On Inauguration Day, you might say that Michael Chiesa was also inaugurated on Wednesday.
Chiesa was inaugurated into that small group of legitimate title contenders in the UFC’s welterweight division with a one-sided unanimous decision victory at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi over Neil Magny.
Chiesa’s grappling was incredible and his pressure was too much for Magny in the main event of a Fight Night card on ESPN. Chiesa won by the score of 49-46, or four rounds to one, on all three official scorecards. Yahoo Sports had it 5-0, or 50-45, for Chiesa.
As well as he fought, and he was brilliant, he saved his best for last when he called out No. 1 welterweight contender Colby Covington.
— UFC (@ufc) January 20, 2021
“The election is over, Colby Covington; your shtick is done,” Chiesa said in the ring after the biggest win of his career. “I want you bad, boy.”
It remains to be seen if Covington will accept the challenge, particularly since Chiesa was ranked eighth before the fight and Covington has designs on fighting the winner of next month’s title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and No. 2 Gilbert Burns.
But Chiesa proved without doubt he belongs in the upper tier of welterweights. He won Season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” competing on the live season even after his father died during the filming. He didn’t make a lot of traction, though, toward being a lightweight contender after that.
He won a lot of fights but the division was stacked and Chiesa was cutting so much weight to make the 155-pound limit. It ended at UFC 226 on July 7, 2018, when he was submitted by Anthony Pettis. Chiesa missed weight and looked like a skeleton in the cage, not like a healthy professional athlete.
He moved up to welterweight to face Carlos Condit at UFC 232 five months later and the difference was, and continues to be, stark. He submitted Condit and has subsequently defeated Diego Sanchez, Rafael dos Anjos and Magny by decision.
Some fighters are referred to as contenders simply because they’re not champions. Chiesa, though, is a contender in the truest sense of the word. He’s not the flashiest or the strongest or the fastest, but his effectiveness cannot be disputed.
He has a lot of difficult bouts ahead of him, and opponents like Usman, Burns and Covington would probably be favored, but Michael Chiesa has earned the right with his performance in the cage to test himself against that level of opponent.
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