If there was any lingering doubt about Neil Magny's status as an elite welterweight, it got put to rest at UFC Fight Night 85. Despite fighting in enemy territory, Magny became the first man to finish Hector Lombard, stopping the wearied veteran with a salvo of third-round strikes at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia.
However the end of the fight should have come far sooner.
With 90 seconds left in round two, Magny (18-4) mounted Lombard and began unloading a hellacious series of over 100 unanswered strikes. An exhausted and battered Lombard put up no defense other than to give up his back or allow Magny to reclaim full mount, yet referee Steve Perceval -- a Sydney, Australia resident -- allowed the fight to continue until the end of the round. Lombard subsequently lost 26 seconds into the third frame.
"As much as we're in this sport to win or whatever, it's hard as an individual to really sit there and put that kind of damage on a guy and not have it stopped," Magny said at Saturday's post-fight press conference.
"I mean, the ref is supposed to be there to protect the fighter, and he (Lombard) wasn't in position to protect himself at all. The ref should've stepped in earlier, I thought. But I don't know. That's not my job."
The sequence was such that Magny actually ended up breaking the UFC record for significant ground strikes landed in a single fight.
His 142 total strikes landed in round two are also the third-most ever landed in a UFC round. And to make matters more impressive, Magny had to battle back from early danger to do it.
Lombard knocked down Magny early in the fight and spent much of the opening round seemingly on the verge of finishing the American.
"I was definitely hurt going into the first round," Magny said. "Once I got down to the mat, it was just kind of like finding a position to protect myself, find a way to get back to the feet and recover. I thought I was doing so by trying to protect my chin against the cage, but then I started eating shots in the back of the head, so I just had to switch it up and try something different because that defense wasn't working. So I just had to find a way to just dig deep and drive on."
Magny is now 10-1 in the UFC since Feb. 2014 -- a string of victories which includes wins over Lombard, Kelvin Gastelum, Erick Silva, and Tim Means, among others. He has fought five times in each of the past two years to do it, and now that he has a signature win under his belt, Magny is turning his gaze towards UFC gold.
"If I had my way, I'd just kind of wait for a top-five opponent, and then eventually make a title run before the year is over. That's my goal," Magny said.
"I feel like I did a great job up to this point fighting anyone who the UFC told me to fight, anywhere, anytime. So at this point, I feel like it's time to be a little bit selfish and try to get that fight that'll get me a title shot."