Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight standouts Kelvin Gastelum and Neil Magny will scrap TONIGHT (Nov. 21, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 78 inside Arena Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico.
After several weight cutting mishaps and a brief trip to Middleweight, Gastelum is back at 170 pounds. Prior to his botched cut opposite Tyron Woodley, Gastelum had proven himself a Top 10 contender and was looking to regain that status.
On the other hand, Magny has been the definition of consistency. He's won eight of his last nine fights and continues to improve at an impressive rate, which begs the question as to where his ceiling lies.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both combatants:
Key Wins: Rick Story (UFC 171), Jake Ellenberger (UFC 180), Uriah Hall (TUF 17 Finale)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 183)
Keys to Victory: Though he's just 24 years old, Gastelum is already a well-rounded and dangerous finisher. He splits his finishes evenly as well, securing four wins by knockout and four via submission.
In this bout, pressure is the name of the game. Magny is a very long and tall fighter, and Gastelum cannot let him dictate range and play an outside game.
Instead, Gastelum needs to be walking his opponent down and cutting off the cage. Magny may be lanky, but his style of striking isn't really to circle about and score points -- he's an aggressive fighter in his own right.
If Gastelum is effectively cutting off the cage, Magny has a few options, but they should play into Gastelum's hands quite well. Should Magny allow himself to be bullied around and fight with his back to the cage, he's basically handing the fight away.
The more likely move for Magny is to return fire and force Gastelum to back off. That's not a bad strategy, but Gastelum can counter by blasting a double leg through his opponent, who's sometimes vulnerable while moving forward.
And once Gastelum is on top, he's simply ruthless.
Key Wins: Erick Silva (UFC Fight Night 74), Hyun Gyu Lim (UFC Fight Night 66), Tim Means (UFC Fight Night 40)
Key Losses: Demian Maia (UFC 190), Sergio Moraes (UFC 163)
Keys to Victory: One of the most active men on the roster, Magny has done a remarkable job filling the holes in his game since he first joined the Octagon. In just about two and a half years, Magny has become a far sharper boxer, stronger wrestler, and more dangerous submission fighter, all while going through a dozen training camps.
While these two have some stylistic and physical differences, their overall strategies are similar. Both athletes prefer to pressure their opponents and break them down with a good volume of strikes and takedowns. In addition, while neither is a counter fighter, the two athletes are perfectly willing to stand their ground and exchange rather than back away.
In a match up of two fighters with this style, the man moving forward has a definitive advantage, as that's his usual game. Magny has to make sure he's that fighter, as he's likely in for a lot of takedowns heading his way otherwise.
In addition, if Gastelum is forced to fight from his back foot against Magny's high volume style, it will slow him down. This is especially true if Gastelum has been lazy with his diet, but either way, it greatly benefits Magny to be the one moving forward and throwing plenty of strikes.
Bottom Line: This is a match up of -- in my opinion -- two of the most overlooked Welterweight fighters on the roster. Gastelum has the potential to hold the belt, and Magny's consistency and improvement has been remarkable.
And, if you don't care about all that, this is almost certain to be an excellent fight.
This is Gastelum's opportunity to reassert himself as a top contender. Prior to his split decision loss to Woodley, there was talk of Gastelum earning a title shot with a victory. For his age and level of experience, that's a pretty impressive accomplishment on its own, and Gastelum can return to that high point if he's successful here.
On the other hand, a loss could mean a couple things. If Gastelum performs well, but Magny is simply the better man tonight, then it's not a huge deal. As mentioned, he's still young and has plenty of time to grow. However, if Gastelum shows up out of shape or misses weight, it will be hugely disappointing.
Similarly, this is a big opportunity for Magny. Gastelum is a really tough fighter -- he very nearly beat No. 2-ranked Tyron Woodley after being rushed to the hospital days earlier -- and would be the biggest win of Magny's career. In addition to pushing Magny into the Top 10, a win here could earn him another high-profile fight ... or even a title eliminator.
Alternatively, a loss here would make it two of his last three, which is the risk with taking short-notice fights. That's certainly not good, but Magny's active schedule and improvement could allow him to recover quickly and build a new streak.
At UFC Fight Night 78, Kelvin Gastelum and Neil Magny will throw down in the main event. Which fighter will have his hand raised?