Preview: UFC 270 ‘Ngannou vs. Gane’

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    Ultimate Fighting Championship
    ’s first pay-per-view of 2022 has
    arrived, and while some late changes have negatively impacted the
    card in the last few weeks, the two bouts at the top might still be
    enough to carry the load for UFC
    on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
    meets Ciryl Gane
    in one of the more intriguing heavyweight title fights in recent
    memory, as two top talents and former training partners square off
    amid the backdrop of the former possibly completing his current UFC
    contract. On the other side of the size spectrum, Brandon
    and Deiveson
    finish their flyweight trilogy with the 125-pound
    championship on the line. It serves as an exciting matchup on paper
    and an opportunity for Moreno, the UFC’s first Mexican-born
    champion, to affirm himself as the division’s true king. While
    several solid pairings round out the main card, it all boils down
    to the two title fights on the marquee.

    Now to the UFC 270 “Ngannou vs. Gane” preview:

    UFC Heavyweight Championship

    C | Francis
    (16-3, 11-2 UFC) vs. #1 HW | Ciryl Gane
    (10-0, 7-0 UFC)

    ODDS: Gane (-155), Ngannou (+135)

    Ngannou on paper should be everything the UFC wants to promote.
    That was certainly the case heading into his first shot at the
    heavyweight title. After a particularly brutal knockout of Alistair
    to cap 2017, the UFC rushed to book “The Predator”
    against Stipe
    for the strap the next month, at which point the
    promotional machine was put in high gear. Ngannou checks all the
    boxes: a captivating life story that saw him emigrate from Cameroon
    to France in order to find success as a boxer, a marketable look
    that jumps off the screen and the ability to hit opponents with one
    of the scariest levels of power the sport has ever seen. UFC 220
    felt like it could have been the culmination of Ngannou’s meteoric
    rise, but instead, it became the spot where Miocic affirmed himself
    as an all-time great, surviving early trouble and eventually
    exposing the gaps in the Frenchman’s game. There were some
    positives for the challenger to take away, however. Even in what
    turned into a tough slog of a fight, Ngannou kept fighting and
    remained dangerous, suggesting that he still had the core
    ingredients to become a champion. All that was lacking was the
    experience. However, a subsequent loss to Derrick
    raised real concerns. Ngannou looked gun-shy in a battle
    of two men who each waited for the other to strike first, resulting
    in his losing one of the most disappointingly awful fights in UFC
    history. That was around the time it became clear that the
    relationship between Ngannou and the UFC was becoming strained,
    with UFC President Dana White, in particular, attempting to paint
    the former title challenger as a prima donna who was falling in
    love with his own hype. Still, the UFC kept putting Ngannou in main
    events and prominent spots, and the Cameroonian kept up his end of
    the bargain, stringing together another run of highlight-reel
    knockouts until he found himself back in a familiar position. He
    challenged Miocic for the heavyweight title once again, this time
    in March 2021, and this time around, Ngannou cashed in on the hype,
    showing enough improvements—particularly in his wrestling—to pay
    the necessary dividends. Miocic never really found his way into the
    fight, and the result was a brutal Ngannou knockout to claim the
    title in the second round. Shortly after Ngannou’s title win, it
    became apparent that his marketability as champion would not be
    enough to repair the relationship between himself and the UFC. The
    promotion wanted Ngannou available for a fight in August against
    Lewis in the latter’s hometown of Houston, but with the champion
    unable to fight until September due to promotional and charity
    obligations in Cameroon, the UFC instead opted to pit “The Black
    Beast” against a surging prospect and former Ngannou training
    partner in Gane. The company marketed the fight around an interim
    title and the idea that Ngannou was too busy basking in stardom to
    defend his belt. Gane beating Lewis set the table for a
    friends-turned-foes bout with an interesting backdrop from
    Ngannou’s standpoint. He has been open about wanting to box and his
    contractual issues with the UFC, and with a loss here, he would be
    free to go. With a win, he would be subject to the champion clause
    in the UFC’s contracts and stay beholden to the promotion for
    another year, at which point Ngannou has made it clear he will be
    done unless he receives a new contract. It would be stunning if the
    UFC let a talent like Ngannou walk, and that adds multiple levels
    of intrigue to what is already an excellent fight against Gane.

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    Much like Ngannou, Gane has enjoyed a stunning
    rise through the sport. It has been less than three and a half
    years since Gane made his professional debut and under two and a
    half since he made his first UFC appearance. A convert from the
    kickboxing world, it became apparent in short order that there was
    little that regional competition could offer “Bon Gamin.” A tall
    and fluid fighter, Gane had little issue overwhelming his three
    pre-UFC opponents and had nothing left to prove at that level by
    the time the UFC came calling in 2019. Gane packed three fights
    into the last five months of the year, and it was much the same
    story. Opponents offered little on the feet, and Gane impressed by
    mixing in some solid grappling skills and scoring submission wins
    over Raphael
    and Don’Tale
    . From there, Gane missed about a year due to various
    issues—it makes his quick rise all the more impressive—though upon
    his return, it was time for him to face some actual tests. Gane
    handled an aging version of Junior dos
    before entering a main event against Jairzinho
    that was quite the intriguing fight on paper for
    the Frenchman. Rozenstruik’s ability to hit opponents with sharp
    and powerful counters figured to prove a lot about whether Gane
    could ride a low-power, high-technique approach to heavyweight
    success, particularly over the course of five rounds. Rozenstruik’s
    inactivity led to a terrible fight in practice, but it was still an
    impressive performance for Gane, who mixed it up enough to
    completely neutralize a powerful threat and showed that he could
    keep a pace over 25 minutes. Gane then dominated Alexander
    in another five-round main event before putting away
    Lewis in a one-sided performance, once again neutralizing one of
    the more powerful threats in the heavyweight division, all while
    walking away with a finish. They are much different fighters, but
    it is difficult not to make a comparison between the rises of
    Ngannou and Gane, even before factoring in the history between the
    two. If he manages to get a win here, perhaps Gane will get the
    amount of promotional shine he deserves.

    Gane is an absolutely fascinating fighter at heavyweight, if only
    because his style almost feels too good to actually work. Success
    in the division usually comes through some combination of power and
    durability and little else, so Gane’s ability to fluidly attack his
    opponents from range really does seem like it should have gotten
    him blasted for a prospect loss at some point. Yet here we are.
    Without one-shot knockout power or having proven his ability to
    come back from getting cracked, Gane is now one win away from
    affirming himself as the best heavyweight in the world. Ngannou is
    much more the typical heavyweight prospect. While his physical
    gifts are unworldly for this sport and he has done well to improve,
    he has not had to show much in the way of consistent technical
    depth. Each man’s win against Rozenstruik basically tells the
    story. Gane put on a consistent 25-minute performance based around
    risk and reward, while Ngannou quickly abandoned all technique and
    simply decided to blitz Rozenstruik and run him over in just 20
    seconds. For as wild as that performance was, Ngannou’s subsequent
    title win over Miocic does show that he can apply himself
    technically as needed, and even the most minor refinements make
    “The Predator” all the more dangerous. If Gane can make his style
    work over 25 minutes, then he has truly cracked the code of the
    heavyweight division. The two participants are essentially at size
    parity, and while Ngannou is still a much more comfortable fighter
    countering a pressuring opponent, the champion has shown enough
    willingness to lead that he is more than capable of cracking Gane
    at some point. That holds true throughout all 25 minutes. While
    cardio is still a concern for Ngannou at any sort of extended pace,
    he has remained a dangerous knockout artist even when tired and
    does not need perfect technique to score a thudding knockout. The
    fact that these two are former training partners is probably
    crucial to the result of this fight, but to what extent is known
    only by them. Gane figures to be more prepared than anyone for the
    type of power that “The Predator” brings, but Ngannou has also felt
    the type of range and speed that his adversary prefers to dictate
    and should be more able than anyone to take advantage of any sort
    of defensive gap. Gane also has the change-up of his wrestling, but
    that may not be a smart idea to pursue unless he has Ngannou tired
    and the fight well in hand. Ngannou looked much-improved against
    Miocic and managed to keep that fight standing; and attempting to
    take down Ngannou has historically been the easiest way for the
    champion to feel out his opponents and score a quick knockout. Gane
    has the tools to ride this out, but the bet is that Ngannou has
    enough of a read on him to find something in the first few rounds.
    In another division or against another opponent, that may not be
    enough to beat Gane, but the champion has the advantage of being
    one of the hardest-hitting heavyweights of all-time. The pick is
    Ngannou via second-round knockout.

    Continue Reading »
    Moreno vs. Figueiredo

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