Bank on Ciryl Gane’s diverse skills

    VSiN’s MMA expert dives into betting angles for the main event of Saturday’s UFC 270.

    Francis Ngannou (+125) vs. Ciryl Gane (-150), heavyweight championship

    The story between these two fighters is layered, lengthy and complex. Suffice it to say that there are several tangible and intangible aspects to this unification bout.

    One tangible aspect is that both fighters have trained together under Gane’s current coach, Fernand Lopez. No one understands Ngannou as well as Lopez.

    One intangible aspect is the friction between Ngannou and the UFC, which has existed almost from the time he won the belt against Stipe Miocic to present — intensifying when the UFC allowed Gane to grab the interim title.

    Ngannou is a huge, sculpted man standing 6-foot-4 and tipping the scales for his most recent bout at 263 pounds. He’s fit, profusely powerful, and his plan of attack is simple: Find a way to touch the opponent. Ngannou is a soft-spoken and extremely polite person, but don’t confuse his meekness outside the cage with his destructive powers within.

    Francis Ngannou (left) will face Ciryl Gane (right) in a heavyweight title unifier on Saturday in the UFC 270 main event.
    Zuffa LLC

    Ngannou has risen from a cycle of poverty, then eventually landed in Paris, where he taught himself to box. Today Ngannou remains in the development stages of being a refined mixed martial artist, which is scary because of the improvements sure to come.

    Currently Ngannou’s effectiveness revolves around explosive quickness coupled with power striking. To date, he is not very versed in wrestling/grappling.

    For Ngannou, any bout’s blueprint is simple: Keep the fight standing, move forward in order to seek, touch and destroy.

    Gane is a polished mixed martial artist whose MMA foundation comes from the fact that he played soccer and basketball as a youth then developed a specialization in Muay Thai striking. Gane possesses natural athleticism, and the leg strength he developed playing those sports have gifted the 6-foot-3 fighter with fluid, deft athleticism, which translates into the ability to maneuver like a man 50 pounds lighter.

    Francis Ngannou knocks out Alistair Overeem at UFC 218.
    Getty Images

    Gane competed at 247 pounds in his previous bout, in which he dismantled Derrick Lewis to take the interim title, so he’ll be the slighter man in the cage. From the opening bell, Gane will be the athlete using movement and evasion to gain a rhythm, score points and frustrate the more powerful stalker. Gane’s employment of high intelligence and effective movement will be used to compete with Ngannou from afar. He’ll be quite judicious in choosing when to engage, clasp or shoot on Ngannou, especially early.

    I expect Gane will shoot for a takedown or two early in this affair, not because he really wants to drag this fight to the floor, but because his battle plan requires Ngannou to have to defend all aspects of his fight arsenal.

    Gane’s movement, distance control and jab will be used to sap the champion of his zip. Eventually Gane’s evasive footwork will manifest itself into a more offensive tactic. This will force Ngannou to have to defend, back up and expend precious energy.

    Gane must usurp Ngannou’s explosive power early in order to more efficiently attack later in the bout or at least begin to dictate the fight with his IQ, cardio, quickness, precision and athleticism.

    Ciryl Gane
    Ciryl Gane
    Zuffa LLC

    Ngannou must find a way to cut off the cage (yes, it’s the larger cage in California this week), and press Gane backward and into the fence — where Ngannou can unleash hooks, crosses, elbows and knees from the pocket.

    The 30-foot cage favors Gane as it does with all athletes — requiring the control of distance, space and angles because it is 44 percent larger than the small cage, in which Ngannou defeated Miocic.

    This fight opened Ngannou -115 to Gane +100. My judgment is that the price on Gane was incorrect at opening.

    Recommendation: Gane, -150. It’s my judgment that Gane will avoid early confrontation with Ngannou and that any plan he has must include taking the champion into deep waters for success. Ngannou can touch anyone at any time and turn their lights out. I just don’t believe he’ll be able to catch Gane during this bout.

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