MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN 20, a five-round welterweight bout between Neil Magny and Michael Chiesa. The event takes place on Wednesday, January 20 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Neil Magny (-140)
Magny (24-7) is the No. 9 ranked welterweight in the UFC. The 33-year-old American has been in the UFC since 2013 and is 17-6 overall in the promotion. Some of his most notable victories have come over Kelvin Gastelum, Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks, Tim Means, Hector Lombard, and in his last fight, a dominant decision win over Robbie Lawler. Magny has an 80″ reach and with that length, he has been able to achieve an incredible amount of success inside the Octagon. Not only does Magny have a volume-heavy striking attack, but he’s also shown huge improvements in his grappling in recent years. He also has incredible cardio. The one thing holding him back historically has been his chin, but that’s not something he will have to worry about facing a grappler in Chiesa.
Michael Chiesa (+120)
Chiesa (17-4) is the No. 8 ranked welterweight in the UFC. The 33-year-old American won TUF 15 in 2012 and has since gone on to rack up a 10-4 record in the Octagon, win notable wins over Al Iaquinta, Rafael dos Anjos, Diego Sanchez, Beneil Dariush, and Jim Miller. After going 7-4 at lightweight, Chiesa realized the weight cut to 155lbs was too hard on his body and he decided to move up to 170lbs in 2018. Since then, Chiesa has gone 3-0 and has dominated some very talented opposition at a heavier weight class. This fight with Magny should tell us a lot about Chiesa as a contender in the UFC welterweight division. If he wins, he could be one win away from a title shot.
Fight Breakdown: I view this as what should be a fairly competitive fight between two well-rounded welterweights who have a lot in common. They’re both 33 years old, they both got their start on TUF, and they’re both blessed with height, length, and reach. That being said, I favor Magny to win this fight. I can’t ignore how much experience he has in this weight class, and he has more experience in five-round fights, something which Chiesa has never done before. Magny also has a five-inch reach advantage (80″ to 75″) and I can’t ignore that, either. I believe he can keep Chiesa at the end of his jab and pull off a vintage Magny performance where he wins a decision. Keep in mind Magny is the master of winning decisions. In the UFC, he’s gone 11-1 when the fight has gone the distance. You have to finish Magny to beat him, and I don’t see Chiesa doing that in this fight. Even if he is able to get the takedown, I don’t believe Chiesa will finish Magny, and I don’t think he can hold him there for 25 minutes. In fact, I think Magny will have a lot more success in the grappling department than some think. As dominant as Chiesa was on the ground against dos Anjos and Sanchez, Magny was equally as dominant against Lawler in every aspect of the game. I expect Chiesa to be durable and go the distance, but at the end of five rounds, I see Magny getting his hand raised for a decision win.
Prediction: Neil Magny (via decision)