Making his return to welterweight after a brief foray up at 185 lbs., Gastelum needed to impress in this bout. If he reminded fight fans of his talent, the young wrestler would be back at the top of the rankings before long.
Magny, on the other hand, had proved how remarkably consistent he was prior to this bout, and this was not an exception. As the short-notice replacement yet again, Magny was hoping to surprise Gastelum with his ever-improving game.
He did just that, at least early on.
Gastelum pressured his opponent to start the fight, opening up with a few heavy low kicks. Despite Magny's attempts to maintain range, Gastelum was soon able to work inside and land some heavy shots.
However, Magny flipped the script by moving into the clinch and landing a nice takedown. The two fighers rapidly scrambled and exchanged positions, but Magny eventually landed in the back mount and was able control his opponent for a decent portion of the round.
While he never closed in on a finish, Magny's time in dominant position definitely earned him the opening round.
Looking to shift the momentum, Gastelum attacked his opponent with punches and drove him into the fence immediately to start the round. After the two traded positions in the clinch, the fight moved back into the center.
In the open, both fighters were landing. Gastelum forced Magny to cover up against the fence and unloaded, while Magny did an excellent job landing his straight punches in combination when Gastelum tried to back away. Additionally, Magny sealed the round for himself by out-working Gastelum in both the clinch and scrambles, which allowed him to really control his opponent towards the end of the round.
Heading into the third, Gastelum really needed to change something up to avoid clinching with his opponent.
Gastelum tried to start quickly again, but Magny stymied his attack by forcing a clinch exchange. Gastelum broke away and returned to his range striking, though his opponent's successful takedowns were definitely making him a bit more hesitant.
Unfortunately, Gastelum's forward movement often landed him in the clinch anyway. Though he was able to negate most of Magny's takedowns in this round and even finished in top position, Magny simply threw more than his opponent.
Overall, it was a very close round, very different from the two clear wins for Magny.
Gastelum entered the fourth round with a bit of spring in his step, as he did far better in the third than the previous two rounds. This new confidence quickly rewarded itself, as Gastelum caught Magny with a long hook that sent his opponent to the canvas.
Gastelum swarmed his opponent on the mat, but Magny recovered well and scrambled back to his feet. On the stand up, Gastelum cracked his opponent with another hook that dropped Magny. Again, Gastelum followed him to the mat and looked for his usual rear naked choke, but Magny defended himself very well enough to survive into the fifth.
Still, it was clearly Gastelum's round, and the most dominant of the night.
Magny immediately tried to move the fight into the clinch, but his forward movement allowed Gastelum to duck down and score with a takedown. Magny took some nice shots from the guard, but he used a triangle attempt to stand up after about a minute on the bottom.
Back on their feet, Gastelum pursued his opponent relentless. The abuse he took in the fourth definitely took something out of Magny, as he was rather fatigued despite his excellent conditioning. Gastelum, meanwhile, kept up a good volume of shots, looking to take his opponent's head off. Then, he reversed a takedown attempt from his opponent to land in top position to end the fight.
Regardless of the winner, this was a tremendous and high-level fight that both men impressed in. Ultimately, two of the three judges awarded Magny the victory.
Magny put on a really strong performance in this bout. He did a tremendous job turning his opponent's offense into a chance to land the takedown, and -- perhaps more importantly -- was able to win a majority of the scrambles.
In addition, Magny's volume really helped him control the fight. On the outside, Gastelum was never truly comfortable, which often led him to force the clinch. From there, Magny was once again in control and able to force the fight to go his way.
Though Magny's conditioning didn't appear to help him in any major way -- seeing as how he clearly lost the championship rounds -- it actually saved his ass. Magny got badly rocked twice in the fourth round, and he was only able to recover and scramble efficiently because of his excellent cardio.
If Magny's conditioning wasn't so excellent, he probably would've been finished then and there.
For a 24 year old fighter, Gastelum's ability to adjust halfway through the fight was incredible. After getting worked in the clinch -- which is usually an area of expertise for the young wrestler -- Gastelum was forced to completely change up how he attacked.
Otherwise, he was in for a beating.
Gastelum began that change in the third round, and that's why it was the closest of the fight. As he continued making adjustments, his success grew, climaxing in the fourth round with a pair of knockdowns.
Though he's undoubtedly disappointed in the loss, this is perhaps the best result for Gastelum as a fighter. Magny revealed a couple areas that Gastelum needs to improve upon -- namely his defensive boxing and clinch work -- but also showed Gastelum how effective his new dedication to training has been. Gastelum fought for five hard rounds and overcame adversity, and he was only able to do that thanks to his training.
The sky is still the limit for Gastelum. Following this bout, there's no reason for Gastelum to take a major step back in competition, so a fight with Thiago Alves would make sense.
Last night, Neil Magny came out on top of an excellent battle with Kelvin Gastelum. Can Magny make his way to a title shot?
For complete UFC Fight Night 78 "Gastelum vs Magny" results and play-by-play click HERE!