Francis Ngannou will look to unify his heavyweight title against interim champ Ciryl Gane next month — but there’s another big title fight that needs to happen in 2022.
One gigantic heavyweight title fight that will draw a lot of attention and interest as we head into 2022 would be a rematch between UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and top heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis. The fans need it, and so does the UFC.
Yes, we know UFC president Dana White does not think that far ahead. The man frequently reminds reporters that he doesn’t book fights the night of the event, let alone weeks prior to a fight like Ngannou vs. Gane. But let’s be honest: MMA fans and MMA media always look ahead, whether we like to admit it or not. We know Ngannou has a tough test in late January against interim UFC heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. If Ngannou retains his title, his next opponent should be Lewis.
Ngannou and Lewis met in the octagon back in 2018 at UFC 226 in Las Vegas. As someone who attended the event, this was the fight I was looking forward to the most.
The fight was a massive disappointment, with only 31 strikes thrown in three rounds as Lewis won by unanimous decision. Fans at T-Mobile Arena voiced their displeasure during the fight. The masses were even chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight!,” followed by the wave, typical phone-flashlights cageside and a bunch of boos throughout what was absolutely a lackluster bout.
The only cheer during the fight was when referee Herb Dean paused the action to tell the fighters to be more active, but that did not work. If you recall, UFC announcer Joe Rogan did not conduct a post-fight octagon interview with the victorious Lewis following the announced decision (this was actually the most fun fight of the night as an attendee, just for the pure entertainment from the fans and the reactions during the fight. But I know fans at home did not feel that way, though I am sure Twitter as always pulled through with some satire.).
Needless to say, we need that rematch in hopes that Lewis and Ngannou will both look better the second time around.
Ngannou had a weird year in 2018 where he did not look like the most feared heavyweight in UFC history. Outside of 2018, Ngannou has never had a fight go into the third round. All 11 of his UFC victories have come in either the first or second rounds. This past March, he demolished established heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, the man who holds the title defense record in the division.
Meanwhile, Lewis is coming off a knockout win over Chris Daukaus to keep himself in title contention. His knockout win earlier this month was his 13th as a UFC Fighter, which broke the promotion’s record. He’s won five of his last six. And following the victory, he had plenty to say about Ngannou. None of it was, in a word, kind.
Although Lewis could have made this rematch happen with a win over Gane at UFC 265 for the interim strap, his recent Daukaus win keeps him in title contention and likely keeps him as the favorite to earn the next title shot, regardless of the winner at UFC 270.
If Ngannou wins, the UFC and the fans will all get their wish and everyone can expect Ngannou vs. Lewis 2 at some point in 2022. Perhaps more importantly, Ngannou will get a chance to wash the stain of the pair’s first fight from his record — while Lewis might just prove that the third time is the charm in his quest for gold.