Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight champions Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane will unify the belt TONIGHT (Sat., Jan. 22, 2022) at UFC 270 inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
For just a moment, let’s take a second and ignore all the primary narratives of this match up, the contract negotiations and he-said, he-said-type sparring stories. Beneath all of that is a stellar match up that pits two fighters who really have no equal in Heavyweight history. There has never been a puncher quite like Ngannou, an unparalleled knockout artist with the speed to match his raw power. Nor has there been a range technician quite like Gane, who moves and strikes with the volume and strategy of a fighter half his size.
It’s a damn compelling style match up with a golden belt on the line. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC 260), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Fight Night 141, UFC Fight Night 86), Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC 249), Cain Velasquez (UFC on ESPN 1), Junior dos Santos (UFC on ESPN 3), Alistair Overeem (UFC 218)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 220), Derrick Lewis (UFC 226)
Keys to Victory: Ngannou is arguably the best athlete to ever compete as a UFC Heavyweight. He’s remarkably strong and fast, but throughout his current win streak, Ngannou has consistently made good decisions to score fast knockouts.
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room here: will Ngannou attempt to windmill his way to victory vs. Gane, as he did opposite Rozenstruik? Or, perhaps the better question, should he? After all, the result vs. Rozenstruik was perfect, and “Bigi Boy” is a decorated kickboxer, too.
Personally, I’d say give it a try or two, which will at least serve to put a bit of fear in Gane’s heart. If the flurry fails, however, Ngannou has to commit to managing his energy and advancing methodically. He did great work against Miocic, landing calf kicks and body jabs at range to close distance before committing to big swings, so hopefully that continues here.
Perhaps the most important strategic factor here is to counter kicks. Gane throws a lot of naked kicks on the strength of his range and speed, but Ngannou can match those attributes better than most and make him pay dearly.
Key Wins: Derrick Lewis (UFC 265), Jairzino Rozenstruik (UFC Vegas 20), Junior dos Santos (UFC 256), Tanner Boser (UFC Fight Night 165), Raphael Pessoa (UFC Fight Night 156)
Key Losses: None
Keys To Victory: Gane is a sniper. A Muay Thai specialist with solid ground skills, Gane keeps his range behind a stiff jab, lots of feints, and chopping kicks. He’s content to win all five rounds if need be, but Gane will also step in and swarm if he feels his foe weakening from all the range work.
Historically, Gane has a great head for fighting. He knows when to back off from exchanges, but more importantly, he understands the value of occasionally biting down and throwing some heavy shots. Even against a similarly powerful puncher to Ngannou in “The Black Beast,” Gane was occasionally willing to fight in the pocket.
Gane’s composure and ability to safely earn Ngannou’s respect is the true crux of this fight for him. Obviously, Gane wants most exchanges to take place from the kicking range, but the simple fact is that Ngannou can rush him whenever he chooses. Footwork will keep him safe often, but when in the fray, Gane must also be threatening enough with his own punches — or perhaps takedowns? — to back Ngannou off.
If Gane can brave those exchanges with good composure by keeping his guard high and head moving, he’ll ultimately get more time at the distance he desires.
After tonight, there will be just one UFC Heavyweight title.
Could the stakes be any higher for Francis Ngannou? The details of his contract are murky and complicated, but one thing is absolutely certain: his negotiating position is stronger as champion. If “The Predator” wants to earn huge paychecks inside the Octagon and the boxing ring, winning here would be quite helpful.
Of course, losing could set him free from UFC entirely, which would be pretty fascinating.
On the flip side, this is Gane’s moment to become an undefeated champion. If he dethrones Ngannou, “Bon Gamin” seems primed for a long term reign. He’s still so incredibly young in his pro career that if he takes the belt at just 31 years of age, well, he might just be able to break some title defense records. There are, of course, some stylistic challenges he has yet to face, but defeating Ngannou — who appeared primed to dominate for years when he stopped Miocic — would be one hell of a feather in his cap.
At UFC 270, Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane will go to war in the main event. Which man leaves the cage strapped with gold?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 270 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/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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