It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2016. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
Everyone loves a comeback story, but to watch it happen in a short period of time is something that only happens in sports.
Neil Magny and Hector Lombard locked up at UFC Fight Night 85: Hunt vs. Mir on March 20, 2016. Their meeting resulted in a thrilling scrap that could’ve ended many times and either combatant could’ve won on multiple occasions. One fighter clearly won a round, while the other fighter unarguably won a round, but round three is where we found the winner of the bout and our Comeback of the Year award.
As we revisit our selection for Comeback of the Year, we’re going to do something a little different. As opposed to writing about who won and summing it up, we’re going to digest the entire bout and make our way to the winner of this award in 2016.
Right out of the gate, Lombard mauled Magny, throwing punches that would’ve rattled the foundation of a six-story walk-up on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and the bout took place in Brisbane, Australia, 9,936 miles away. It appeared the end was near for the Elevation Fight Team fighter as Lombard bullied Magny into the cage and bashed his head in. It was a violent sight that would’ve convinced most referees to stop the match. I mean, it couldn’t get any worse, right? Wrong.
Lombard, posted on one foot and a knee, flattened Magny out, belly down, against the cage and unleashed a series of left-handed punches that were attempting to knock The Ultimate Fighter 16 participant’s head into the 14th row. Magny was relentlessly trying to find a way to get out from under the terrifying Cuban, yet everywhere he turned, Lombard was there to greet him with another destructive blow.
Lombard started to slow his barrage and chose to put some thought into where his punches should land, which led to Magny getting back to his feet. Things were looking up for Magny for a brief second, until he ate another right hand from Lombard and was thrown face first to the canvas. Magny, showing his resiliency, rolled to his back, so Lombard moved to his opponent’s open guard and continued to batter him.
For real, though, the referee is going to stop this at any second, right? Nah.
We have barely made it to the 120-second mark of the opening round. Magny was doing a better job of tying up the Tyrannosaurus Rex arms of the former Bellator middleweight champion, but was still getting clipped with elbows and bludgeoned with fists more than he’d like to. Yet somehow, Magny again managed to get back to his feet and create some distance between himself and Lombard.
The pair of mixed martial artists stood out of striking range and reconsidered their approach before clashing horns again. Lombard’s muscle bound arms didn’t have as much pep now that they were filling with lactic acid. Magny utilized his length and threw long punches to avoid the damaging strikes the slowing Lombard was throwing. Magny shot for a double-leg takedown, but Lombard stuffed it and a scramble ensued. Fortunately for Magny, he was quick to get back to his feet and prevent more damage to his cranium.
It was as clear as the driven snow, Lombard was running out of steam. The chance for Magny to strike was right then and there, but with 30 seconds left in the opening frame, it didn’t leave much time for him to do enough work to put Lombard away.
Round one ended and the fighters retreated to their respective corners. Lombard spent his 60-second break trying his best to get oxygen in his lugs. Magny, on the other hand, listened intently to Leister Bowling and his corner about what to do in the upcoming Round.
Magny opened the second stanza by bouncing and putting together combinations that would eventually wear on Lombard. Lombard was still trying to get his heart rate in check, but didn’t stop throwing one-punch haymakers that could stop his foe.
Magny was winning the striking battle, and in the clinch, he was controlling Lombard. It was evident who the marathon runner would be out of the two. Lombard was slowing more by each second, while Magny was gaining confidence with each landed punch. But, as Magny began to look like the fight was turning in his favor, Lombard proved his power never dies.
It took a single left hand to plant Magny on his ass. Lombard pounced on Magny. After a short rest on Magny’s chest, Lombard attempted a very effortless leg lock. Magny easily pushed of Lombard and ended up on top of his attacker.
They endured a series of grappling exchanges and Magny threw up a triangle choke. As he latched on to the submission, and even looked to be on his way to securing the choke, Lombard defended and escaped. Magny quickly transferred to mount position and let his fists fly. They may not have been the most powerful shots, but they were nonstop and taking a toll on Lombard.
My, how this fight had changed tides.
Lombard gave up his back to escape Magny’s mounted, dominant position, but absorbed 56 unanswered punches before trying to sneak out the backdoor. Magny flattened Lombard to the canvas again, and picked up where he left off. Magny kept slamming fists in Lombard’s face, all the while looking at the referee and wondering if Stevie Wonder has better vision.
I mean, this fight is going to be stopped now, right? Nope.
As round two came to a halt, Magny stood up with a look of frustration. He must’ve been wondering what it is going to take for the referee to stop this fight. Lombard, surprisingly, was quick to get to his feet and join his corner for advice as they headed into the third and final frame.
Magny was full of life as he got off the stool. Lombard didn’t have the same hop to his step, but power is the last thing to go, as we all know.
Magny quickly put his striking skills on display as he hit Lombard with punches and knees. Lombard was getting beat around the Octagon, but with a couple winging punches, Magny was forced to back off and regroup. There’s nothing like a chin check to keep you honest.
Wisely, Magny took Lombard down, where the heavy hitter was least dangerous. Magny cut Lombard with a punch and kept up the abundance of punches. Seconds after the laceration on Lombard’s face produced blood, the referee had finally seen enough and stopped the bout.
At 10 minutes and 46 seconds into the bout, Magny’s comeback was finally complete.
Other finalists: Miesha Tate vs. Holly Holm (UFC 196), Joanna Jędrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha 2 (TUF 23 Finale)
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2016 MMA Award winners.