Neil Magny and Kelvin Gastelum: How Far Will They Go?

Neil Magny and Kelvin Gastelum fought a back-and-forth contest in Monterrey, Mexico at UFC Fight Night 78, but the split decision verdict could have gone to either man. In the end though, the +225 underdog Neil Magny stole the hometown thunder from Kelvin Gastelum. While both Magny and Gastelum had noteworthy performances, the question lies in whether the welterweights have a future among the elite at 170 lbs or not.

Kelvin Gastelum

It wasn’t until the fourth round of his bout with Magny that Gastelum seemed willing to be the aggressive powerhouse slugger many know him to be. While he dropped Neil Magny twice in the fourth round, and prompted what seemed to be a courageous comeback, it was too little too late according to the judges. Maybe he had doubts about his cardio and thus held back early, but technically speaking he looked off; he was never able to let his punches flow, but instead seemed to load up for the knockout shot which never came. In the grappling department, Gastelum gave up his back several times, and was taken down more times in this fight than in his entire UFC career. It was not the break-through performance that Kelvin Gastelum needed after his previous weight mishaps. Now, he has been set back a peg and knocked down the ladder at 170 lbs.

VerdictKelvin Gastelum showed up in the best shape of his UFC career, but his technical skills weren’t there. He was able to showcase blistering punching power and a few explosive transitions on the ground, but his relaxed pacing and lack of opportunistic combinations plagued him on the scorecards. Kelvin Gastelum has the tools to be one of the best in the division, and even a champion, but right now he has too many holes in his game for that to happen. Luckily for him, he’s still relatively young in the sport, so he has time to do what he needs to be a future champion.

Neil Magny

Neil Magny, the split decision winner, looked ultra-impressive in the early going against Kelvin Gastelum. Not only did he piece together clean, crisp punching combinations moving forward, but he dominated in the clinch and grappling department – an area that he has struggled with in the past. Magny took Gastelum down six times, established dominant positions, and seemed to break Gastelum’s spirit via a high work rate. However, his lack of striking defense stuck out in the fourth round when he was dropped twice by Gastelum’s punches – the first behind a looping lead right, and the other being a left hook. It seemed as if Magny got a litle too relaxed late in the fight and gave Gastelum the fuel he needed to put a closing statement on the fight.

Verdict: Even though Magny walked away the victor, he showed he could improve his striking defense and focus throughout 25-minute contests. High activity has been Neil Magny’s way of life ever since coming into the UFC, and I expect him to finally pick up some high-profile match ups now that he has fought and won in his first UFC main event. Currently ranked 9th at welterweight, Neil Magny has the potential to go even further up the rankings, but I don’t see Magny breaking into the top 5 unless he can make drastic improvements to his striking defense.

About Casey Hodgin

Casey is a passionate MMA writer and journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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