The heavyweight division right now is in the best place it’s been in for the last decade and there are two European giants looking to make their way to the top.
Ciryl Gane and Alexander Volkov are the guys who are propping up the top five right now, with Volkov ranked at number five and Gane at number three. On Saturday night they fight each other with a make-believe European title on the line to show who the top guy from our continent is.
But more than that, the winner will have a more than legitimate claim to the world heavyweight title in their next bout.
Gane is currently 8-0 and has beaten some top level talents on his run. After making his debut in the company at just 3-0, Gane has picked up three stoppage wins on his run in the UFC on his current five fight win streak including a heel hook submission and a knockout over former champion Junior Dos Santos.
Volkov’s run hasn’t been as dominant, but he has shown that he is absolutely one of the elite in the division. He made his debut in 2016 for the organisation and is currently 9-2 with the company. His only defeats came with a late knockout by Derrick Lewis in a fight he largely dominated and a grapple-heavy affair against Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 3.
But he bounced back from both of those losses with impressive victories and he’s now established himself as one of the best around when it comes to the striking game at the top of heavyweight division.
The fight between the two will be a showcase of Europe’s greatest exports, with both fighters preferring to strike and show their skills on the feet. But Gane has got a grappling skillset too which he could use to his advantage.
A win for either moves them into the top two of the rankings and it’s hard to see how their next fight wouldn’t be a title shot against the winner of Francis Ngannou vs Derrick Lewis, which is likely to take place at some point this summer.
Gane is a previous training partner of Ngannou’s so that fight instantly has a back story to it too, but it would just be the best performing heavyweights going head-to-head with each other.
Jon Jones still lurks in the background with a title shot his to claim whenever he so wishes, but other than a fight against former champion Stipe Miocic there is nothing that should come between the winner of this bout and the world heavyweight champion next time out.
European MMA has really come on leaps and bounds over the last half-decade with the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Valentina Shevchenko, Jan Blachowicz, Petr Yan, Giga Chikadze, Leon Edwards, Darren Till, Marvin Vettori, Jiri Prochazka, Aleksandar Rakic making real waves in the UFC.
But in the heavyweight division the only man to really break through in the modern UFC was Alistair Overeem and yet he never won the gold.
Volkov already beat him into a premature UFC exit, and now both he and Gane have the chance to potentially eclipse his legacy by becoming the first European heavyweight world champion in UFC since Andrei Arlovski way back in 2005.