UFC 270: Previewing Francis Ngannou vs. Cyril Gane and the Rest of the Card

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IIJanuary 10, 2022

UFC 270: Previewing Francis Ngannou vs. Cyril Gane and the Rest of the Card

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    The UFC's first pay-per-view of the year is always a pretty big deal. And 2022 is no exception.

    This year, the promotion will get things started with UFC 270, which will be topped by a high-stakes heavyweight title fight between undisputed champion Francis Ngannou and interim titleholder Ciryl Gane. Fights don't get much bigger than that—in terms of significance and the sheer size of the competitors involved.

    UFC 270's co-headlining attraction is sure to be quite a contrast from the main event, as flyweight champion Brandon Moreno looks to defend his title against the division's former king, Deiveson Figueiredo, in the final instalment of an exciting trilogy.

    Beyond those two title fights, UFC 270 features a number of other compelling bouts, including a heavyweight clash between Aleksei Oleinik and Greg Hardy and a featherweight showdown between Movsar Evloev and Ilia Topuria. It doesn't have the star-studded ensemble cast that the UFC 268 and 269 cards did, particularly after losing a few fights, but it still looks set to be an excellent opener for another year of high-level MMA action.

    Keep reading for a crash course on the card's headlining title fights and a few of its other top attractions.

UFC 270 Card

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    Main Card (ESPN+ PPV, 10 p.m. ET)

    Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane

    Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo

    Movsar Evloev vs. Ilia Topuria

    Greg Hardy vs. Aleksei Oleinik

                

    Prelims (ESPN/ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET) 

    Trevin Giles vs. Michael Morales

    Said Nurmagomedov vs. Cody Stamann

    Tony Gravely vs. Saimon Oliveira

    Poliana Botelho vs. Ji Yeon Kim

                

    Early Prelims (ESPN+, 6:15 p.m. ET)

    Jack Della Maddalena vs. opponent TBA

    Kay Hansen vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius

    Matt Frevola vs. Genaro Valdez

    Wellington Turman vs. Rodolfo Vieira

    Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor Henry

Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane

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    The heavyweight title will be up for grabs in the UFC 270 main event, as undisputed champion Francis Ngannou (16-3) looks to defend his title against Ciryl Gane (10-0), who became the division's interim champion with a TKO win over Derrick Lewis in August.

    The matchup is endlessly fascinating on paper. Ngannou, who assumed the throne with a knockout of Stipe Miocic in March, is probably the hardest puncher in MMA—maybe in all of combat sports. UFC President Dana White famously compared the French-Cameroonian star's power to "getting hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can." The science behind that comparison is a bit iffy, but there is no questioning Ngannou's propensity for destruction. Since joining the UFC in 2015, he's picked up knockout wins over Curtis Blaydes (twice), Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Miocic.

    In 2022, Ngannou is seemingly better than ever, having bolstered his ridiculous power with proven takedown defense and adopted a more economical approach to fighting. At this stage, it's going to take a special fighter to beat him.

    Enter Gane. The interim champion, who previously competed in muay thai, is unbeaten in MMA. He made his UFC debut just four fights into his pro career and has since rattled off impressive wins over the likes of Tanner Boser, dos Santos, Rozenstruik, Alexander Volkov and Lewis.

    Like most heavyweights, Gane possesses plenty of power, but his biggest strengths are his technical striking and his surprising agility and footwork—he moves extremely well for a 250-pound man. He also has a shockingly well-rounded skillset for a fighter so new to MMA. While striking is his bread and butter, neither takedowns nor submissions are unusual for him. In short, he looks like he could have the perfect skill set to beat Ngannou—if he can avoid being decapitated in the first round or two.

    Amazingly, that's not all that makes this matchup fascinating. It's given extra zest by the fact that Ngannou and Gane are former training partners—a relationship that has clearly curdled in recent weeks. Ngannou is also in the midst of a heated contract dispute with the UFC. A loss would destroy most of his negotiating power, which adds another layer of intrigue.

    It's simply a massive fight with massive stakes from every angle imaginable.

Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo III

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    UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno (19-5-2) has fought Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1), the division's former titleholder, two times before.

    The pair first met in December 2020, when Figueiredo was the champion, and battled to a majority draw in one of the year's best fights. That outcome meant that the Brazilian retained the title, but its inconclusive nature meant a rematch was critical. We got that in July, and the result was much more decisive, as Moreno walloped Figueiredo to a third-round submission victory, usurping the flyweight throne in the process.

    Moreno's win over Figueiredo was one-sided enough that a third fight between the pair didn't seem necessary—at least not right away. Yet the UFC decided to book the trilogy for UFC 270, most likely because there were no better options available for Moreno.

    While this bout probably doesn't need to happen, nobody is complaining that it is. Their first fight was incredible. Their second was the showcase that turned Moreno into one of the UFC's brightest stars. No matter the outcome, their third should be exciting too.

    Moreno, who was infamously cut by the UFC in 2018, has looked like a new man since returning to the promotion in 2019, defeating the likes of Kai Kara-France, Jussier Formiga, Brandon Royval and Figueiredo with a ridiculously slick striking attack and a lethal ground game.

    Figueiredo, while seemingly a step behind Moreno in terms of speed and technique, makes every fight he's in interesting because of his crackling power and murderous instincts on the mat. Just ask the nine men he's knocked out and the eight he's submitted.

    Will Moreno prove his superiority over Figueiredo once and for all, or will the former champion reclaim the throne and set up a rare tetralogy with his Mexican rival? As ever, there's no way to know until the cage door closes.

Other Attractions: Unbeaten Contenders Clash

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    At this point, it's safe to assume that any fighter from the Caucasus is a force to be reckoned with. The region has been pumping out high-level MMA talent for years, and the trend is showing no signs of a downturn.

    One of the most compelling young fighters from the area is the undefeated former M-1 bantamweight champion Movsar Evloev (15-0), from the Republic of Ingushetia in Russia, who takes on a fellow unbeaten in Ilia Topuria (11-0) at UFC 270.

    Evloev will meet Topuria at featherweight on the event's main card. It will be the Russian's sixth fight in the UFC's Octagon after suffocating decision wins over Seung Woo Choi, Enrique Barzola, Mike Grundy, Nik Lentz and Hakeem Dawodu. Now ranked No. 13, he's widely considered a future featherweight title challenger—maybe even a champion.

    All of that being said, Evloev faces a stark challenge at UFC 270. Georgia's Topuria, who was born in Germany and fights out of Spain, is not ranked at featherweight but has looked no less impressive since joining the UFC in 2020, rattling off effortless-looking wins over Youssef Zalal, Damon Jackson and, most impressively, BJJ wizard Ryan Hall. With seven wins by submission and three by knockout, he's proven that he's capable of ending fights from any position.

    The odds are almost dead-even—an indication that we are in for a competitive fight. And whichever man finds a way to win can look forward to a fight with an opponent inside the featherweight top 15—maybe even the top 10.

Best of the Rest

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    Aleksei Oleinik vs. Greg Hardy

    Aleksei Oleinik (59-16-1) and Greg Hardy (7-4) could be fighting for their jobs at UFC 270.

    Oleinik is one of the most experienced fighters competing in MMA today and one of the greatest submission specialists in heavyweight history. But at 44, he's fallen on tough times, with losses to Derrick Lewis, Chris Daukaus and Sergey Spivak in the rearview mirror—the first two coming by way of knockout.

    Hardy is also on a skid. After wins over Yorgan de Castro and Maurice Greene, the former NFL player suffered back-to-back knockout stoppage losses to Marcin Tybura and Tai Tuivasa—another indication that he's not nearly as good as he looks when he's fighting low-level competition. His name might be enough to save his job if he loses a third straight contest to Oleinik, but three losses in a row is a bad look for any fighter.

                    

    Jasmine Jasudavicius vs. Kay Hansen  

    Women's MMA has never been better—and the flyweight division might be the best of them all.

    The division is still ruled by Valentina Shevchenko, who looks increasingly unbeatable with every fight, but it's also alive with emerging talent, with fighters like Taila Santos, Alexa Grasso, Manon Fiorot, Casey O'Neill and Erin Blanchfield on the rise.

    On the UFC 270 undercard, two more flyweight prospects will look to assert themselves, as Kay Hansen (7-4) takes on Jasmine Jasudavicius (6-1).

    Hansen, 22, beat Jinh Yu Frey via triangle-armbar in her UFC debut in 2020 but was defeated Cory McKenna by decision in her second Octagon appearance later that year. Despite that loss, she remains a promising talent, and after spending all of 2021 navigating significant personal challenges, she will be eager to remind the world of that fact against Jasudavicius.

    Jasudavicius is one of the top prospects out of Canada. She earned a UFC contract with a decision win over Julia Polastri on Dana White's Contender Series in September. At 32, she's a debuting with the promotion a little later than most do, but she looks like she has the chops to compete—even if the oddsmakers don't like her chances against Hansen (h/t BestFightOdds). Don't miss this one.

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