Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight talents Junior dos Santos and Ciryl Gane will battle this weekend (Sat., Dec. 12, 2020) at UFC 256 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dos Santos has been a top contender for damn near as long as anyone can remember, but it seems those days may be coming to an end. “Cigano” has lost his last three fights via knockout, putting him in a pretty desperate need of a victory if he wants to remain relevant among the big men. On the other hand, Gane is one of the few reasons to be excited for the future of the Heavyweight division. The 30-year-old combatant stands 6’5” with an 82-inch reach, yet he moves fluidly and has shown skill in every area of the game.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Junior dos Santos
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on FOX 13), Cain Velasquez (UFC on FOX 1), Derrick Lewis (UFC Fight Night 146), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 86), Mark Hunt (UFC 160)
Key Losses: Cain Velasquez (UFC 155, UFC 166), Stipe Miocic (UFC 211), Francis Ngannou (UFC on ESPN 3), Alistair Overeem (UFC on FOX 17), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Fight Night 166), Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC 252)
Keys to Victory: Despite a long professional career, dos Santos remains just 36 years old, and he’s still one of the quicker big men on the roster. He remains very difficult to take down, and dos Santos’ overhand is a threat to everyone.
“JDS” needs to keep it simple here. He’s far and away the best striker Gane has faced yet, and he’s unlikely to be overwhelmed by Gane’s speed or range. If he comes out tripping over his own feet (like the Ngannou fight) or blatantly showing his hand (the Blaydes uppercut), a smart striker like Gane will make him pay.
If, however, dos Santos takes it back to basics, his odds are much better. Dos Santos has a long jab that scores hard to the head and body — use it! Establish that weapon, feint with it, and start getting a read on Gane’s trickery and foot work.
Dos Santos’ core boxing game should still be effective. There’s no reason he cannot look to set up the right hand with a sharp jab against Gane, who is willing to step into exchanges. “JDS” has to try to stay off the fence as well, but at this point, it’s hard to hold up hope for improvement in that regard.
Key Wins: Tanner Boser (UFC Fight Night 165), Raphael Pessoa (UFC Fight Night 156), Don’Tale Mayes (UFC Fight Night 162)
Key Losses: None
Keys To Victory: Gane does not fight like the vast majority of Heavyweights. The French athlete has a background in professional Muay Thai, yet two of his UFC victories came via slick submission! More than anything else, he’s a really quality athlete, one who seems to pick up the sport very naturally.
Gane moves very lightly on his feet, kicking hard at range, countering often, then exploding into his own combinations when he’s able to gain (no pun intended) an angle.
Dos Santos is quick on his feet as well, but he’s famously limited to moving linearly, stepping forward or pulling back. Gane’s goal should be to use his stance-switches and pivots frequently with the goal of forcing dos Santos to turn into heavy punches.
“JDS” isn’t used to be the slowing man, and Gane can use that to hurt him.
Otherwise, Gane should be kicking often. Force dos Santos to pressure forward rather than hang back, as Gane will very likely find counters if dos Santos is unable to keep the jab on him.
It’s a crossroads fight between a former champion and the division’s best prospect.
Of course, dos Santos doesn’t want to continue his downward slide. He’d like to drop a heavy right hand on Gane’s jaw and get fans excited enough to see him fight some rematches with foes ranked above him. And hey, this is Heavyweight, where there’s plenty of examples of smart veterans finding real success beyond their apparent expiration date.
Maybe dos Santos has five more good years left in him! He cannot be counted out until he’s truly gone, but another loss likely ejects him from the Top 10 for the first time in a decade.
As for Gane, this is a big test, a massive step up in competition from anyone he’s faced previous. If he can handle that and implement his game opposite a former champion, he’ll likely be in the cage with a top five foe next. If not, Gane was pushed a bit too quickly, but there’s still plenty of time for him to develop into a contender.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 256 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 256, Junior dos Santos and Ciryl Gane will open the main card. Which man will earn the victory?