The UFC heavyweight division moves a step closer to naming a solidified number one contender as Derrick Lewis takes on Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 265.
After a deal with Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones couldn’t be found, the UFC moved to keep the division moving and will see the number two and three ranked heavyweights battle it out in the main event with the winner essentially guaranteeing themselves the next shot at the belt.
In the co-main event Jose Aldo continues his push for bantamweight greatness when he takes on Pedro Munhoz, while the welterweight division looks to create a new contender too as Michael Chiesa takes on Vicente Luque.
We skipped last week’s Hall vs Strickland card, which means we remain on 374/387 correct picks (63.71%) with 165 perfect picks (44.12%).
Song Yadong (16-5-1) vs Casey Kenney (16-3-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An absolute banger in the bantamweight division as two highly-rated 135lbers look to get themselves back into the win column. Yadong was beaten by Kyler Phillips back at UFC 259 last time out, while Kenney suffered defeat to former champion Dominick Cruz on the same night.
Yadong is traditionally a kung-fu fighter but he has got good boxing and also some decent defensive wrestling chops. He’ll need all of that when he takes on Kenney, who is a top level wrestler but also has got some good power in his striking and kicks. Yadong’s cardio is his biggest advantage in this bout, with Kenney fairly often fading away in the third round.
If Kenney chooses to wrestle almost exclusively then he is more than good enough to wrap up the first two rounds and then look to survive the third when he eventually tires. But against Cruz he opted to battle it out on the feet and Yadong is a better striker who could punish that decision. Really close and interesting fight, but I think Kenney’s wrestling proves the difference.
PICK – Casey Kenney via Decision
Tecia Torres (12-5) vs Angela Hill (13-9) – (Strawweight/125lbs)
A fun fight at strawweight as both women look to extend their win streak as they look to build up the rankings. Torres has won each of her last two after suffering four losses in a row before that, stopping Sam Hughes via corner stoppage last time out at UFC 256. Hill on the other hand was in great form despite not the best results in 2020, and got a big win over Ashley Yoder at UFC Vegas 21.
Torres is scrappy boxer with good striking and some decent wrestling in her arsenal too, while Hill is a well-rounded Muay-Thai fighter who uses her knees and cardio brilliantly. Torres has fought some of the best around and while she’s not as good as she once was she still has a terrific skillset. Hill on the other hand has never really beaten any of the top contenders and wins fights she’s supposed to win.
Torres has a size disadvantage but Hill will look to wrestle and clinch, which can open opportunities up for her to land her offense. The issue both of these women have is that neither have fight-changing power so it really comes down to skill. For me, Torres is the more skilled of the two though and she should claim a win.
PICK – Tecia Torres via Decision
Michael Chiesa (18-4) vs Vicente Luque (20-7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Arguably the best fight on the card as two top welterweight contenders go head-to-head to earn contender status. Chiesa is on a four-fight win streak, with a dominant win over Neil Magny last time out at UFC Fight Island 8, while Luque is on a three-fight win streak with a submission win over Tyron Woodley at UFC 260.
Chiesa is a magnificent wrestler and grappler, with incredible jiu-jitsu and superhuman strength on the ground, while Luque is a powerhouse with aggressive boxing but also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Chiesa will undoubtedly use his kicks before shooting for takedowns and if he gets control on the mat then he very rarely lets it slip. In Luque though he has someone who can knock him out if he makes a mistake and can also hold his own on the ground.
Luque’s struggled in the past against the best of the best and right now Chiesa is one of the best. His fight IQ is very high, his grappling is good enough to beat anyone in the division and I think he’s content to make it boring and control the distance and ground exchanges to earn a very big win.
PICK – Michael Chiesa via Decision
Jose Aldo (29-7) vs Pedro Munhoz (19-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Yet another bantamweight banger on this card as former featherweight champion Jose Aldo takes on UFC veteran Pedro Munhoz in the co-main event. Aldo snapped a three-fight losing streak with a great win over Marlon Vera at UFC Vegas 17, while Munhoz snapped a two-fight losing streak with a decision win over Jimmie Rivera at UFC Vegas 20.
Aldo is arguably one of the best ever, with brilliant striking and kicking to go with his jiu-jitsu black belt and stunning wrestling defence. Munhoz is a good boxer and kicker himself with decent wrestling too, so this is a well balanced fight. The issue for Munhoz however is that Aldo is still so elite, despite recent results.
I find it hard to look at this match-up and see Aldo coming out second best. Munhoz is good enough to cause Aldo problems but I think the Brazilian earns himself the win by mixing his striking attack up to the body and head.
PICK – Jose Aldo via Decision
Derrick Lewis (25-7) vs Ciryl Gane (9-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A huge heavyweight battle for the interim title headlines this card as Derrick Lewis takes on the undefeated Ciryl Gane. Lewis is on a four-fight win streak, with a stunning one-punch finish over Curtis Blaydes at UFC Vegas 19. Gane has fought twice since then, beating Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexander Volkov via unanimous decisions and keeping his 100% record.
Lewis is a big man with decent offensive wrestling but a hammer of a right hand and stunning ground and pound that can literally put any man to sleep. Gane on the other hand is a very technical and polished kickboxer who has rounded his game out with good takedowns and even some submissions. Gane is undoubtedly the better fighter of the two and uses his range well, with kicks and great cardio but sometimes that doesn’t matter because Lewis is always just one punch away from ending the fight.
Unfortunately though, I do think that one punch hail mary won’t be enough this time. Gane is so good at moving in, landing his strike then moving away before he takes any damage. He’s powerful himself and talented enough to earn a big win and set up a huge title fight against former teammate Ngannou later down the line.
PICK – Ciryl Gane via Decision