The heavyweight champion makes his first title defence this weekend against a familiar foe, with a well-documented backstory and storyline that has plenty invested. Will interim titlist Gane – who knows him intimately – prove spoiler? Or can the Cameroonian reign supreme?
blink and you’ll miss it: Time flies
Cast your mind back to the first week in August last year, where a bullish French journalist asked Derrick Lewis how it would feel to lose a matchup of such magnitude in his hometown.
It was perfect foreshadowing of what was to come that Saturday, as Gane claimed the UFC’s dubious interim title with a third-round TKO win in Houston – just five months after Ngannou avenged his defeat against Stipe Miocic to finally clinch gold rather spectacularly.
Gane, who celebrated his two-year anniversary with the promotion that weekend, has enjoyed a soaring rise through the rankings and beaten every foe in-front of him.
Ngannou presents a different challenge though, one intensified by the champion’s protracted contract negotiations and an intimate knowledge of one another being downplayed by both.
On media day Wednesday, Ngannou revealed how he allegedly KO’d Gane with a left high kick during one of their sparring sessions in France. The 35-year-old was unhappy after footage, which he felt was altered, showed Gane favourably to better promote their upcoming duel.
Gane’s head coach Fernand Lopez, who introduced Ngannou to MMA many years ago, said that particular session ended after his protege dropped the champion with a knee to the body which dropped him to the mat. Given both possess devastating power, you can see where this is going.
In terms of fight odds, Ngannou is a slight underdog to end Gane’s 10-0 unbeaten streak as found on Sports Betting Dime. While Jon Jones’ long-awaited heavyweight debut presents yet another dimension to Saturday’s main event, there are other storylines to follow elsewhere.
After being stunned into submission last June, Deiveson Figueiredo looks to regain his flyweight title in a trilogy with new champ Brandon Moreno – not short of eager contenders.
Following successive decision defeats, experienced bantamweight contender Cody Stamann faces another tough test at 135lbs in dangerous Dagestani Said Nurmagomedov.
Unbeaten featherweight Ilia Topuria (11-0) is an overwhelming favourite over exciting short-notice opponent Charles Jourdain, while Michel Pereira – tipped by many as a future middleweight title challenger – may start 2022 with another thunderous finish vs. Andre Fialho.
In the first PPV card of the new year, there’s plenty at stake and two championship titles can conceivably change hands. But will they?
UFC 270 PPV card, as it stands
Main card (Sunday, 3am BST)
Heavyweight championship: Francis Ngannou (c) vs.Ciryl Gane (ic)
Flyweight championship: Brandon Moreno (c) vs Deiveson Figueiredo
Welterweight: Michel Pereira vs Andre Fialho
Bantamweight: Cody Stamann vs Said Nurmagomedov
Welterweight: Trevin Giles vs Michael Morales
Prelims (Sunday, 1am BST)
Bantamweight: Raoni Barcelos vs Victor Henry
Featherweight: Ilia Topuria vs Charles Jourdain
Welterweight: Jack Della Maddalena vs Pete Rodriguez
Early prelims (Saturday, 11pm BST)
Bantamweight: Tony Gravely vs Salmon Oliveira
Women’s strawweight: Silvana Gomez Juarez vs Vanessa Demopoulos
Lightweight: Matt Frevola vs Genaro Valdez
Women’s flyweight: Kay Hansen vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius
Picture source: Getty Images