Michael Chiesa steps back into the Octagon this week following more than a year of inactivity, with his eyes firmly on progression to the upper end of the UFC’s welterweight division.
The American (17-4, 10-4 in the UFC) was last seen by fans last January when he picked up a unanimous decision win over Rafael dos Anjos. It was a win that seemingly set up 2020 perfectly for Maverick.
He boasted a three-fight win-streak with Diego Sanchez and Carlos Condit also on his list of victims, and looked set for at charge at 170lbs following his shift up from lightweight.
As fate would have it, that was not to be, but now Fight Island Abu Dhabi will play host to a pivotal bout in a stacked class.
Chiesa and Neil Magny are ranked eighth and ninth respectively at 170lbs, and a win on Wednesday night will see either lay claim to a place in the upper echelons.
Like Chiesa, Magny (24-7, 17-6 in the UFC) has won his last three outings, against Jingliang Li, Anthony Martin, and most notably former champ Robbie Lawler.
Chiesa has a lot of respect for the capabilities of his 33-year-old opponent, but is confident of a victory that propels his near 13-year professional career.
“I have a very tough opponent who is well-rounded and always in great shape so I expect a very tough contest, but I expect to get my hand raised and plan to do it in devastating fashion,” said Chiesa, also 33.
“I have high expectations of myself and they all revolve around me winning. I have all the tools necessary to end the fight and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Chiesa hopes a win on Wednesday at the Etihad Arena will put him among those searching for a shot at the current champ Kamaru Usman.
“A win over Neil Magny, I believe, puts me in the top-five, I think it gets me right in the mix with the top guys and puts me as a true contender at 170lbs, but it is most important that I just stay focused on Magny right now.
“I want to stay focused on this fight and not look too far ahead of me and I think that will pay dividends. Once I get my hand raised, then I can look towards the top end of the division and start to think about which guys suit me most favourably and would be the best matchups.”
A student of a game, Chiesa has recently said he would love to become an analyst for the UFC’s commentary team when he hangs up his gloves, and has been putting those skills to good use in the build up to the upcoming UFC Fight Night.
“The analyst in me looks at Neil and sees a very well rounded fighter who is very well conditioned and comes from a great team,” he says.
“This is a guy who can beat anyone in the division on his day, there are not a lot of holes in his game and it made my preparation very interesting in terms of discovering what part of his game I am going to exploit. I have found my path to victory, I know what I have to do to win and I plan on executing.”
UFC Fight Night Chiesa v Magny takes place at the Etihad Arena from 6pm on Wednesday January 20th.
Know more about Sport360 Application