UFC Paris: Can Gane Return to Form and Evade the Explosive Tuivasa?

Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa face off in front of the Eiffel Tower ahead of UFC Paris
PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 30: (L-R) Ciryl Gane of France and Tai Tuivasa of Australia face off during a UFC photo session at Bassins du Champ de Mars on August 30, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Home country hero Ciryl Gane will be looking to display new wrinkles in his game as his attempt to return to form culminates in a bout with exciting prospect turned contender Tai Tuivasa at UFC Paris.

It is easy to forget where Ciryl Gane stood leading up to his bout with Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight title in January.  “Bon Gamin” entered the bout undefeated and looked for all the world like the next generation of big man in MMA after unraveling the likes of Derrick Lewis, Alexander Volkov, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and Junior dos Santos.  He entered the UFC in 2019 after just three professional bouts, but he soon proved that experience was far from the only important factor to winning as his win-streak propelled him to a shot at the belt.

Gane enters the bout in his home country at an interesting time in the history of the heavyweight division.  The popular and surging champion is set to become a free agent at the end of this year and it is a real possibility he could take a leave of absence to pursue riches in boxing.  That would leave the UFC to make a decision about what to do with the title and that could open the door for Gane to return to a championship bout quickly.  Should he also demonstrate an effort to improve his grappling, he will also be able to sell the storyline that he has evolved into the all-around force he looked to be last year.

Tai Tuivasa has graduated from top prospect to bonafide title contender.  The heavy hitting Australian went from serving as the main sparring partner for walk-off knockout legend Mark Hunt to a true UFC star in his own right.  A part of the UFC since 2014, Tuivasa opened his Octagon career with back-to-back wins before losses to dos Santos, Blagoy Ivanov, and Sergey Spivak cooled his ambitions.  But “Bam Bam” soon went back to the drawing board, and his renewed sense of confidence coupled with his fine tuned training has led to one of the more exciting streaks in all of MMA.

Tuivasa approached 2020 with the type of amicable personality that quickly attracted fans after he coupled it with exciting knockouts.  With a shoe and beer in-hand quickly after each performance, he turned away the likes of Greg Hardy, Augusto Sakai, and Derrick Lewis to become a breath of fresh air in the title picture.  More importantly to the fans and the powers that be, Tuivasa dispatched all five opponents in his win-streak in under three rounds each time.  His last victory over Lewis, in the hometown of “The Black Beast” no less, in which he had to rally back to stop the contender was the one that propelled Tuivasa to the upper echelon of the division.

Stylistically, the fight pairs the technical proficiency of Gane against the intimidating physicality of Tuivasa.  Gane’s ability to use a full arsenal of strikes on the feet and counter through excellent footwork has made him a problem for opponents in the past.  He should follow the same strategy, picking his spots and keeping combinations short so he can avoid getting corralled into the fence by Tuivasa.  For Tuivasa, heavy use of kicks to slow Gane down should be part of the strategy as it will make the former interim champion a more stationary target.

The winner of the bout is widely expected to fight Curtis Blaydes in what would be a title eliminator in most scenarios of the division.  That said, a possible bout with Stipe Miocic could materialize late this year or early next year for the interim title should Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou not reach a deal to return to action.