When Michael Chiesa announced his plan to move to the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight division, he was greeted by widespread skepticism. Those skeptics have spent the past two years reconsidering their doubts.
Chiesa on Wednesday continued his unexpected march toward contention with a unanimous decision over Neil Magny in the UFC on ESPN 20 main event at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 winner carried all three scorecards, as he drew 29-28 marks across the board and improved to 4-0 at 170 pounds.
Magny had no answers for “The Maverick” in the clinch or on the ground. Chiesa executed takedowns in the first, second, third and fourth rounds, stymied the Elevation Fight Team standout in extended grappling exchanges and piled up more than 15 minutes of control time. By the time his latest assignment was complete, he had outlanded Magny by a 93-52 margin and kept the majority of the fight in his wheelhouse.
In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN 20 “Chiesa vs. Magny,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Michael Chiesa vs. Stephen Thompson: Wins over Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez and Rafael dos Anjos placed Chiesa on an upward trajectory on the 170-pound ladder, and his unanimous decision over Magny puts the Sikjitsu mainstay in position to challenge a divisional thoroughbred. Thompson, who has twice fought for the welterweight title, has rattled off back-to-back victories since his stunning knockout loss to Anthony Pettis in 2019. “Wonderboy” last appeared at UFC Fight Night 183, where the South Carolina-based karateka laid claim to a unanimous decision over Geoff Neal in the Dec. 19 headliner.
Warlley Alves vs. Tim Means: Alves made a dramatic return to relevance in the co-main event, as “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 3 winner annihilated the favored Mounir Lazzez in a little more than two minutes. The X-Gym representative buried Lazzez with a series of destructive body kicks and follow-up punches 2:35 into Round 1, flashing the skills that once made him one of the sport’s most-talked-about prospects. Alves was the aggressor from the start and overwhelmed the Tunisian kickboxer with volume—he outlanded Lazzez by a 24-2 count—in what amounted to a flawless performance. Can he now exhibit the consistency that has thus far eluded him? A former two-division King of the Cage champion, Means enters his 2021 campaign on the heels of consecutive decision wins over Laureano Staropoli and Mike Perry.
Viviane Araujo vs. Joanne Calderwood-Jessica Eye winner: Clear advantages in the speed, strength and athleticism departments carried the resurgent Araujo to a unanimous decision over Roxanne Modafferi in a three-round flyweight showcase. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. Araujo was the superior martial artist in all phases, as the Brazilian kept Modafferi on the end of crisp punching combinations, completed all four of her takedowns and accounted for the only submission attempt of the fight. The Cerrado MMA rep has rattled off seven victories across her last eight appearances, a decision loss to Eye the lone outlier. Calderwood will confront Eye in a featured UFC 257 attraction on Jan. 23.
Matt Schnell vs. Kai Kara France-Rogerio Bontorin winner: Schnell put some of the doubts involving his durability to rest, as he eked out a split decision against Tyson Nam in a pivotal three-round battle at 125 pounds. All three judges scored it 29-28: Michael Bell and Anders Ohlsson for Schnell, Eric Colon for Nam. Schnell outlanded the heavy-handed Hawaiian in all three rounds, often beating him to the punch in their standup exchanges. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 24 quarterfinalist has won five of his last six fights, emerging as a dark horse contender in the flyweight division. France and Bontorin will lock horns at UFC 259 on March 6.
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