The heavyweight division is in the best state it has been in in the last 15 years right now, with several top prospects working their way through the division.
Jon Jones has inserted himself at the top end of the picture, cashing in some of his equity as consensus GOAT by taking the next title shot after Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou meet at UFC 260. Further down the pecking order both Tom Aspinall and Chris Daukaus picked up impressive wins at UFC Vegas 19 against veterans to continue the passing of the guard among the big boys.
But in between those parties is a French man who looks destined for greatness, named Ciryl Gane.
At 30-years-old calling Gane a prospect may seem odd, but he’s an infant in the MMA world with a record at just 7-0. The way he’s been beating people has seen him pushed to the moon though, and he is set for his first UFC main event this week against number three ranked Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
It’s a fight that sees the show-stopping power of Rozenstruik put against the technical quality of Gane. Rozenstruik went on a ten-fight winning streak to start his career, KO’ing both Andrei Arlovski and Alistair Overeem in his UFC run too.
Then he ran into Gane’s training partner Ngannou, who showed him the levels and turned his lights off inside 30 seconds at UFC 249. He bounced back with a stoppage win over Junior Dos Santos, someone Gane also knocked out in his most recent bout back in December.
Despite being the most inexperienced of the up and coming heavyweight group, Gane is potentially the best. He has stunning knockout power, is fantastic in the clinch and has a solid ground game to go with his submission skills – balancing his wins with three knockouts and three submissions.
In a fast moving world, Gane’s inexperience could be used as a stick to beat him with. He fought only once in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic but is now looking to get active again in 2021 after fighting four times in 2019.
A win of Rozenstruik will without a doubt put him into the top five situation. While Derrick Lewis will be ranked number two after his win over Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19, he’s called to fight Overeem next. That means Alexander Volkov likely awaits the winner of this fight, following his win over the Dutch legend earlier this month.
Neither Gane or Rozenstruik can look beyond this weekend’s main event, because the opposition are so dangerous. But Gane’s upwards trajectory means a big win for him against the Surinamese fighter will see him rightfully take his place as the head of the new generation of heavyweights in the UFC.