The UFC 296 main event, featuring Leon Edwards and Colby Covington, left much to be desired, failing to live up to the intense pre-fight hype. Even welterweight contender Geoff Neal, who has flirted with the top 10 rankings, expressed disappointment and contemplated changing the channel during the lackluster encounter.
Despite the heated trash talk leading up to the bout, Covington, a former All-American wrestler, struggled to assert himself against Edwards. The fight unfolded with Edwards dominating from a distance and even executing takedowns against his decorated opponent, resulting in unanimous 49-46 scorecards in his favor. Neal, however, found little to be impressed with from either the champion or challenger.
Expressing his disappointment on The MMA Hour, Neal revealed his desire for a more competitive and action-packed fight. Watching at Buffalo Wild Wings, he was tempted to leave in the fourth round due to the lack of excitement. Neal, who is set to return at UFC 299 against Ian Machado Garry, has been on the cusp of the top 10 but is yet to secure a title shot. Despite victories over Vicente Luque and Santiago Ponzinibbio, he acknowledges the need for a more decisive win after a Fight of the Night loss to Shavkat Rakhmonov.
Looking ahead, Neal aims to dispatch Machado Garry in March and hopes for at least two more fights in 2024 to re-enter the title conversation. Confidence exudes from Neal as he believes he has what it takes to become a champion, particularly after witnessing the shortcomings of Edwards and Covington.
While Neal recognizes he’s not at the division’s summit yet, he boasts an impressive UFC resume, including a unanimous decision win over Belal Muhammad in 2019. Neal commends Muhammad’s subsequent 10-fight unbeaten streak and insists he deserves the next title shot. Emphasizing the hard-earned success of his former opponent, Neal is open to a rematch, especially if a championship is on the line.
Appreciating Muhammad’s achievements, Neal acknowledges the difficulty of securing 10 straight wins in the welterweight division. Looking ahead, Neal is ready for any challenge that leads him to the title, irrespective of the opponent.