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UFC Paris preview: ‘Gane vs. Tuivasa’ predictions

UFC 264: Poirier v McGregor 3 Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will finally makes its mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in Gay Paree thanks largely in part to minister of sport, Roxana Maracineanu, who paved the way for UFC Paris this Sat. (Sept. 3, 2022) at Accor Arena in — you guessed it — Paris, France. Headlining the ESPN+ fight card will be the heavyweight showdown between hometown hero Ciryl Gane and power-punching interloper Tai Tuivasa. Before that five-round clash of styles gets underway, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will look to shut down perennial contender and “Italian Dream” Marvin Vettori.

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Before we dive into the main and co-main events, check out Patrick Stumberg’s UFC Paris preliminary card breakdowns here and here. In addition, fighter-turned-writer Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Paris main card right here. For the latest “Gane vs. Tuivasa” odds and latest betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

Let’s talk shop.

265 lbs.: Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa

Ciryl “Bon Gamin” Gane

Record: 10-1 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -540
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 81” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.83 | Striking accuracy: 58%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.27 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 0.69 (22% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 55%
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Francis Ngannou

Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa

Record: 14-3 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +420
Wins: 13 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.54 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.56 | Striking Defense: 48%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 50%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Knockout win over Derrick Lewis

When a combat sports organization breaks into a new territory it tries to do one of two things to make a good first impression: It either books a hometown hero for the main event or assembles a headliner that is guaranteed to deliver fireworks. In the case of UFC Paris, the promotion has managed to give us both, thanks to the heavyweight hoedown between Parisian hero Ciryl Gane and Australian knockout artist Tai Tuivasa. Both fighters are ranked in the Top 5 of the division and have a legitimate claim to the 265-pound throne, though you can argue “Bon Gamin” may need to keep plugging away after coming up short against Francis Ngannou earlier this year. That’s kind of s shitty spot to be stuck in, especially with Jon Jones making his heavyweight debut and Stipe Miocic hungry for a “Predator” trilogy. Gane will need a big performance this weekend in Paris to keep himself afloat in the 265-pound title pool.

Can he do it?

As you can see by the current betting line, Gane is the odds-on favorite to win this bout and for good reason. He’s a patient, technical striker who is built like a true heavyweight, opposed to Tuivasa who has the frame of a 205-pounder who subsists on craft beer and cheese fries. That’s not a knock on his accomplishments; on the contrary, it’s kind of amazing he got this far with the tools he has to work with. “Bam Bam” has yet to land a takedown in 11 fights inside the Octagon (and he’s tried) so we can forget about him replicating the blueprint set by Ngannou, who recently sent Gane to his first professional loss. That leaves the stand-up and I think we can all agree that Tuivasa can put “Bon Gamin” to sleep if he lands flush ... I’m just not sure he’s going to get inside with a staggering six-inch reach disadvantage. Gane is not the type to abandon his gameplan and get suckered into a phone booth fight, or let himself get gassed out and backed into the fence. It’s also worth noting that Tuivasa struggled in his technical knockout loss to Junior dos Santos, a superior boxer with better footwork.

As a fan, I don’t want to see Tuivasa fall because his five fight winning streak — all knockouts — has been a breath of fresh air in the stagnant heavyweight division and gives me those “Rally for Mark Hunt” vibes from early 2013. That movement died a quick and painless death and I expect the same for “Bam Bam” at UFC Paris. Gane is the better fighter and has more ways to win. In addition, the Tuivasa knockout streak has not aged well when you look at the competition. Three of his victims have been cut, one is on a four-fight losing streak, and even the once-mighty Derrick Lewis (who is 37 with a bad back) has been knocked out in three of his last four contests. Tuivasa had a great run and he’s certainly earned his spot. I just can’t build a case for his victory against a fighter who is quicker, more agile, and more skilled in just about every department.

Prediction: Gane def. Tuivasa by technical knockout

185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Marvin Vettori

Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker

Record: 23-6 | Age: 31 | Betting line: -230
Wins: 9 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 9 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 73” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.45 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.32 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 0.81 (35% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 83%
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Israel Adesanya

Marvin “The Italian Dream” Vettori

Record: 18-5-1 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -195
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 9 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.35 | Striking accuracy: 45%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.48 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 2.04 (45% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 76%
Current Ranking: No. 2 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Paulo Costa

Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and longtime 185-pound contender Marvin Vettori have a couple of things in common. The first and most obvious is that both “The Reaper” and “The Italian Dream” have gone 0-2 against reigning champion Israel Adesanya, so they can forget about getting another crack at the division crown unless Alex Pereira turns the division on its head at UFC 281 and creates a new batch of fresh opportunities. Until then, one of these two sluggers will keep the gate while the other gets sent to the Jack Hermansson zone, headlining overseas “Fight Night” cards against up-and-comers or down-and-goers. Another thing they have in common is their inability to finish fights. Whittaker hasn’t put anyone away in over five years and Vettori has just one finish (by submission) across his last 11 fights. I don’t expect that to change when the cage door closes this weekend in Paris but I also want to point out that a fight doesn’t have to end early for it to be exciting, assuming both combatants are willing to engage. They usually don’t have much of a choice in any fight involving Vettori, which may explain why the former Venator attraction has three performance bonuses in his last five fights. Whittaker has eight dating back to late 2014, so expect these two to bang for 15 minutes straight.

Whittaker continues to demonstrate his evolution as a fighter and his rematch against Adesanya answered a lot of questions about the future of “The Reaper.” His first go-round with “The Last Stylebender” resulted in an embarrassing knockout loss but the Aussie was able to rebound with three straight victories against very tough competition. More importantly, his chin was able to hold up when it mattered most. As for Vettori, he’s done a remarkable job of keeping himself in the win column when you consider that his offense is less about skill and more about durability. You would be hard-pressed to find a tougher middleweight at this level and that’s something Whittaker is going to have to prepare for. No doubt it can be disheartening to throw everything but the kitchen sink at an opponent and have them keep coming. The good news for “Reaper” fans is that Whittaker only needs three rounds to stay out of trouble. I would expect a lot of in-and-out striking with an emphasis on defense, something the former champ is known for based on his defensive statistics in both striking and wrestling. Vettori will have his moments and may even put Whittaker on his bicycle from time-to-time, but I don’t think he’ll land enough to convince the judges he was the better man on fight night.

Prediction: Whittaker def. Vettori by unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Paris main card predictions are RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Paris fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 12 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Paris news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Gane vs. Tuivasa” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.

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