Cove alum Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal to headline UFC fight card Saturday night
By TJ MAXWELL
Former Copperas Cove Bulldawgs standout and Cove alum Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal will face the toughest test of his career, just a couple months removed from one of the toughest tests of his life.
Neal was scheduled to fight Neil Magny on August 29 when he became severely ill with sepsis and nearly died after a mysterious infection led to the sepsis.
“Long story short, because I was sick for a minute, it was like a five-day process before I even actually got admitted to the ICU,” Neal said in an interview with MMA Junkie shortly after the ordeal. “Pretty much I had an infection. It’s still really unknown what caused it, but the infection got in my blood stream and then I went into a septic shock. That’s what almost sent me over the edge.”
After two weeks of bedrest and an exhausting rehab, the no. 11-ranked Neal was slated to fight no. 5 Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the co-main event tomorrow night, but when the main event was cancelled, the Neal vs. Thompson fight was moved to the headline spot for tomorrow night’s UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Neal to be aired on ESPN+. The prelims begin at 3 p.m. with the main event scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.
Neal now has an opportunity to put himself in the mix for a Welterweight title if he can get a win over one of the division’s top prospects in the main event tomorrow night.
“The goal is to fight for the belt and that’s the only goal,” Neal said is his prefight interview. “I’ve won seven fights in a row, five in the UFC and all of them have been finishes but one. I don’t come to just win by decision or point-fight. I’m aggressive, I have power, and I come to finish.”
The fight was slated to be the co-main event to the Leon Edwards-Khamzat Chimaev bout on the last card of the year, but Edwards reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 moving Thompson and Neal into the top slot.
Neal knows this is his opportunity to put his hat in the ring for a title shot.
“Going into this fight, I feel like I have to win dominantly to get my name out there,” said Neal. “Wonderboy has a name. He’s ranked five and I’m ranked 11. He’s fought for the belt twice, so this is a big step up in competition, but I’m always game for it.
“After I take him out, people will look at me like…this dude’s for real.”
It won’t be an easy task as Wonderboy has his eyes set on another title fights as well.
“I know Wonderboy is trying to fight for the title again, but I have nothing to lose,” said Neal. “I’m not going to shy away. I’m powerful. I could end the fight in one punch. Nobody’s that elusive where they can’t be punched. I’ll find my way in, I’ll find my opening, and I’ll find my shot.
“All his flashy technique is not going to matter. I’m going to take the fight to him and I’m going to make him feel my power.”
Wonderboy has his own thoughts on the fight.
“Geoff Neal’s an up-and-coming prospect for sure, but he’s got to get through me to get to that title and I’m not letting it happen,” he said. “This is a huge opportunity for me to show the UFC that I’m not just a gatekeeper and I can still make that title run.”