Neal will be in action for the second time this year when he faces the Argentinian on December 11. In his previous outing, the 31-year-old fell on the wrong side of a decision against fellow contender Neil Magny. His defeat to “The Haitian Sensation” set him on his first losing streak of his 17-fight professional MMA career. He’d lost a five-round main event to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson five months prior.
While Neal looks to bring back the form that had him unbeaten at 5-0 in the UFC, including wins over Belal Muhammad, Niko Price, and Mike Perry, Ponzinibbio will be looking to carry the momentum from his last appearance into the final pay-per-view of 2021.
After returning from a two-year absence with a brutal knockout loss to Li Jingliang in January, the “Argentine Dagger” had his hand raised for the first time since 2018 when he outpointed Miguel Baeza in June. While he looks to make another step up the welterweight ladder, Neal will be looking to use the 35-year-old as a route back to form.
Neal Looks To Return To Sold-Out Arenas In Style
Ahead of his upcoming fight, Neal spoke to MMA News’ James Lynch. “Handz of Steel” said he’s excited to be fighting in front of fans for the first time since December 2019. Having lost twice in the quiet environment of the UFC Apex, Neal believes the energy and sound of the T-Mobile Arena crowd will certainly give him the “motivation” he needs on December 11.
“Those last two performances, I really just didn’t, I dunno, it was like a mental thing. I was in there, I just didn’t care. I was just chilling, you know what I mean. I’ve gotta be more aggressive… I’m so happy that we’re fighting in front of fans. That’s probably gonna play a big dynamic in my motivation and my drive. Fighting in that Apex is boring as fuck, I don’t wanna do that ever again. Hopefully my next fights are all gonna be in (front of) fans, in arenas; I like that uncomfortable feeling of just standing there in front of the crowd screaming. I love that,” Neal told MMA News.
Neal expects to give the crowd an entertaining watch in Las Vegas. Acknowledging Ponzinibbio’s toughness and aggressive style, the Texan told fans to expect fireworks at UFC 269. In his mind, either someone’s getting rendered unconscious or they’re getting left with some heavy damage after a 15-minute war.
“He’s a tough opponent… We match up pretty well. We have kinda the same style. The only thing different is I’m southpaw and he’s orthodox… Honestly, especially this fight, it’s either gonna end in the first round or the second round, or it’s gonna be like, a three-round battle. There’s really no secret to this fight, especially with his style… He’s not gonna wanna shy away and I’m not gonna wanna shy away. I like to come forward, he likes to come forward. So, it’s fireworks. Somebody’s gonna either go to sleep or somebody’s getting hurt.”
Catch our full interview with Geoff Neal ahead of UFC 269 below:
Do you think Geoff Neal will return to the win column against Santiago Ponzinbbio at UFC 269?