UFC 270 – Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane: Five biggest storylines to watch on a busy fight card

After a short break to spend the holiday season, the UFC returns on Saturday with its first pay-per-view event of 2022, featuring a marquee-top heavyweight championship unification.

Francis Ngannou will make his first title defense when he takes on undefeated interim belt holder Cyril Gane inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., in the main event of UFC 270. In the co -main event, flyweight champion Brandon Moreno welcomes former 125 -pound king Deiveson Figueiredo for the third chapter of their exciting rivalry.

Although a number of key undercard fights have been scrapped in recent weeks due to injury and illness, there’s no shortage of storylines this weekend. Let’s take a closer look at what to watch out for.

1. This is the most intriguing heavyweight title fight in a long time

Historically, you could say this split has produced title fights over the past decade that have felt more significant, including trilogy fights pairing Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos. But has a heavyweight fight ever been this sexy before, with each fighter capable, from a clash of styles perspective, of potentially dominating on their own terms should they take control? Ngannou-Gane has everything fight fans should want (and more). Is the undisputed element a bit exaggerated? Sure. Gane only had one chance to fight Derrick Lewis for the interim title last summer because Ngannou was not ready for a five-month turnaround amid contract wrangling with the UFC brass. But this rivalry even has a salacious backstory, with the two fighters being former teammates for a short time at the MMA Factory in Paris before Ngannou left on all but good terms. There have even been fight footage leaked to whet fans’ appetites in hopes of imagining what this pairing might look like as Ngannou brings his otherworldly power to the cage against the finesse of Gane and the basis of Muay Thai. Even with Jon Jones’ eventual heavyweight debut, it can’t be ruled out that the outcome of Saturday’s fight will have a direct impact on the future of the division over the next five years. Each fighter goes into their most commanding and impressive performance to date and the winner could very well be the new face of heavyweight for a very long time.

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2. This could be the last time we see Francis Ngannou in the Octagon

Has there ever been a UFC fight whose outcome most directly affects a fighter’s future in the organization? As Ngannou enters the final fight of his current contract, the ongoing feud between UFC President Dana White and the champion’s manager, Marquel Martin, has created an inevitable cloud hovering over the bout. If Ngannou lost, he would become a free agent and could test his worth in the open market. The result would end years of frustration over everything from fight purses to UFC decision-making on interim titles. Gane, for example, was cleared to fight for one, just months after a still healthy Ngannou won the belt. But the promotion had previously said no to Ngannou doing the same in 2020 as the Miocic-Cormier trilogy forced Ngannou to sit idle as the No. 1 contender. If Ngannou defeats Gane, however, that’s where his contract situation becomes. interesting. The UFC’s championship clause states that the promotion can automatically extend an expiring deal any time a fighter wins or defends a title. Ngannou has publicly stated that he not only wants more money, but also an opportunity to step out of the Octagon and challenge current heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. Sometimes winning has a way of settling disputes because of how much money it creates for everyone. But Ngannou’s situation is a bit different. He has only fought twice since 2019 and could become a leader of change in the ongoing conversation about UFC fighter compensation.

3. Wait, are we sure we know how good Ngannou is?

This conversation took a deep turn into almost mythical and apocryphal territory after Miocic was dismantled by Ngannou last March. For the record, Ngannou has always been terrifying. But his losing slip in 2018, including a wide decision loss to Miocic in their first meeting, exposed serious limits to his overall game. Even Ngannou’s four-fight winning streak leading up to Miocic’s rematch failed to accurately convey how much he improved simply because all four fights ended within the first 71 seconds. What we learned, however, from the nearly six minutes Ngannou fought at UFC 260, is that it’s pretty much impossible to put a cap on his developmental potential. Ngannou added everything from takedown defense to a devastating match against Miocic for the second time, even mixing in headbutts and a clever strike attack from left-handed stance to stun Miocic before knocking him out with the stiffest stiff jabs. Ngannou will still have to prove, of course, that he can be just as effective in championship fights provided someone can still take him there, but it’s hard not to rewatch Ngannou’s recent video and not no wondering if he’s the scariest creature in the sport. has never met. Despite his relative inactivity in recent years and the short time spent in Octogone, Ngannou worked at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. As tall as Gane seems to be, it might not matter in the face of Ngannou’s almost absurd punching power. Although …

4. If anyone can tame this version of ‘The Predator’, it’s probably Cyril Gane

Has the heavyweight division ever seen an elite fighter as light on his feet and in command of his game plan as Gane? The answer is most definitely no. At 6ft 4in, the France native is a physical specimen on par with anyone in the UFC short of Ngannou, who looks like he was carved from stone and hand-selected as a terrifying villain for a movie. of action. But unlike Ngannou, Gane does not rely on power. Instead, he moves like a middleweight. Gane switches positions at will and has the kind of cardio a heavyweight hasn’t shown since Velasquez before his injury. To beat Ngannou, who showed an iron chin and incredible will to go the distance with Miocic in 2018, a fighter will likely have to do it in the championship rounds. Gane is equipped just for that, but he’s physically strong enough not to be outplayed either in the clinch or on the ground, where he’s shown enough skill to record a trio of submission wins in his 10 pro fights. Gane is as precise and sneaky in his setups as any heavyweight UFC has ever seen, using angles and movement to overwhelm opponents with punches they struggle to see. He’ll probably have to throw a no-hitter to get there given Ngannou’s danger, but Gane is particularly good at doing it.

5. It may not be necessary, but a Brandon Moreno-Deiveson Figueiredo trilogy is still burning

Just seven months after fighting Figueiredo to a disputed draw in which many believed Moreno had done enough to win, ‘The Assassin Baby’ became Mexico’s first UFC champion when he outplayed Figueiredo in their UFC rematch. 263 en route to a third-round submission. So, is an immediate trilogy the one fans have been asking for? In a word, no. The UFC brass’s decision likely had more to do with their hopes of making Moreno a legitimate crossover star in his homeland, knowing that Figueiredo has the kind of edgy style that makes fighting incredibly fun. Still, it’s hard to complain about the matchmaking all the same given how competitive and explosive their first encounter was. It’s hard to resist Moreno’s feel-good story. Not only is he full of smiles at all times as the charismatic personality the UFC has relied on for Spanish language analysis, he was kicked out of the promotion in 2018 after a pair of losses to stand. reinvent so successfully. Since returning to the Octagon, Moreno is 4-0-2 overall and has co-written a number of exciting fights. Figueiredo, 34, will need to prove that his extreme weight reduction to 125 pounds is still possible at this point in his career in order to put up the kind of resistance he couldn’t put up when relinquishing his title last June. But no matter how you slice it, it’s still a can’t-miss event.

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