Neil Magny won his third straight fight Saturday, and ninth out of his past 10. More than that, he finished a top title contender after a thrilling come-from-behind effort and proved that he deserves to be considered among the very best at welterweight.
The most active man at 170 pounds officially finished the fight against Hector Lombard with ground strikes at 46 seconds of the third round, but in reality it should have been called earlier. At the close of the second round, Magny had the Cuban Judo player mounted from behind, flattened out and delivered a few dozen unanswered strikes.
Yet, the referee refused to call the bout and sent a dazed and hurt Lombard back out for the third to take more punishment. Magny hurt Lombard with punches before taking him down, mounting him and connecting with more hard shots, finally prompting the official to halt the contest.
In the opening moments of the fight, however, it appeared as though Magny would be the one who wouldn't be able to survive. Lombard dropped the Iraq war veteran, hard, with a power punch and continued to lay on the punishment from on top with big left punches.
At times, Magny could only cover up. He moved enough, however to get up to his feet time and again after being dropped several more times.
By the end of the first round, Magny had broken free from Lombard, the cage and the ground and somehow began peppering the tiring juggernaut with jabs, hooks and crosses to the head.
"I was pretty wobbled," Magny admitted afterward. "I just tried to not let it affect me and kept grinding on."
Somehow, he did. In the second, Magny continued to outscore Lombard on the feet with crisp punching on the end of good footwork. Lombard landed another big shot after Magny stuck around in range for too long after a combo of his own, however.
Magny once more went down. Lombard fell backward, attempting a leg lock.
Magny quickly defended and then took top position and mounted Lombard. He locked on a triangle choke and rolled to his back.
Lombard defended and Magny transitioned to an arm bar attempt. He lost it but stayed on top, getting the mount once more, then landing strikes that prompted Lombard to turn his back.
That was when Magny looked moments away from finishing for what seemed like an eternity. Lombard, ever a warrior, didn't give in but was in no shape to fight on and effectively in the third round.
Magny was visibly frustrated that the referee didn't stop the action in the second but his coaches focused him between rounds. "My coaches just told me I could do the same thing again," he explained.
"I went out there and did just that."
Indeed he did. Magny soon worked to the mount again. From there, he locked on a triangle choke from the mount and continued to punch until the fight was called.
The win improves Magny's record to 18-5. The loss drops Lombard to 35-5-1 with two no-contests.