UFC Fight Night: Gastelum vs. Magny is in the books and I am so glad it is, because this card just dragged on forever. Every main card bout went the distance, and only the top two fights were consistently entertaining to watch. The big result out of this event was Neil Magny's upset win over Kelvin Gastelum in the headliner. Magny had built up a 3-0 lead after the first 15 minutes, but Gastelum stormed back strongly in round 4 and nearly finished Magny on multiple occasions. Round 5 for Gastelum wasn't enough to overcome the deficit, and Magny will end the year with his 9th (!) win since last year.
It wasn't the prettiest performance by any means, but Magny has solidified himself as a top 10 talent, which is phenomenal when you consider he lost back-to-back fights to Sergio Moraes and Seth Baczynski in 2013. He's been on a Cerrone-esque schedule since then, and has racked up the wins and only come up short against Demian Maia (how great does that win look for Maia now?). He's also won several fights on late notice, including this one vs. Gastelum and in August against Erick Silva. I can't wait to see how he's booked for next year.
More thoughts on tonight's show:
- Gastelum didn't look bad at all, but I was surprised at how he was physically overwhelmed and seemingly unprepared for Magny pressuring him. Credit to him for adjusting in the later rounds, but this at least pumps the breaks on hailing him as a potential title challenger. There's still plenty to work on, and I can see the UFC re-routing him off the fast-track towards the elite in response to his performance. That he made 170 lbs and didn't gas out at the end is a positive sign that under new nutritionist George Lockhart, issues about which weight class he'll be in should be squashed.
- PLEASE kill the 6-fight main card format once and for all. UFC Fight Nights on FS1 take an eternity even when there are a bunch of finishes, never mind a 100% decision streak like we saw this evening. I'd like to see no more than 5 fights on the main card and everything else on Fight Pass. All things considered, the UFC cards on big FOX have the best set-up, mainly because the main card starts at 8 PM ET and doesn't have the potential to drag into an East Coast sunrise.
- Diego Sanchez looked better than any other version of Diego we've seen since about 2009. He clearly lost against Ricardo Lamas, but his striking was less, shall we say, windmilling, and he had some fun scrambles with Lamas on the ground. Sanchez of course gave us a vintage Diego moment when he was clearly hobbled on one leg after getting buckled with hard low kicks, then egged Lamas to come towards him. Ricardo proceeded to throw very few kicks at that damaged leg the rest of the final round. Anyway, no need to put Diego out to pasture just yet, as he was as competitive as one could hope against a top 10 caliber featherweight.
- Henry Cejudo all but assured himself of a flyweight title shot with a very good performance against Jussier Formiga. His striking continues to improve and he ate Formiga's best shots. I have no idea why one judge had it 29-28 Formiga, but hey, since Diego Sanchez didn't get his usual absurd card in his favor, I guess this had to happen instead. Cejudo should face Demetrious Johnson next, and while I don't know if he has what it takes to beat Mighty Mouse now, but there's no real argument for anyone else to get the next shot.
- Enrique Barzola bloodied up Horacio Gutierrez to become the TUF Latin America 2 lightweight winner, while Erick Montano got a decision win over Enrique Marin to capture the welterweight tournament. Barzola was the more impressive of the two new TUF champions, but neither fight was particularly memorable.
- Efrain Escudero vs. Leandro Silva was rotten, and perhaps that's not surprising considering how most Silva fights have played out. Combine this with me keeping an eye on Guillermo Rigondeaux's even worse "fight" on the Cotto vs. Canelo PPV, and it's a miracle I didn't just go straight to bed and call it a night. Silva pretty clearly won rounds 1 and 3, while Escudero took round 2, and we'll leave it at that.
- Erik Perez and Taylor Lapilus had a really fun back-and-forth fight, with Perez rallying from a slow start to win a deserved unanimous decision. Perez gets a much-needed win, but don't sleep on Lapilus, who was winning many of the striking exchanges but his inexperience was obvious throughout rounds 2 and 3. The guillotine choke after hurting Perez backfired and he lost the rest of the round, and he faded in round 3 and shot for bad takedowns. Either way, I definitely look forward to seeing both men again.
- Bartosz Fabinski beat Hector Urbina in a stinker of a fight and we really don't need to expand on this at all.
- I know he said/wanted otherwise, but Scott Jorgensen should've been prevented from fighting the moment he was limping away at the end of round 1 vs. Alejandro Perez. His left ankle was badly damaged and he couldn't stand properly for the whole of round 2. The referee didn't stop it, and Jorgensen's corner was acting like fighting on one foot was a badge of honor and they just kept giving him strategy advice that he was physically incapable of executing. It was uncomfortable to watch and I don't see why it needed to last that long. Ideally, Jorgensen would've tapped out much earlier, but he's too tough (for his own good) to do that, and I can't recall too many fighters who have been praised for tapping out to strikes or injury. Post-fight, he told the corner and ref not to stop the fight, and ... well, they granted his request. Is it perhaps a case of irreparably breaking corner-fighter trust when faced with decisions such as this? This underscores a key difference between boxing and MMA, as the former is way more likely to see cornermen call off a fight when they're getting destroyed or aren't in a position to continue for another round.
- We're probably not going to see Jorgensen fight again in the UFC, and that's a bummer but there's no more beating around the bush. His physical tools have sharply declined and his body is breaking down. A shame, because he was entertaining in the WEC and in his early UFC career, but he's just not close to the "Young Guns" of yesteryear.
- Andre Fili looked sharp against Gabriel Benitez and capped off a fine performance by starching Benitez with a head kick and punches. Benitez was already rocked the first time just a minute or so earlier, and the next time Fili went upstairs he ruthlessly finished him. Fili is still just 25 and 6 years into his career, so while he's yet to have any consistent UFC success, he's still a solid prospect worth watching.
- Fight Pass prelims recap: I was in Manhattan all day and returned home in time for the end of Valmir Lazaro and Michel Prazeres. In hindsight, I probably could've taken a later train instead of rushing back to watch the "action." Apparently Prazeres won an undeserved decision, but nobody actually cared because the fight was that bad. However, Marco Polo Reyes woke the crowd up by putting Cezar Arzamendia to sleep in the 1st round of their contest. It was a fun, sloppy as hell fight, and a gassed Arzamendia got drilled with a huge left. Alvaro Herrera made Vernon Ramos fall just about on his face, which caused Dan Miragliotta to spring into action and stop it probably earlier than it should've.
- The UFC needs to quit making these horrific GIFs and posting them on Twitter. They look like somebody's 6-page flipbook. It's embarrassing.