UFC news: Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov targeted for 2023 opener – MMA Junkie

geoff neal shavkat rakhmonov

A top welterweight contender fight is nearing finalization for the first UFC card of 2023.

Contenders Geoff Neal and Shavkat Rakhmonov have agreed to a three-round welterweight fight Jan. 14 at a location and venue to be announced, but likely to be the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Contracts are not yet signed, but are expected to be issued and inked in the coming days.

Two people with knowledge of the targeted booking recently informed MMA Junkie of the matchup but asked to remain anonymous since the promotion has yet to make an official announcement.

The matchup comes days after Neal (15-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) and Rakhmonov (16-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) exchanged tweets. Rakhmonov initially accused Neal of avoiding the matchup. Neal then responded he and his team reached out to the UFC to specifically ask for the matchup.

Geoff Neal took exception to Shavkat Rakhmonov’s claim of avoiding a UFC showdown. ? pic.twitter.com/qnUOF8N6dT

— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) October 6, 2022

Neal, 32, rides a two-fight winning streak into the matchup. In August, he largely dominated Vicente Luque en route to a third-round TKO victory. Other key UFC victories include Belal Muhammad, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Niko Price and Mike Perry.

Rakhmonov, 27, widely is regarded as one of the welterweight division’s top rising talents. As a result, he and his team have expressed frustration with finding opponents. Rakhmonov has four finishes in as many UFC appearances. The most recent was a submission of perennial contender Neil Magny in June.

With the addition, the UFC Fight Night lineup for Jan. 14 includes:

  • Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nassourdine Imavov
  • Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
  • Jimmy Flick vs. Jeff Molina
  • Carlos Hernandez vs. Allan Nascimento