If UFC 265 told us one thing, it was the fact that the heavyweight division could very well have a new king by the end of the calendar year.
In the main event of the night Ciryl Gane stepped into Derrick Lewis’ back yard in Houston, Texas and laid a beat down on the hometown hero that culminated in a third round mercy stoppage from the referee.
It was a masterful performance from the Frenchman, as he improved to 10-0 and earned himself the interim heavyweight title to set up a showdown with the current undisputed champion Francis Ngannou.
The obvious story of that fight is the fact that they are former teammates at Factory MMA and will now be battling it out for the title of the baddest man on the planet.
But there is also the fact that the aura of invincibility around both men won’t exist for the other because of that. Ngannou and Gane have both trained and sparred with each other on several occasions and will know each other inside out.
While both will have developed further and improved since their separation back in 2018, following Ngannou’s first fight with Stipe Miocic when he blamed his coach for the defeat, the large crux of their game won’t have changed.
‘The Predator’ will still have ridiculous one punch power and a blitz from hell to end fights, while ‘Bon Gamin’ is very much a stick and move fighter who will fight in a similar fashion to the way he did Lewis.
The win over Lewis was made more impressive by how he froze the now two-time title challenger in the octagon. Gane outlanded Lewis officially 112-16 in total strikes and completely silenced the home crowd as he cooly and calmly executed his game plan to perfection.
He has shown in the past that he is a more than solid grappler if he needs to be, while his striking is excellent. His ability to maintain distance and control range is second to none in the heavyweight division and he showed a killer instinct in the Lewis fight that had been missing in previous bouts against top level opposition.
With his complete skillset he’s a problem for anyone, but what really sets him apart for me is his mentality and fight IQ.
He knows he can do it all and he knows what dangers he is facing in each fight, but he just adapts to the scenario and trusts in his own abilities. When he comes up against Ngannou he won’t look to beat him with force, it’ll simply be about not getting hit while piecing him up until an opportunity arises to finish the fight.
Because of the way he fights, it’s hard to look past him being the favourite in any fight he’s in. That includes the title fight against Ngannou plus any potential match up with the former champion Stipe Miocic. The most intriguing fight for him would undoubtedly be against Jon Jones, who has had that same aura around him at 205lbs since forever.
But with the dominance he has shown in every single fight so far in his combat sports career, plus the fact that he knows everything there is to know about Ngannou right now, Gane may very well be the uncrowned king of the heavyweights already.