UFC 270 Main & Co-Main Preview & Predictions
By Cathal Geeney
Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou v Cyril ‘Bon Gamin’ Gane
The first PPV headliner of 2022 will see the unification of the heavyweight division as former training partners, Francis Ngannou and Cyril Gane, square off.
This fight is not short of subplots; Ngannou’s fractured relationship with the UFC as his contract is coming to an end, the bad blood between Ngannou and his former, and Gane’s present, coach, to even this week when Francis told press members that he once knocked out Gane in sparring with a head kick.
But leaving the drama outside of the octagon aside, this should be an exhilarating contest. Both fighters are hugely talented, but their styles could not be much more different.
The Predator hails from a boxing background and looks to follow his jab up with huge hooks. His striking is often wild and unorthodox. It can appear as if he is off balance and has completely forgotten about defence as he comes forward throwing punch after punch. This unique mix of power and pressure is overwhelming and has been very successful for the most part.
The thirty-five-year-old has suffered two defeats in the UFC, at the hands of Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis. Against Miocic he was out grappled, exhausted his gas tank early and could only survive for the most part. Whereas against Lewis, he was gun-shy and failed to throw any meaningful combinations.
Ngannou has manged to avenge his defeat against Miocic, where he kept his composure, managed to prevent any takedown attempts from the American, and landed a knockout early in the second round. And while he hasn’t had the chance to face off against Lewis again, Francis has shown that he has certainly put his issues with pulling the trigger in the rear-view mirror (he has knocked out every opponent since that bout within the first two rounds).
It is very encouraging for fans of the Cameroonian-born champ to see how he has recovered from these defeats and clearly put the work in where it was required. Although in order to overcome Cyril Gane, Ngannou will likely need to show further improvements.
Despite an intimidating physique, standing at 6ft 5 in and weighing 245 pounds of what appears to be pure muscle, Gane is very much a technical fighter. The thirty-one-year-old is light on his feet, constantly bouncing in and out of striking range and firing off shots. So much so that he has been referred to as the heavyweight Wonderboy. This may be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there have been very few, if any, heavyweight fighters who have shown the same level of movement as Bon Gamin.
Primarily from a southpaw stance, but often switching to orthodox, Gane’s striking output is very impressive. He picks his moments to explode with a flurry of big shots while also constantly firing off punches and kicks to the legs, body, and head. The pressure and output of the undefeated Muay Thai fighter has proven too much for all his opponents to date.
His last fight was for the interim title against Derrick Lewis in Houston. Here, Gane demonstrated that he can overcome pressure and perform at the highest level. The Frenchman looked calm throughout the whole fight week and matched this with supreme confidence in the octagon, piecing the Black Beast apart for three rounds before the referee called an early stoppage.
This fight could be analysed extensively in great detail, but ultimately it will come down to the power of Ngannou against the technique of Gane. While Gane has looked sound in terms of grappling, and Ngannou has shown improvements, I expect this to play out on the feet.
Given the nature of this fight, I don’t believe anyone can predict a winner here with a lot of confidence, but I will go with Francis Ngannou uniting the heavyweight division and coming out successful. You just can’t write off the power of the Predator and considering he will make the walk as an underdog, that tilts the balance towards the Xtreme Couture trained fighter for me.
Brandon ‘The Assassin Baby’ Moreno v Deiveson ‘Daico’ Figueiredo
The UFC 270 co-main event will see Brandon Moreno face off against Deiveson Figueiredo for the third time with the 125-pound title up for grabs. Quite remarkably, this will be the first time in UFC history where a trilogy has taken place in consecutive fights.
Their first meeting was a thrilling encounter in which the action went back and forth. Figueiredo went in as the defending champion and pushed the pace, throwing powerful shots, while Moreno took all Figueiredo had to offer and kept replying with flurries of his own. An illegal groin kick resulted in a point deduction for Daico, which ultimately was the difference between a victory and a draw for the Brazilian. Their second meeting was a vastly different story as Brandon dominated and secured a third-round submission.
The first time around Moreno allowed Figgy to take control of the octagon. Although the then challenger was finding a lot of joy with his crisp jab and counter attacks, Moreno was still fighting on the back foot for a large portion of the fight.
In their second meeting, Moreno’s confidence had clearly grown as he realised he could handle the power of his opponent and didn’t need to take a back step. In the rematch, the twenty-eight-year-old came out with purpose and immediately took control of the centre of the octagon, getting straight to work with his jab and leg kicks.
Many suggested after the fight that Figueiredo did not appear himself, and the Brazilian looked to substantiate these claims by suggesting that business requirements diverted his focus from fighting and cost him.
My initial thoughts watching was that there was an issue with Figgy, considering how poorly he seemed to underperform. After further review however, I questioned whether it was an issue with Figueiredo or just down to the incredible performance from the Mexican. Moreno will likely look to repeat his latest performance. If he can rely on his jab once again and control the pace, it will be down to the challenger to make the necessary adjustments to prevent a repeat.
While for Figueiredo, he now needs to focus more on defending strikes and creating effective set ups. The former titleholder carries an air of arrogance in the octagon, occasionally not covering up and throwing big punches without any real setup.
There were multiple occasions where he threw powerful shots and caught fresh air. The thirty-four-year-old will need to shore up his whole game. He still has an amazing offensive arsenal of punches and kicks. But Figueiredo has built his game around walking his opponent down and throwing power shot after power shot until they break.
Moreno, despite having five career losses, has never been stopped and one would wonder if he even has a breaking point. There is no quit in this man. So Figueiredo needs to put together a gameplan based around securing a victory over a hard fought five rounds.
From a grappling perspective, in terms of control time and successful takedowns, Moreno has enjoyed the greater success across the two fights to date. With that being said, the exchanges have been entertaining and Figgy is aggressive from bottom position, immediately looking to scramble, get his feet to the hips for an escape or else just land damage from the bottom position. There will likely be some more exchanges in the upcoming bout, and this should make for great viewing between two very accomplished BJJ black belts.
It’s not often that I would be in favour of running back the same fight three times in a row, but this bout still has a lot of intrigue for me. I am fascinated to see what adjustments will be made heading into the trilogy.
Unlike their previous fights, Figueiredo will enter the octagon as an underdog on Saturday night. And for that reason, I will take the former champion to regain his flyweight title. The Brazilian will need to retain his focus, make adjustments and refine his game, but I’m still a believer in the power of the number one ranked flyweight and feel he still has the ability to regain the belt. Regardless of the outcome, this is a fight not to be missed.