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Neil Magny-Stephen Thompson UFC Clash Worth Revisiting

Neil Magny
Photo Courtesy of AP

The remarkable resurgence of Neil Magny has finally elevated the UFC welterweight into top-10 territory. He rose four spots to a No. 9 ranking after a hard-fought Fight Night 78 triumph over Kelvin Gastelum. Both talented competitors raised their respective stocks by producing a stirring five-round main event in Monterrey, Mexico.

The 28-year-old Magny was successful in his second consecutive short-notice assignment, and rose to the occasion in his first headlining slot with the promotion. He was forced to dig deep after being decked twice in the fourth-round and would survive Gastelum’s late rally to get the split-decision nod on the judges’ scorecards. The Elevation Fight Team stalwart also netted a Fight of the Night bonus.

Magny has come full circle after being on the chopping block back in 2013 after back-to-back losses to Sergio Moraes and Seth Baczynski. The Season 16 alum of The Ultimate Fighter has gone 9-1 since that rough patch and has climbed the ladder by showcasing his well-rounded game. His only blemish during this impressive 10-fight stretch was a submission loss to jiu-jitsu specialist Demian Maia at UFC 190 in Brazil. Magny has recorded other notable victories over Erick Silva, Hyun Gyu Lim and Tim Means in emerging as a legitimate welterweight threat.

While Magny’s triumphant ways continued in Monterrey, it may have come at a price. He’s looking at an extended medical suspension of up to 180 days for a left hand injury. Magny will be able to return prior to that time with doctor’s clearance, and an x-ray will determine the severity of the injury. Six months would be an extraordinary amount of time for Magny to sit out, given that he’s proven to be one of the most active fighters in the organization. He’s made a whopping 10 appearances in the last two years and has proven to be extremely durable.

When Magny is eligible to return, matchmakers should give consideration to rebooking a clash with fellow top-10 contender Stephen Thompson. They had initially been set for a showdown at UFC 195 in early January but those plans changed when Magny got the call to face Gastelum. There hasn’t been any announcement on a new opponent for Thompson for the Jan. 2 event in Las Vegas.

In examining the current welterweight landscape, most of the current top-15 competitors are either booked into fights or on the mend from injuries. While Magny and Thompson have been on solid runs of late, it would appear as though a top-five opponent could be too big a leap for their next assignments. Neither has faced the type of ferocity that current champion Robbie Lawler, former champion Johny Hendricks or former interim titlist Carlos Condit bring to the Octagon. They’ve been honing their skills for years against elite competition. They’d also likely be decided underdogs against the likes of Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley.

There’s little doubt that Magny vs. Thompson would loom as a highly intriguing showdown between two fighters making major strides in a tough division. Magny’s volume output and immense reach would get a stern test against the No. 8-ranked Thompson. “Wonderboy” has a dynamic and diverse striking attack. With both men seemingly a win or two away from going after the division’s biggest names, a clash between the two seems a good fit at this stage of their careers. Both surging, motivated competitors would likely bring out the best in one another.

The 32-year-old Thompson is currently on a five-fight win streak and is coming off an explosive first-round finish of veteran Jake Ellenberger at the TUF 21 Finale. The kickboxing ace has gone 6-1 during his Octagon tenure with that lone setback coming against Matt Brown. Thompson has produced a number of highlight-reel finishes with the head kick being his most dangerous weapon. He’s earned three Fight Night bonuses and also owns other notable wins against Patrick Cote and Robert Whittaker.

The UFC’s welterweight division is certainly one of the most talent-laden ones in the entire organization. Jockeying for top-10 position is a tough chore and Magny and Thompson have put in the hard work to try and establish themselves as serious players. They’re more than ready to test one another to see who can take the next major step in their progression. Magny vs. Thompson would be a compelling affair with the meshing of their vastly differing styles. It’s a fight that matchmakers should explore again for 2016.

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