite throughout three weight classes; 145, 155, and 170.
We’re talking about a guy in Anthony “Showtime” Pettis who has the Jiu Jitsu skill to submit Charles Oliveira, and the striking prowess to knock out “Wonderboy.”
For Pettis, consistency is key. While he is not consistently winning every fight, he is consistently fighting the best possible competition available.
In all of Anthony “Showtime” Pettis 19 UFC fights, he has never once fought either a non-ranked fighter or a non-legend. Now for his 20th fight with the MMA leader, Pettis faces Alex Morono. While this fight certainly seems like a step down on paper for Pettis, we definitely cannot disrespect Morono, who has quietly paid his dues inside the octagon.
Alex Morono has a path to victory if he can weather an early storm, put the pressure on a fatigued Pettis in the later rounds, and unload with volume. That being said, I simply feel as if Anthony Pettis is the better fighter across the board. While Morono could get ahead on output, I see Pettis landing the more meaningful shots throughout the fight and having the bigger moments.
Talk is cheap, but I absolutely love the things I’ve been hearing from Pettis in the lead up to this fight. Pettis publicly stated that he’s been seeing a sports psychologist for the last year, and that speaking with a professional has absolutely had a positive impact on his mental game. He also claimed to be fully sober from marijuana and alcohol for the last several months. It is very encouraging to hear that upon entering his 20th fight with the UFC, Pettis is still seeking growth and personal development.
Although many see this as a dog or pass situation, I’m not sure I agree. Fighters still have to be on a certain level to beat Anthony Pettis, and I’m not convinced Alex Morono is on that level. I do believe Anthony Pettis has enough left in the tank to win this specific fight. At under -250, “Showtime” makes a worthy parlay leg for a smaller risk play.