UFC 270: Ngannou and Gane Look to Establish Their Supremacy

Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane, UFC 270 weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

MMA has never seen a force as destructive as Francis Ngannou, but his former training partner Ciryl Gane is the one many believe might have the recipe to stop him at UFC 270.

It’s hard to question Francis Ngannou’s place in today’s MMA landscape.  With a power every bit as intimidating as Mike Tyson’s and on a run that has seen him dispatch three former title holders, “The Predator” is the undisputed heavyweight champion who is at the height of his powers.  Just how dominant is he?  He separated Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik from consciousness in less than a combined ten minutes.  It is not a stretch to say that he is perhaps the most destructive force ever seen in the sport.

His success makes his current predicament all the more puzzling.  Ngannou and his management appear to currently be at an impasse in negotiations as he is on the last fight of his contract.  Should he retain the title on Saturday, a championship clause will keep him in the UFC but it could lead to a delayed absence until both sides reach an agreement.  Though optimism was provided when UFC President Dana White said he had a “good conversation” with Ngannou, the fact that he also recently said “If you don’t want to be with us, no problem.” in regards to his heavyweight champion has been cause for concern that the future of the division could be muddled in 2022.

Enter Ciryl Gane, who does not have same the years of experience in the fight game, but has looked every bit the part of the next evolution of heavyweights in his ten fights.  Fast, powerful, and technically sound, “Bon Gamin” has unraveled some of the UFC’s most experienced and dangerous contenders in less than three years in the promotion.  His skills were on full display last August as he routed the UFC’s all-time knockout leader Derrick Lewis for three rounds before finally getting a stoppage in the fourth to win the interim title.

Unlike all of Ngannou’s prior opponents, Gane carries the experience of training with Ngannou’s former coach and having sparred with the champion years ago.  While that is not a full measure for what Gane will see in the cage on fight night, such knowledge and experience could be the difference with a match-up of this magnitude.  Add in the element that Ngannou has been caught on camera seemingly ignoring Gane and his former team on purpose and you have exactly the underlying tension needed to make this one of the more intriguing heavyweight bouts in recent memory.

The skills of Gane will be put to the ultimate test as he must avoid the more efficient Ngannou.  The champion’s ability to find the chin after forcing exchanges is his most impressive trait.  Rather than expend energy early trying to deliver damage, he has in recent years been more patient in using his reach and size to force opponents to engage with him.  For Gane, the key will be to use his speed and kicks to force Ngannou to be the aggressor.  The challenger is a great striker in his own right and being able to get ahead on scorecards and force Ngannou to make mistakes on the feet in an attempt to make up ground will be the key to effectively shutting down his formidable offense.  For Ngannou, effective footwork and cutting off the cage will be crucial as he does not want to find himself chasing the faster Gane.  Assuming he does not find the opening for a quick finish as he has in his past several fights, doing damage with kicks to hamper Gane’s mobility will be vital as they get to the later rounds.

The hope is that the winner will be in the biggest fight of the year in their next outing against longtime UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.  Should that fight fall apart in negotiations, it stands to reason that former longtime champion Stipe Miocic would be the next logical choice for the winner considering his impressive resume prior to losing to Ngannou last March.