As for Magny, he has also been the subject of clear improvements in recent times, and three wins alongside three good performances in 2020 mean he enters the bout in his best form since 2016.
How his chances fare against Chiesa will largely be determined by the extent to which his defensive wrestling has improved, because while his striking technique has clearly evolved, the only available evidence of his defensive wrestling quality still lies within his fights against Rafael Dos Anjos and Demian Maia - and it isn’t promising.
However, while Chiesa will likely take confidence from Maia’s performance against 'The Haitian Sensation', Magny himself can take comfort from the fact that as much as he has improved, Chiesa is not Maia. Magny is a tricky opponent in that if you fail to approach him intelligently, he’ll inevitably drag you into a type of nasty slog that most fighters don’t want to be in. He has endless cardio, endless output and is pretty durable; such fighters are always tough obstacles.
It’s basic analysis, but Magny’s most conceivable route to victory is keeping the fight on the feet and drowning Chiesa in volume. Alongside previously suspect defensive wrestling, Magny isn’t great off his back, so if Chiesa is successful in his attempts to take the fight to the floor Magny’s chances appear slim. Conversely, Chiesa is extremely rote on the feet and will likely succumb to Magny in most extended exchanges.
Magny has shown a concerning propensity to completely collapse in fights against top opponents throughout his career (Dos Anjos, Santiago Ponzinibbio and Demian Maia), so whether or not this is a flaw of his that still exists in 2021 is, from his perspective, a caveat.
While his body of work in 2020 was good, his opponents weren’t what you’d consider elite. Our hunch is that, despite being an underdog with the bookmakers, Chiesa is a pretty unfavourable matchup for Magny. There is a large element of speculation in that Magny has displayed clear improvements in several areas of his game throughout the past 18 months, but is yet to face a substantial wrestling threat in that time.
Could it be that his defensive wrestling has also improved within that time period, but he hasn’t yet had the chance to show it? Absolutely. But we can only consider the available evidence, and to us that shows Chiesa’s strengths playing into Magny’s weaknesses.
If Magny is to get the win, a points victory at 8/5 is his likely route, but given that this will be a five-round fight, don't overlook the odds of 9/2 for Magny to stun Chiesa, if the number nine ranked man is to win.
Our pick is Michael Chiesa via decision at 11/4, whilst we consider the submission route from the number eight ranked fighter to also be a promising one at 5/1.