Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson battled through adversity to put on a striking masterclass against Geoff Neal in a showcase performance that signified he is still a serious contender for the UFC welterweight title. The 37-year-old former title challenger Thompson (16-4) has now made it back-to-back wins against rising stars of the division in Neal (13-3) and Vicente Luque (19-7). He threw a personal best 140 significant strikes, to Neal’s 108, in Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 17 main event. The American’s resurgence has come on the back of a shock KO defeat in March 2019 by Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (24-10) – himself a winner on this card’s prelims back up at 170 pounds, by decision against Alex Morono (18-7, one no contest). “It feels great man, I’ve been off for a year, broke both hands in my last fight at UFC 244,” Thompson told Daniel Cormier in his post-fight interview on the ESPN+ broadcast. “It’s the longest I’ve been off in the fight game for a while, so just glad to be back.” "I wanna see the NMF vs. the BMF, baby! Let's make that happen." @WonderboyMMA respectfully called for a rematch with @GamebredFighter after #UFCVegas17 pic.twitter.com/1lDM275OUJ — ESPN MMA (@espnmma) December 20, 2020 “‘Wonderboy’ is still here baby, that title, 2021 – I tell you, it’s gonna be mine, just watch and see,” added Thompson, who fought to an incredible draw with former champ Tyron Woodley in 2016 before losing a decision in a rematch. “I was poking at a guy ranked higher than me not too long ago on Twitter, he wasn’t having it, but this is 2-0 now. Ranked No 11, I wanna see the ‘NMF’ vs the ‘BMF’, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson vs Jorge Masvidal II. I know he’s talking about fighting Colby Covington, but we’ll see.” UFC: vintage Aldo shakes off Vera, and calls for Dillashaw Thompson beat Masvidal by unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden in November 2017 after the Woodley loss, and he put on a similar masterclass here to frustrate the 30-year-old “Handz of Steel” Neal and hand him his first taste of defeat in the UFC. A Dana White’s Contender Series alum, Neal had taken out some solid opposition in Belal Muhammad (17-3), Niko Price (14-4, two no contests) and Mike Perry (14-7) in 2019. But 2020 has been a year to forget for the American, who suffered a health scare that forced him out of a fight with Neil Magny (24-8) and into an intensive care unit for seven days in August, revealing he was septic, on dialysis and “almost died”. Neal was looking to get back his momentum but this was a step up in class facing him across the Octagon. An undefeated kick-boxer through 37 amateur and 20 professional matches, Thompson was able to stay on the outside, using his range to land on Neal and get out – despite suffering a nasty cut above his right eye following an accidental headbutt in the opening round. Thompson also had to deal with an increasingly compromised leg that deteriorated throughout the fight and left him limping on it between rounds as it became more swollen. “It was very difficult, it definitely slowed me down,” he added to former two-weight UFC champ Cormier. “I couldn’t straighten it out, it just felt really tight. “I tried to kick with it. He hit me with a really good knee, that could’ve been it. I thought it was from a missed kick. Geoff is a tough opponent, rock solid, every time I hit him he just kept coming.” Sensing Thompson was weakened, Neal pounced and poured on some pressure in the fifth found, letting his hands go and opening up that cut even more. But Thompson – as usual – was able to masterfully stay out of reach, even on one leg, showing his grit and toughness to see out an impressive win.