Neil Magny scored the biggest win of his UFC career on Saturday night when he became the first person ever to finish Hector Lombard after 42 pro fights.The win should put Magny very close to title contention at welterweight with 10 wins in his last 11 fights.
But there were far more pressing issues coming out of the fight in Brisbane, Australia than where Magny stands on the welterweight ladder. Both Magny and UFC managing director of operations in the region, former CFL commissioner Tom Wright, spoke after the fight at the press conference about a late stoppage by referee Steve Perceval. "Late stoppage" is about the kindest thing you can say about it.
In a wild fight which saw Magny knocked down and nearly finished in the first round, he secured mount with 90 seconds left in the second. After 18 consecutive unanswered punches, with 1:13 left in the round, that gut reaction of "this needs to be stopped," just turned on. About eight seconds later, the second gut reaction, that, "this is getting really ugly and why aren't they stopping it?" went off.
After 60 more punches, with 21 seconds left in the round, Magny looked at Perceval seemingly asking what is exactly going on. By that point the gut feeling was bordering on revulsion and horror.
Lombard took 32 more unanswered punches before the round was over. If you're counting, that was 110 unanswered punches in the last 90 seconds. During that period Lombard was mostly flat on the mat, face on the ground, in the classic position that John McCarthy used to call, "Please Mr. Wizard, help me."
Magny was on his back and Lombard was taking punch after punch with no movement to get out of position. There was one brief attempt by Lombard to escape that went nowhere. Lombard did give Perceval a thumbs up, trying to motion he was still conscious, with seconds left.
Just as perplexing were the scores of the judges. They ended up not mattering given that Perceval did call the fight at 26 seconds of round three when Lombard, clearly not recovered at the start of the round, ended up on the ground taking punches once again.
After two rounds, all three judges, Evan Field, Barry Foley and Kon Papaionannou, had it even at 19-19. An even score after two rounds wasn't at all controversial, even though the end of the second round was one of the worst looking massacres in recent UFC history. But how either round could be scored 10-9 seems implausible.
Lombard scored a knockdown and landed hard punches and elbows on the ground in the first round. The fight could have been stopped two different times in favor of Lombard. It wasn't anywhere near the point of round two where the non-stoppage was ludicrous. And Magny did get up and started to land as Lombard tired as the first round was ending. But a strong knockdown and coming that close to a stoppage should be an easy 10-8 round. None of the judges thought so.
The second round was worse. One could easily argue the second round should have been 10-7 for Magny. There is an argument that a 10-7 round shouldn't exist, because anything that would be a 10-7 should have been stopped. But this round was just that, it should have been stopped and was far beyond a near stoppage and far past any reasonable stoppage. Earlier in round two, Lombard knocked Magny down. While Magny recovered quickly, that knockdown was enough to where my own thoughts were that you should go 10-8 instead of 10-7, but never did I think anyone, let alone three judges, could all have that round at 10-9.
Let's look at how fortunes changed for five stars at UFC Fight Night 85:
MARK HUNT - Hunt (12-10-1), who turns 42 this week, has become a big cult favorite given eight of his last nine fights have ended in a knockout (with him scoring the knockout five times, and being stopped three), and the ninth fight, his 2013 initial battle with Antonio Silva, is considered an all-time classic fight.
In a weak heavyweight division, almost completely devoid of youth near the top, Hunt joins Cain Velasquez, Alistair Overeem and Ben Rothwell as guys who could viably be put in with the winner of the May 14 Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic title fight.
Hunt can point to his 2014 loss to Werdum in Mexico City. Hunt took the fight on short notice, and was fighting unacclimated to the Mexico City altitude. He was dominating Werdum until his gas tank emptied and he was then quickly finished.
But almost every top name heavyweight except Josh Barnett (34-8) already has a fight scheduled. Barnett defeated Hunt in a 2006 match back in the PRIDE days when Hunt was a novice on the ground. Except for Barnett, the only other real option is to wait until after April 10, and face the winner of Junior dos Santos (17-4) vs. Ben Rothwell (36-9). Hunt has faced both before, losing to dos Santos via knockout in 2013, and beating Rothwell via decision in 2011.
FRANK MIR - On Saturday, Mir (18-11) tied Tito Ortiz for the most fights in UFC history, with 27. Having fought for the UFC since 2001, Mir noted people bringing up retirement. With this first-round knockout loss, his sixth loss in his last eight fights, that talk isn't going to stop.
Mir is still younger than a number of still prominent heavyweights: Werdum, Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Barnett and Roy Nelson. In pre-fight hype was talking about fighting another 10 years. Hopefully he still isn't thinking that. With most of the top heavyweights booked, there aren't a lot of interesting fights available for Mir. He could face the dos Santos vs. Rothwell loser, if it is Rothwell. It's a match of name heavyweights that has never happened. Dos Santos knocked out Mir in a 2012 title match.
The up-and-comers list is relatively small. There is Ruslan Magomedov (14-1), now out with a knee injury, as well as Jared Rosholt (14-3) and Stefan Struve (26-8) who have no currently announced matches. From a UFC standpoint, Magomedov makes the most sense since he's got the most potential of the three, and a win over a name like Mir would boost Magomedov's name.
NEIL MAGNY - Magny (18-5) has now won 10 of his last 11 fights. As far as what is next, a lot would depend on what happens with welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. There is no clear-cut contender for Lawler right now. The winner of Rory MacDonald vs. Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson would be in line, but they're not fighting until June 18 and Lawler should be fighting by July or August.
Nate Diaz had been talked about, but he's earmarked for a Conor McGregor in a rematch at UFC 200. Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley would be the leading active contenders for the title. Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz (whose suspension ends at the end of July) could be thrown in because those fights would draw better than anyone else and UFC is very clearly booking main events largely based on what fight would draw the most..
Magny is not on the list of potential contenders right now. But he should next face a highly ranked fighter, one that could get him one win away from at least being on the short list of those considered. With Condit saying he's thinking retirement and only wanting to fight a title match, he would appear to be out of the question. Woodley (15-3), if available, would be Magny's best potential opponent. If not, Magny should face Johny Hendricks (17-4) or Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1).
HECTOR LOMBARD - At 38 and after the beating he took Saturday, Lombard (34-5-1, 2 no contests) probably shouldn't be back fighting that quickly.
By the time he's ready, a lot of key fights will have worked their way out. Possible opponents could include Hendricks, the MacDonald vs. Thompson loser, Kim or perhaps the loser of Matt Brown vs. Demian Maia.
JAKE MATTHEWS - When Matthews (10-1) debuted in the UFC at the age of 19, the Melbourne native looked like he could be the company's future star for the Australian market. He had the right look and charisma, and looked good inside the Octagon early on. Now 21, he's 4-1 in UFC, but was 15 seconds from losing a decision to Johnny Case, until finishing him in dramatic fashion with a choke.
Wright confirmed another UFC show in Australia later this year, and Matthews would have a very good shot at being on that show in a prominent role. A good opponent in that situation would be Diego Sanchez (26-8), who has enough name value that it puts more spotlight locally on Matthews, and be a good test of where he stands. Joe Lauzon (25-11) would also fit in that same category as a name fighter for a good local market fight.