Neal looks to crack top 15 with fifth UFC win
By TJ MAXWELL
Any sports fan from the greater Copperas Cove area has heard of Robert Griffin III, Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Shereka Wright.
Another name you will soon know well is Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal as the 2008 Copperas Cove graduate looks to earn his fifth-straight win in the UFC tomorrow night on Pay Per View when he fights on the main card of UFC 240 Holloway vs Edgar.
The Cove alum will likely break the Welterweight Top 15 if he can notch a win over veteran Niko “The Hybrid” Price two fights before the main event of Max Holloway vs Frankie Edgar.
Neal earned his way into the UFC with a win over Chase Waldon in the Tuesday Night Contender Series before reeling off three-consecutive wins to briefly crack the Top 15 before being leap-frogged by Vincente Luque.
Neal then submitted Brian Camozzi 2:48 into the first round of his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night Cowboy vs Madeiros on Feb. 18.
Neal then landed the kick heard around the world in his knockout win over Frank Camacho on Sept. 8.
In his last fight, Neal went the distance against veteran Belal Muhammad in a three-round brawl that resulted in a Neal decision.
Neal (11-2) will face his toughest test yet when he battles Price at UFC 240 at Rogers Place arena in Edmonton, Canada.
The veteran Price enters with a 13-2 record with one no contest.
“I feel like we match up well,” Neal said during an interview with Colin Crandall on MMM Power Hour. “We both have the same mentality going into the fight. We both like to fight and we’re both going to throw punches until somebody falls. My advantage is, I’m faster than him, but other than that, it’s going to be a good fight.”
Neal would appear to have the advantage on the feet, but Price would seem to have the advantage in grappling.
Although the win would like springboard Neal into the Top 15, that’s the last thing on his mind.
“I’m just thinking one step at a time,” he said. “Right now, I’m just thinking about Niko Price. He’s not somebody to look past. My goal is to be up there with them, but I have to take care of that problem before I get up there with them.”
He knows it’s not going to be an easy task with the unorthodox Price.
“His fighting style is different,” said Neal. “His punches come from weird angles. They land and they work.
“Even though Belal is better than Niko on paper, Niko is still a dangerous person. He’s a finisher and you can’t sleep on a finisher.”
Despite not having a background in mixed martial arts, Neal quickly found his footing with a busy amateur slate.
“Football was my initial dream,” he said. “I wanted to be a professional football player. I wrestled for one year, but I couldn’t play football and wrestle at the same time. After football ended, I picked up MMA. I had 11 amateur fight and went 10-1. I went pro in 2012 and now we’re here.
“Having a lot of amateur fights really helped me. I came in the sport relatively green. I didn’t grow up taking Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu or wrestling. Having that many amateur fights helped me grow as a fighter.”
Neal has won four-consecutive fights in the UFC after dropping one of his few fights in the Legacy Fighting Alliance championship against now UFC fighter Kevin Holland.
That loss taught Neal a ton.
“Fighting Kevin Holland was a real big learning experience,” Neal said during an interview with The Fight Game YouTube channel. “One, I need to work on my cardio. Two, the vibe he brought in the cage was something I’ve never experienced before, and it really threw me off. He came in the fight so relaxed like he was comfortable. It really opened up my mind. I don’t have to be all tense and in kill mode all the time. You can go in relaxed and still do what you got to do.”
The main card will begin with a middleweight bout between Marc-Andre Barriault vs Krzysztof Jotko followed by lightweight bout Olivier Aubin-Mercer vs Arman Tsarukyan; Neal and Price; women’s featherweight Chris Cyborg vs Felicia Spencer and the main event between Holloway and Edgar.
VFW Post 8577 on Veterans Ave. in Copperas Cove will be one of several local establishments to show the fight.