UFC Fight Night 85: an Underdog Becoming a Favorite

UFC Fight Night 85 is bringing Frank Mir, Mark Hunt and plenty of fighters looking to make a big step up the ladder in Australia.

The UFC is headed to Brisbane this weekend and heavyweight legends Frank Mir and Mark Hunt will square off to try to extend their already lengthy careers. When Hunt debuted in the UFC he had a losing record, and just 2 years ago Mir was on a four fight losing streak himself. Thanks to the UFC’s relatively stagnant heavyweight division, and the two fighters’ continued growth, they are still putting on exciting, competitive fights.

Before the main card starts, Chad Laprise will take on Ross Pearson in what should be a quick and slick battle of striking skills. The brutally powerful James Te Huna is returning to action against the former minor league hockey player Steve Bosse. Just like with every other fight card, UFC Fight Night 85 has some heavy favorites that gamblers could look to bet against.

Usually with this series we choose a few of those match-ups to dissect and analyze who could be upset, but occasionally we will focus on one important match-up if it is a particularly special fight, or an intriguing story. This time around the betting lines aren’t very compelling in my opinion. There are still a couple of highly skewed lines, but with all due respect I don’t think Alan Jouban and Antonio Carlos Junior are going to lose to Brendan O’Reilly and Daniel Kelly. Instead of focusing on those fights, let’s focus on one fighter who used to bet against. Neil Magny has just started to step out of his old underdog role, and is co-headlining this event.

Magny got his ticket to the big show by winning three fights through The Ultimate Fighter television show. Magny was knocked out by the eventual runner-up Mike Ricci in the semi-finals, but he had already done enough to earn his shot in the UFC.

After the show Mangy started out his UFC run by taking a decision win over Jon Manley before dropping back to back fights to Sergio Moraes and Seth Baczynski. At 1-2 in the UFC, not many people had high hopes for his UFC career. Fast forward to today and Magny’s UFC record has improved to 10-3, with wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Erick Silva and Hyun Gyu Lim. Magny’s marked improvement has moved him up to number 9 in the UFC’s rankings, and secured him a fight with his most dangerous opponent yet, Hector Lombard.

The betting lines for this fight are essentially even, and that shows how far the underdog Magny has come

Lombard is a compact Olympic judoka that is downright destructive in his fights. Standing at 5’9″ with an unbelievably thick and muscled frame, Lombard uses explosive simple striking techniques to knock opponents around the cage. Once a grappling exchange starts Lombard uses his elite judo to rag-doll his opponents and control the fight. While Lombard is not the flashiest nor the most subtle mixed martial artist, his tools have carved out a 34-4-1 record for him. What’s more, 26 of Lombard’s wins have come by stoppage, but he has yet to be finished in his professional career.

Before joining the UFC, Lombard’s scary skill set won him five fights in Bellator, and their middleweight belt. Since joining the UFC his record has slid to an uncharacteristic 3-2-1, but he has yet to lose at welterweight in the UFC. Lombard has not fought in over a year due to testing positive for anabolic steroids, but his name still carries serious value. Lombard’s dominant fighting style, and name value is precisely why this fight is so important for Magny.

Earlier in Magny’s UFC career he had less steam behind him partly because of his lower finishing rate, and lack of showmanship out of the ring. In 2014 Magny tied the UFC record for wins in a calendar year with five, but he still lacked signature wins over big name competition. Without bravado and signature wins, Magny was overlooked as a favorite to come out ahead of the welterweight division.

In 2015, Magny picked up three post fight bonuses, and his two biggest wins over Kelvin Gastelum and Erick Silva. Now, in the biggest fight of his career, Magny has the opportunity to spoil Lombard’s return to his second home, and become the newest big name favorite in the welterweight division.

Against the compact powerhouse Lombard, Magny needs to use rangy strikes while sticking and moving early. As the fight wears on, Lombard will fade as Magny uses his pace and striking to outlast him. If Magny fights smart, he can take this dangerous fight and move himself that much closer to title contention. Magny has gotten in trouble in the past by not using his reach advantage while advancing on opponents. Against Lombard, any defensive error on the feet could mean a quick end to the night of Magny.

Magny’s professional MMA career started under six years ago, and he is just now starting to put it at all together. The man uses seemingly limitless cardio to fuel his crisp striking and wrestling, resulting in winning performances. Magny did not enter MMA with an extensive martial arts background, nor is he the most athletically gifted fighter. Magny’s winning style is the inspiring result of continued dedicated training, and it is amazing to see how far he has progressed in such a short amount of time.

The betting lines for this fight are essentially even, and that shows how far the underdog Magny has come. Just a year ago, this would be viewed as a gimme fight for Lombard. Tune in to UFC Fight Night 85 to see how far an underdog has come, and maybe to witness a man emerging as a serious threat to the welterweight title.

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