Well-rounded -- and extremely active -- Welterweight, Neil Magny, is set to battle with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 winner, Kelvin Gastelum, this Saturday (Nov. 21, 2015) inside Monterrey Arena in Monterrey, Mexico.
Magny has fought so frequently in the last couple years that most have forgotten, but Magny did not do well in his first year in UFC. He was fairly successful on TUF, but he lost two of his three fights in his first year inside the Octagon.
Nowadays, most fighters in his position would be released.
Luckily, that wasn't the case, as Magny has more than proved his worth and potential. He rattled off a seven-fight win streak following those losses, looking better and better despite the increasing level of competition. He came up short against Demian Maia, but that's more than excusable, and he bounced back quickly to trounce Erick Silva.
Let's take a closer look at the Elevation Fight Team representative's skill set:
Magny has an interesting -- and effective -- style of striking. Magny's stand up ability is likely the most improved aspect of his game across his time in UFC, becoming a far sharper boxer and his improvement between fights is obvious.
There are a few integral parts to Magny's kickboxing that have to be noted. For one, he's a very long fighter and makes solid use of it. While Magny does occasionally step too deep into his punches and leave himself out there, Magny has quickly become adept at controlling the range and picking at his opponent with straight punches.
In addition, Magny keeps a very high output. He trains at elevation, which is clearly a major benefit to his conditioning. In many of his fights, the early rounds are closely contested, but Magny will pull ahead late thanks to his conditioning, and his high volume helps contribute to that.
Finally, Magny boasts a fair amount of power. Most lengthy strikers who rely on volume don't also punch with power, but Magny puts a fair amount of weight behind his punches and has sent multiple opponents stumbling to the mat. This is particularly true for Magny's cross, which commonly follows his jab.
Operating primarily out of the Orthodox stance, Magny's lead hand is very active. He's constantly pumping out a solid jab, which he'll commonly double or triple up on when trying to close in on his opponent. Additionally, Magny will commonly occupy one of his opponent's hands or merely slap at his opponent's hand from range.
While the jab does do damage, all of Magny's lead hand activity primarily serves to distract his opponent and force a reaction. Depending on that reaction, Magny will attack appropriately, as his length gives him plenty of time to easily read his opponent's movements.
This was on display repeatedly in Magny's bout with Erick Silva, who's infamous for loading up on potential knockout punches. From the edge of Magny's jab/handfighting, Silva would often try to fire an overhand or long hook. Magny, well aware that he was out of range, would lean back slightly -- it never hurts to be careful -- and return more punches while Silva was out of position.
On one such occasion, Silva telegraphed the punch so obviously that Magny intercepted with a beautiful knee.
Alternatively, Magny found great success with his uppercut. That's not a common attack for Magny, but he recognized that Silva kept ducking down underneath the jab and staying low. That's the benefit of Magny's active lead hand: It allows him to read his opponent's defense and find the holes.
Besides his work on the outside, Magny is a very effective clinch striker. Once he works his way inside -- which is actually common, as Magny's length also helps in close quarters -- he relentlessly hunts for the takedown and rips into his opponent's body with knees.
Though he does not have a wrestling background, Magny is nonetheless a very capable wrestler. When his above average takedown skills are combined with his excellent conditioning and grinding pace, he suddenly becomes pretty effective.
Most of the time, Magny scores his takedowns from the clinch. His length is a major advantage, as it allows him to really cinch up body locks with a fair bit of leverage. From there, Magny will either muscle his opponent to the mat or look for an outside trip.
Another favorite technique of Magny's is to reach all the way around his opponent's back and secure a wrist-ride on the far arm. This allows Magny to take his opponent's back, as it usually forces his foe to turn away. Otherwise, Magny can land hard punches or elbows with his free hand to his opponent's unprotected face.
Once Magny gets on top and secures a dominant position, he's at his most dangerous. Prior to losing to Maia, Magny finished three straight fights largely via top control and ground striking.
When Magny moves into the mount of back mount, his length becomes a tremendous advantage. Magny will flatten pressure in with his hips and make himself heavy, which flattens his opponent and limits his ability to move. While being long definitely helps here, the true benefit is that Magny can somewhat posture up while keeping his hips in. This allows him the distance to land long, powerful ground strikes.
Defensively, Magny is also well-above average. Usually, his style of striking keeps him far away from his opponent's shot or deep in the clinch, which is an area where he is strong. The exception to this is if his opponent can time a shot as Magny looks to move into the clinch, then he's in poor position to defend.
A lot of people blamed Magny's loss to Maia on poor defensive wrestling/jiu-jitsu, neither of which is true. The fact of the matter is that Maia is simply a very bad match up for Magny. Defensively, Magny relies equally on his ability to sprawl and scramble back to his feet. He's quite good in both areas, which is enough to repel the wrestling of a vast majority of 170-pound fighters.
Unfortunately, that well-rounded style of counter wrestling isn't likely to work on a specialist like Maia. Maia commits 100 percent of his energy and body weight to scoring the takedown, so it takes an absolute iron wall to stop his shot. Then, Maia has perhaps the best top game in MMA.
Essentially, just because Demain Maia was able to land takedowns and dominate from top position does not mean that a skilled wrestler like Kelvin Gastelum will be able to.
Magny is not the most active in terms of hunting for submissions, but the brown belt certainly does utilize jiu-jitsu during his fights. Usually, it comes in the form of his top game.
As mentioned, Magny is devastating from dominant positions, but getting to those spots is the difficult part. To that end, Magny is rather skilled at working through his opponent's guard.
One of the more common ways Magny passes his opponents guards is to stretch them out from half guard. By keeping his weight high on the head, Magny can kick and push free his remaining leg that's still trapped. Alternatively, Magny will attack with the kimura, which can force his opponent to open up their half guard to defend. Then, Magny can use that distraction to pass.
Defensively, I was actually quite impressed with how Magny defended himself against Maia. As Maia looked to pass, Magny defended in the correct way and tried to time his explosions to cause scrambles in an intelligent fashion.
It just didn't matter. Maia -- as well as Sergio Moraes, who submitted Magny early in his UFC career -- is one of the best grapplers in the world. Sometimes, doing everything right isn't enough to stop an expert of his craft.
In his last bout, Magny faced off with a very dangerous grappler in Erick Silva. Silva is a nasty submission fighter that's quick to jump on the back, but Magny defended himself well, transitioning into a single leg takedown and using it to stand up.
Best Chance For Success
In this bout, Magny only has one clear advantage: His conditioning. Gastelum has had problems with his weight in the past and is known to eat poorly, which affects his gas tank more than anything else.
Magny, on the other hand, can push an extremely fast pace without slowing a bit. He needs to do that here, as this is a five-round fight. By keeping his volume high and denying Gastelum an opportunity to rest, Magny can shift the fight into his advantage.
Plus, the usual advantages of throwing a lot of strikes is there as well. Gastelum -- while not weak defensively -- is an aggressive fighter who is there to be hit. The more strikes Magny fires off, the more opportunities he creates to connect with Gastelum's chin.
Will Neil Magny pull off another short-notice victory or can Gastelum make a successful return to welterweight?