UFC 265: Previewing Lewis-Gane and the Rest of the Card
If there was an interim title for pay-per-view shows, this one might win it.
The UFC and its monthly $69.99 road show return to the Toyota Center in Houston for a 13-bout card topped off by a pivotal fight between two large human beings.
UFC 265 will be broadcast live by ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 7.
Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane, respectively the promotion's second- and third-ranked heavyweights, will get together in a scheduled five-rounder that'll guarantee its winner a subsequent shot at an even bigger fight—against full-fledged UFC champion Francis Ngannou.
For now, though, they'll be able to claim second-tier title status thanks to the interim belt that's up for grabs this time around.
Ngannou said he wasn't ready to defend the championship he won by stopping Stipe Miocic in March, and UFC czar Dana White threw a bone to Lewis' hometown by labeling this a title match.
And, predictably, he's still selling it as the gold standard.
"We actually have the guy (Lewis) who beat Francis Ngannou taking on the undefeated up-and-comer in Houston for the interim title and whoever wins, they can fight Francis when it's time," he said.
"It's a great fight. It's the fight that makes sense. It's the two best heavyweights in the world that aren't the heavyweight champion.”
The show's other 12 bouts include myriad up-and-comers, familiar veterans and others simply hoping to boost their profiles for the next time around. A women's bantamweight title match between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test and will be rescheduled.
The B/R combat sports team perused the remaining menu and identified a few of the tastier highlights.
UFC 265 Main Card (PPV)
Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane
Jose Aldo vs. Pedro Munhoz
Michael Chiesa vs. Vicente Luque
Tecia Torres vs. Angela Hill
Song Yadong vs. Casey Kenney
UFC 265 Preliminary Card
Bobby Green vs. Rafael Fiziev
Vince Morales vs. Drako Rodriguez
Alonzo Menifield vs. Ed Herman
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jessica Penne
Manel Kape vs. Ode' Osbourne
Miles Johns vs. Anderson Dos Santos
Victoria Leonardo vs. Melissa Gatto
Johnny Munoz vs. Jamey Simmons
Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane
Interim title silliness aside, this is a pretty good heavyweight fight.
Mainly because of the style contrast between the principals and the clear path to a victory that either of them has.
Lewis, the hometown favorite, is as fearsome a heavyweight puncher as exists this side of Ngannou.
He's 6'3", maxes out around 260 pounds and has the enviable quality that allows him to end a fight at any moment of a 25-minute main event, regardless of how the combat has been trending.
The 12 KOs he's scored in 16 UFC wins—including three in the final round—are obvious evidence, and he's also got a win over Ngannou himself, by three-round decision at UFC 226 in 2018.
It's the last time the champ lost, or went the distance.
As for Gane, he's something of an eight-sided renaissance man.
Though a thickly muscled 6'4", 245-pound frame is plenty intimidating, the Frenchman uses skills gleaned from his Muay Thai and kickboxing backgrounds to control distance while mixing kicks with punches.
He's used that blend to beat Junior Dos Santos, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexander Volkov in the last eight months, and his fate Saturday night will be determined by whether he can execute the same game plan while sidestepping nuclear-level return fire from Lewis.
"He has everything you look for. He's undefeated. He's young. He's a specialist," Daniel Cormier said at UFC 256, where Gane stopped Dos Santos in two rounds.
"Beautiful fluid movement and technical ability. He showed a very high level of technical skill."
Jose Aldo vs. Pedro Munhoz
Serious MMA fans know.
But those who occasionally dip in for a pay-per-view might be surprised to find that Jose Aldo is still doing it.
Now 34, the Brazilian's worst moment came on the biggest stage—the main event at UFC 194—and ended ingloriously when he was vaporized by a then-featherweight Conor McGregor in just 13 seconds.
Still, he's fought nine times since then and is experiencing something of a resurgence these days at bantamweight, having lost a close decision to title challenger Marlon Moraes and beaten streaking contender Marlon Vera across his last three fights since changing weight classes.
He's a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and continues to mix Muay Thai striking and leg kicks with defensive wrestling. He landed 62 percent of his significant strike attempts against Vera last December and took a unanimous decision after winning two of three rounds on all three official scorecards.
In Pedro Munhoz, he gets a fellow Brazilian, also 34, who's worked his way to ninth in the 135-pound rankings—four slots below Aldo—with a crowd-pleasing style that's yielded six bonuses in his last 11 fights.
The most recent wallet-booster came on a Fight Night show in February, when Munhoz launched 194 strikes across three rounds in defeating second-time foe Jimmie Rivera by unanimous decision.
Rivera won a split verdict when the two initially met in 2015.
Munhoz landed 40 leg kicks in the rematch with Rivera and exceeded that number one fight prior by landing 44 in a Fight Night main event against Frankie Edgar last August.
"I never put my expectation in fights and results and things like that," he told MMA Junkie's Farah Hannoun and Mike Bohn. "I like to focus on doing my best on (Saturday), but I do believe, and that’s crossed my mind every time, that an impressive victory over Jose Aldo is definitely a huge credibility for a title fight."
Michael Chiesa vs. Vicente Luque
The welterweight division is a hard nut to crack.
Champion Kamaru Usman is consistently ranked among the world's best pound-for-pound fighters, and the first tier of contenders—Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns, Leon Edwards and Stephen Thompson—have each retained relevance through a series of competitive high-profile bouts.
But Michael Chiesa and Vicente Luque want to play, too.
So the division's fifth- and sixth-ranked fighters will meet Saturday with the expectation that a win, particularly an impressive one, will move them toward the front of the line for a date with Usman, who's defended four times and is penciled in for a rematch with Covington at UFC 268 in November.
"Whoever wins this fight, even if Luque is the better man and gets his hand raised, I think he should move on and fight for the title," Chiesa said in an interview with Michael Bisping for the Believe You Me podcast (h/t MMA Junkie). "I think (Edwards) should be next. I have no problems saying that.
"He's on a sick win streak, you gotta give the guy what he deserves. He has paid his dues, he's undefeated in his last 10 fights, but I think whoever wins between me and Luque should be next."
Chiesa bases his claim on a recent four-fight streak, all of which have come since he transitioned from 155 pounds to 170 after deciding substantially cutting weight to reach the lightweight limit was compromising his high-pressure grappling style by impacting his fight night strength and stamina.
He's earned one submission and three decision wins since, most recently landing 74 percent of his strike attempts in a Fight Night main event defeat of Neil Magny on Jan. 20.
Luque, too, is amid a prolonged stretch of success, winning three in a row and nine of 10 since last 2017.
He submitted ex-champ Tyron Woodley in less than four minutes with a D'Arce choke at UFC 260 in March and has earned performance bonuses in five of his last seven fights.
He boxes well and mixes solid technique with intense pressure and a strong chin, and a respectful Chiesa seems fully cognizant of the threat he presents.
"I can't make a single tactical error in this fight if I want to win," Chiesa told Bisping. “I have to be on point. I cannot make a mistake because this is a guy, when you watch film on him, guys will have great fights against him until they make one small, minor error, and it changes the whole momentum of the fight."
Other Attractions: Running It Back at Strawweight
If you dig it, do it. If you dig it a lot, do it twice.
OK, it was originally the mantra of chart-topping 1970s singer Jim Croce, but it's just as applicable to the strawweight matchup between Angela Hill and Tecia Torres that'll serve as fight No. 2 on the main card.
The imminent foes were teammates alongside coach Gilbert Melendez on The Ultimate Fighter series way back in 2014, then met as combatants the following year at UFC 188 in Mexico City, where Torres won a unanimous three-round decision in what was only Hill's third professional fight.
Both have gone on to become Octagonal regulars, combining for 26 fights and a handful of performance bonuses while firmly establishing themselves as legitimate world-class 115-pounders.
Torres is ranked 10th, and Hill is two slots back at No. 12.
A Massachusetts native now fighting out of Colorado, Torres has a black belt in karate, a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and blends lateral movement with a variety of kicks and combination strikes. She's got a TKO and a submission among seven career UFC wins, while all five losses in the promotion have gone to the scorecards.
Hill, meanwhile, has become a fan favorite in her second UFC stint, fighting four times in 2020 alone and winning four of her last six outings overall since the second half of 2019. She has five KOs among her 13 career wins and has been submitted twice—once each by armbar and rear-naked choke.
The return bout was initially scheduled for last December but was scrubbed when Hill tested positive for COVID-19. Torres hesitated before signing on for a reschedule, signaling she wanted a match with someone above her in the rankings, but ultimately committed to the rematch.
Hill, needless to say, is using the slight as fuel.
"It was just a silly way of her trying to negotiate fighting someone who wasn't me, who's maybe higher ranked or who could get her closer to a title shot," Hill told the New York Post's Scott Fontana. "They said, 'No, b---h, get back in line. You haven't done s--t yet to be calling the shots.'"
Best of the Rest
Alonzo Menifield vs. Ed Herman
No, neither guy is in the rankings at light heavyweight.
But it still has the makings of a fun one.
Menifield is a chiseled, aggressive 205-pounder who seemed destined for a star turn after starting his UFC run with stops of Vinicius Moreira and Paul Craig, but his rocket ride detoured with a pair of losses in 2020.
He rebounded with a choke-out of Fabio Cherant at UFC 260, his 10th finish in 10 career wins.
Herman, meanwhile, is the longest-tenured fighter on the UFC roster, having debuted on The Ultimate Fighter in 2006 and fought 25 times since—winning 13 times, including five by submission and four by stoppage.
He's won three in a row since the start of 2019 by TKO, decision and submission, respectively.
Manel Kape vs. Ode Osbourne
A former champion in the Rizin Fighting Federation promotion, Kape hasn't found success in two UFC outings, dropping decisions on Fight Night cards in February and March.
He began martial arts training at age 4, then graduated to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing and made his pro MMA debut as an 18-year-old in 2012. His 15 wins have included nine knockouts and five submissions.
Osbourne, on the other hand, arrived to the UFC after a Season 3 stint on Dana White's Contender Series but was submitted by veteran Brian Kelleher at UFC 260 in January 2020.
He rebounded with a 26-second blowout of Jerome Rivera on a Fight Night show in February 2021.
And that's clearly the result he prefers.
"I don't like to be in there fighting for three rounds and it goes to decision," Osbourne told Sherdog's Tudor Leonte.
"If it goes to decision, I feel like I didn't do my job and my job was uncompleted. There might be fights that I go to decision, but I feel like I didn't do my job whenever it goes the distance. I try to finish people because that's what fighting is all about. You try to prove that you are the best and the only way to prove that you are the best is to finish everybody."