As a constant presence in the welterweight rankings, the 36-year-old veteran has remained one of the top 15 fighters in the world for several years. But he’s never quite gotten close to a title shot. In many ways, he serves as the measuring stick for welterweights who can potentially challenge for UFC gold.
That’s exactly how it worked out for fighters who defeated Magny like Shavkat Rakhmonov and Ian Machado Garry, and Magny expects he was being set up the same way in his fight against Mike Malott at UFC 297.
“It’s very evident what’s happening here,” Magny said on The MMA Hour. “I’m fighting a guy who’s undefeated in the UFC, he’s a young up-and-comer, fighting in his backyard. It’s absolutely an opportunity for him to break into the rankings by beating me, and I welcome that kind of adversity with open arms.”
At the time, Malott sported a 3-0 record in the UFC, with all three fights ending by knockout or submission. He was widely considered Canada’s best prospect, which is likely why he got a main card spot on the pay-per-view against an established veteran.
After falling to Garry in fairly lopsided fashion in his previous outing, Magny understood why the UFC matched him up against Malott. He’s been there before, and Magny took no offense to the method behind the madness for UFC matchmakers.
“At the end of the day, that’s just the way that the cards lay, so to speak,” Magny explained. “My last fight, I came up short. For me to get an opportunity to fight someone ranked in the top 10, top five, whatever else it may be, I have to go out there and get another win. Just beating an average Joe wouldn’t really make that big of a statement. I have to go and face some of these up-and-comers that are looking to break into the rankings, so to speak, and I have to do it in very impressive fashion.
“So when the fight was offered to me and I saw who the opponent was, and I saw that it was in Canada, all that kind of stuff, it was very evident what the game plan was, as far as promoting goes. But I welcome that pressure with open arms.”
For two rounds, it looked like the UFC’s strategy was paying off. Malott dominated the fight with a blistering series of kicks that chewed away at Magny’s legs before taking the action to the canvas, where he constantly threatened with ground-and-pound and submissions.
With five minutes remaining, it looked as if Malott would cruise to victory, but Magny’s coaches refused to let him give up. They expressed the dire consequences he faced and effectively told him he had to deliver a finish – or he’d leave Canada with a second straight loss.
“By the third round, they’re just very evident like, ‘Hey, you’re probably down two rounds to zero at this point … you’re definitely down two rounds to zero,’” Magny said. “‘We need you to go out there and make it a fight. We need you to make it a dog fight at this point. I know you can push for five minutes. We need five minutes of work out of you.’ Literally, I just jumped off the stool and said, ‘Yes sir, I’ll get it done.’”
Midway through the round, Malott started to run out of gas, which prompted Magny to look for a takedown of his own. The Canadian prospect made the ill-fated decision to counter with a guillotine choke, which Magny quickly countered — and that landed him on top as the fight hit the ground.
Magny wasted no time shredding Malott’s defense, moving into mount and looking for a submission before eventually dropping hammers with his fists.
“I just went screw it — we’re going to punch until the ref pulls me off,” Magny said.
That’s exactly what happened. Magny continued his relentless assault as Malott offered almost no resistance other than rolling side to side and covering his head. Referee Kevin MacDonald gave Malott every opportunity to fight back before finally stopping the fight with just 15 seconds remaining until the final horn.
Magny felt like it was a justified stoppage, even as some complained that MacDonald let the fight go on a little longer than necessary.
“At the end of the day, the sport being what it is, I feel he gave him every opportunity to stay in the fight,” Magny said. “If one of those opportunities [were there] had he called the fight too early, then he would have argued, ‘No, he called the fight too early, he was up two rounds, you should have let the fight play out.’ But I feel like it was a good call on the ref’s part to give Mike every opportunity to get himself back in the fight.
“He gave him ample verbal warnings, ‘Get back in the fight, fight back! Reposition!’ He gave him every opportunity to make it clear that he wanted to stay in the fight, and he still had fight in him, but it ended up being too much. Just overwhelming shots were landing pretty flush, and it was enough to get the victory.”
Considering how his previous fight ended, Magny knew he needed to bounce back with an impressive win, and that’s exactly what he delivered.
Of course, Magny would have preferred not losing the first two rounds, but ultimately he got the job done.
“For me, it was important to go out there not only to fight just to fight hard and prove to myself, ‘Nope, you’ve still got some in the tank left to go,’ and beating a guy like Mike Malott proves just that,” Magny said. “It gave me the confidence, gave me the boost I needed to keep moving forward in my own personal career.”