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Welcome back to the B/R MMA Mailbag, where we answer your questions about the goings-on of the MMA universe.
This week we’re talking UFC 270, a star-studded if top-heavy card going down Saturday from Anaheim, California. The main card airs on ESPN+ pay-per-view.
In the main event, Francis Ngannou defends his heavyweight belt against interim titleholder Ciryl Gane. It’s a close fight to call, with Gane bringing a deeper toolbox and Ngannou holding the same size and power advantages he holds over every other living human.
But that’s just the second leg of the evening’s title-fight twofer, as Brandon Moreno defends his flyweight strap for the first time against the man he took it from, Deiveson Figueiredo. This will be their third fight, and the first one was a draw, so there are plenty of chips on the table for both the present and future of the 125-pound bracket.
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After that, well, the lineup has taken some lumps. And with that segue, let’s dive in.
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Will We See Any Last-Minute Fights Added to a Depleted Card?
I wouldn’t hold my breath for any final additions to Saturday’s card.
There’s no question the slate is depleted, with a variety of reasons to blame. Name-recognition value is low beyond the headliners.
Fights that have been officially scrapped, rescheduled or otherwise scuttled include:
- Derek Brunson vs. Jared Cannonier
- Greg Hardy vs. Aleksei Oleinik
- Alexa Grasso vs. Viviane Araujo
- Warlley Alves vs. Jack Della Maddalena (Alves was replaced on short notice by UFC newcomer Pete Rodriguez)
Perhaps the bout that came closest to being remade was Hardy versus the ancient Oleinik in a fun striker versus grappler, athleticism versus experience kind of matchup. Oleinik recently backed out, and in came Sergey Spivak. But the salvage job was not to be, as Hardy withdrew one day later with a gnarly finger laceration (Warning: graphic image).
That’s the way this card has gone. Spivak is an exciting competitor, but losing the controversial former NFL Pro Bowler makes retooling this fight a much lower priority than if it had been Spivak with the finger difficulties. At this point rescheduling is a more distinct possibility.
COVID-19 pandemic makes all of it that much harder. Testing protocols put extra pressure on the timelines for replacement fighters.
For example, the UFC’s COVID-19 protocols require fighters and their corner people to complete home tests before they even get on a plane. A positive test from an asymptomatic jiu-jitsu coach is all it takes to submarine a bout.
This close to the event, the timing alone makes it a tough proposition. Add in these other factors, and you’re basically looking at a no-go.
Why Is This Show Worth $75?
Only you can answer that, my friend.
But ask yourself this: Is any UFC pay-per-view worth the $74.99 that became the new norm when the calendar flipped? Again, that’s a you question. What’s clear is that the UFC has fight fans by the short hairs, and it isn’t afraid to yank.
With that said, this particular event seems worth the investment. It might lack the tantalizing style or big-name matchups, and it may not have heavy implications for any title pictures. But you can find those things on cable cards as well.
A densely packed pay-per-view is ideal, but what makes it a tentpole card are the big names in the headline slots. The doubleheader atop this card fits that bill.
Would a Ngannou vs. Jon Jones Non-Title Fight Be Bigger Than a Gane vs. Jones Title Fight?
Great question. If you forget for a second about Ngannou’s ongoing contractual squabbles with the UFC and assume that everyone finds a way to bring the big guy back into the fold, this question has a simple answer: Names are what draw, not belts, especially given that UFC title pictures are not strict meritocracies.
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It’s not that belts aren’t important. The UFC has made many a main event by tossing an interim title into the mix. Gold raises the prestige and stakes of a given bout or card.
But at the end of the day, the full name of UFC 270 is not UFC 270: Heavyweight Title Bout. It’s UFC 270: Ngannou vs. Gane. Ask Nate Diaz or Carlos Condit or Brock Lesnar about this phenomenon.
Jones’ drawing power—solid, if not otherworldly—is a known quantity. Ngannou is a much bigger name than Gane, a bona fide folk hero for his power, physique and soft-spoken affability. The Frenchman is the more technically sound fighter and could well win Saturday, but those things are not what puts backsides in seats.
Gane did silence some critics when he knocked out Derrick Lewis last year. If he rips off three straight knockouts and starts cutting Ric Flair-esque promos, this opinion is subject to change. Until then, Ngannou-Jones is the move regardless of the associated hardware.