The UFC has rescheduled or canceled several bouts that it intended to be a part of Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN card, its second of three events on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi this January. But even after those changes, the promotion has still put together a solid welterweight headliner between Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny.
Initially, Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev planned to finally fight after Edwards backed out of an earlier date due to COVID-19, but Chimaev had to pull out of the Wednesday date due to his own coronavirus recovery.
Chiesa, Magny Rising in Welterweight Rankings
Instead, Chiesa and Magny jumped into the main event role. A former lightweight who won the 15th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Chiesa (17-4) has won three straight bouts. He last fought almost exactly a year ago, winning a unanimous decision over Rafael dos Anjos to reestablish himself as a top 10 welterweight.
According to Chiesa, he has brought his game up a level since the last time he stepped inside the Octagon.
“I think I’m going to surprise a lot of people with how I look coming out there. I’m not the same guy that fought [dos Anjos],” Chiesa told MMA Junkie. “I’m not expecting to look pretty beating Neil Magny. I’m just going to go in there and do whatever I need to do to get the job done. I’m going to be pursuing a finish as I always am, but if we got to go blood and guts for five rounds, so be it.”
Magny (24-7) comes in as the No. 9 ranked welterweight in the UFC. He has won five of his last six fights, with four of those victories coming by unanimous decision. In a way, he agrees with Chiesa: Wednesday night’s fight won’t be pretty, and Magny says that might work in his favor.
Wednesday’s headliners @MikeMav22 and @NeilMagny couldn’t stay serious in their faceoff. ??#UFCFightIsland8 | More: https://t.co/QLcD5cAYBZ pic.twitter.com/uahAhDDegM
— MMA Junkie (@MMAjunkie) January 19, 2021
“At this point, I make it a gritty fight where he’s kind of questioning, ‘Why am I doing this?’” Magny told MMA Junkie. “That’s the goal. Go out there and make it a gritty fight and make him question being in there.”
Six-Fight Main Card on Fight Island
FanDuel Sportsbook lists Magny as a -136 favorite over Chiesa (+116). In a fairly even fight, both men have clear paths to a win. Magny should hold a sizable advantage in the striking game, while Chiesa may have to hunt for a submission on the ground to finish the fight.
|UFC on ESPN: Chiesa vs. Magny Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Michael Chiesa: +116||Neil Magny: -136|
|Warlley Alves: +200||Mounir Lazzez: -245|
|Isaac Villanueva: -142||Vinicius Moreira: +120|
|Roxanne Modafferi: +290||Viviane Araujo: -360|
|Matt Schnell: +112||Tyson Nam: -132|
|Lerone Murphy: -310||Douglas Silva de Andrade: +250|
Chiesa and Magny headline a six-fight main card that will take place in front of about 2,000 fans at Etihad Arena. In the co-main event, Mounir Lazzez (-245) will battle Warlley Alves (+200) in a welterweight bout. Also on the card is a light heavyweight battle between Isaac Villanueva (-142) and Vinicius Moreira (+120), as well as a women’s flyweight fight featuring Roxanne Modafferi (+290) and Viviane Araujo (-360).