Francis Ngannou and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 270

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2022

Francis Ngannou and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 270

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    Go big or go home.

    When up against a Saturday evening/night sports schedule that included a pair of NFL playoff games alongside a slate of action in both the NHL and NBA, the UFC had no choice but to follow that mantra.

    The MMA conglomerate did so with an 11-bout card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California that was topped by a heavyweight duel between former training partners in possession of title belts.

    Full-fledged champion Francis Ngannou met interim claimant Cyril Gane in the first defense of the top-shelf honors he won with a vicious KO of Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 last March.

    That title bout was supported by a co-main trilogy fight between flyweight champ Brandon Moreno and the man from whom he won the belt in June, Deiveson Figueiredo. The two had met six months earlier as well in a bout that ended in a five-round majority draw.

    The ESPN+ broadcast team included familiar voices in familiar places, including Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Joe Rogan at cageside while Megan Olivi worked the room with breaking news and feature pieces and Din Thomas chimed in intermittently with tactical analysis.

    The B/R combat sports team was in position to assemble its list of definitive winners and losers, too.

    Click through to see what we came up with and let us know what you think with a contribution or two to the comments section.

Winner: Changing Predator Stripes

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    If you saw this coming, take a bow.

    Not only Ngannou retaining his heavyweight title, but doing so by rallying from two rounds down with a grappling-heavy attack that sapped the strength of his 247-pound opponent.

    The Cameroonian-born titleholder won a narrow unanimous decision, earning nods of 48-47 from two judges and 49-46 from a third in picking up the first decision victory of an eight-plus-year career.

    He’d won 16 previous fights by finish, including 12 by KO and four by submission.

    Ngannou hadn’t gone five rounds since losing a decision to then-champ Miocic in their first fight three years ago. He lost a subsequent three-rounder to Derrick Lewis but had gone 5-0 since with four first-round finishes and another, of Miocic, in the second round.

    He scored a career-best four takedowns and established better than eight minutes of ground control time against Gane, who’d not been on his back while recording seven straight UFC victories.

    The native Frenchman had the better of the first two rounds with effective punches and kicks from long range, but Ngannou turned the tide when he slammed the challenger to his back after catching a kick attempt one minute into the third. Ngannou never did significant striking damage while on the mat, but simply making Gane carry his 250-plus pounds changed the tenor of the battle.

    It seemed even heading into the fifth and Gane again fought well from distance to begin the last round, but he caught an Ngannou kick and ill-advisedly initiated a takedown just more than a minute in.

    Gane made successive attempts to cinch Ngannou into a heel hook submission, but the champion was able to withstand the attack and ultimately retake top position for the final two minutes.

    “I knew that he was going to be a tough opponent,” Ngannou said.

    “I had to remember to stay composed, calm down, don’t chase him. My ground game is important. Now maybe people won’t sleep on me.”

Loser: Cuatro Latinos

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    It wasn't the best night for Raul Arvizu's Entram Gym in Tijuana, Mexico.

    Not only did the four fighters representing the gym—Moreno, Michael Morales, Genaro Valdez and Silvana Juarez—have a 1-3 record on the card, they also lost the one that mattered most.

    Moreno lost the flyweight title back to Figueiredo via a narrow unanimous decision after the two had battled to a majority draw 13 months ago and Moreno had finished him with a third-round choke in June to become the first Mexican-born champion in the promotion's history.

    All three judges gave Figueiredo a 48-47 edge on the scorecards.

    "It's my day. It's my day," Figueiredo said. "But I'm ready for a fourth fight against Moreno, in Mexico."

    Moreno endorsed the idea of adding yet another fight to the trilogy, though he seemed to believe he'd done enough to win the decision in No. 3.

    "I feel like I threw better combinations and I'm upset that he won," he said. "I felt like he had a better game plan (than the last time) but I felt like I pressed more and had better combinations."

    Indeed, Moreno landed 105 significant strikes to Figueiredo's 86, but the Brazilian scored each of the fight's three knockdowns and had a 2:18-0:46 advantage in ground control time.

    B/R agreed with the now-former champ, seeing it 49-46 in his favor after giving him all but Round 3.

    The championship result meant Michael Morales' first-round win over Trevin Giles was the lone triumph for the gym, which has capitalized on the increasing popularity of MMA in Mexico. Juarez was beaten by submission in the second fight of the night and Valdez was stopped in one round on the prelim card.

    It was the UFC debut for both Morales and Valdez and the second fight for Juarez.

    Moreno is seven fights into his second stint with the promotion after initially arriving for five fights from 2016 to 2018.

    "This team has a great culture, they're family, and it means the world to me," manager Jason House told the Orange County Register. "I think what Brandon has done is really opened the doors wider for other teammates to have these opportunities."

Even: High-Profile Arrivals

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    It wasn't textbook, but it was certainly effective.

    Unbeaten Ecuadorian export Morales was on the receiving end of punishing strikes in the early going of his UFC debut on Saturday's main card against veteran Giles, but when the moment came for a truly decisive shot to land, it was the 22-year-old who had launched it.

    Two fights later, Octagonal veteran Michel Pereira spoiled Portuguese transplant Andre Fialho's debut with a narrow but fair unanimous decision in their three-rounder at welterweight.

    In the opener, Morales extended his record to 13-0 thanks to a counter right hand that landed squarely on the temple as Giles rushed in to continue a barrage.

    Instead, it rendered the middleweight-turned-welterweight instantly defenseless and sent him to the floor where he retreated into a turtle position as Morales continued to fire right-hand strikes with no reply.

    Ultimately, it drew an intervention from referee Mike Beltran at 4:06 of the first.

    "That is some serious composure from a 22-year-old. What a prospect," Anik said.

    "Giles overextended and he landed something close, and he's a big strong kid. That kid's got a maturity and a skill set that belies his 22 years on the planet."

    It was the 11th stoppage in 13 fights for Morales, who scored his 10th KO to go with a single submission and a pair of decisions since his debut in 2017.

    "They expected this from me and that's what we got," Morales said.

    Pereira was his typically frenetic self in the opening five minutes against Fialho, who had arrived with a 14-3 record across multiple promotions and was effective with consistent pressure and straight, hard punches.

    Pereira remained busy and was more impactful with movement and a variety of strikes in round two, though, then continued that approach in the third and wound up with a 107-45 edge in significant strikes.

    He won by 29-28 scores in the eyes of all three judges.

Loser: Playing Prelim Favorites

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    Betting on a main-card commodity is one thing.

    But managing to make a profit on lower-profile prelim fights is another.

    The wagering wheat was separated from the chaff during the night's initial half-dozen bouts, where prudent outlays across the board—based on results—could have yielded a hefty $975 profit.

    Favorites won four of the six encounters but the biggest needle-mover was the prelim finale when prohibitive -525 pick (bet $525 to win $100) Raoni Barcelos, the biggest favorite on the card, was beaten by a unanimous decision across three rounds by +385 longshot Victor Henry in his UFC debut.

    "I'm trying to think of a guy who came into the UFC and fought a guy as highly ranked as Raoni Barcelos and did as well as Victor Henry is doing. He does belong. He looks fantastic."

    Henry won by 30-27 margins on all three scorecards.

    "You should be in the gym all the time. Preparing and being your best martial arts self," he said. "I got one or two runs at best and I'm trying to make the best of it."

    Minus-money payouts of $100 apiece came on favorites Jack Della Maddalena (-350), Tony Gravely (-250), Matt Frevola (-200) and Vanessa Demopoulos (-140), while the other higher-end cash out came on +190 pick Jasmine Jasudavicius after her unanimous decision over -235 pick Kay Hansen in the night’s first fight.

    Bets on all six favorites would have incurred a $360 loss, while bets on all six underdogs would have yielded a $175 profit.

Winner: Making an Entrance

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    Looking for a new international UFC superstar?

    Della Maddalena might just be your guy.

    The Australian welterweight made as impressive an octagonal debut as possible in the night’s penultimate preliminary bout, looking far more mature than his 25 years in a brutal one-round stoppage of previously unbeaten opponent Pete Rodriguez.

    "To be honest, I was waiting for the jitters and they never came," he said.

    "That’s what I call the $50G spot, baby."

    The official end came when referee Frank Trigg intervened at 2:59 of the first.

    "That was nasty. Dude was sleeping on his feet,” Cormier said of Rodriguez, who was stricken by a southpaw one-two and tumbled in slow motion to the mat before Della Maddalena pounced with three more fight-ending ground strikes. “This kid has a huge future ahead of him. This kid’s good."

    The decisive sequence came after a half-round of dominance in which Della Maddalena boxed at range with a punishing right jab followed frequently by a powerful left cross. Rodriguez’s nose was bloodied within the fight’s first 30 seconds and his face was reddened and bloody by the time the end came.

    Della Maddalena landed 43 of 81 strike attempts to just 25 of 69 from Rodriguez.

    "Rodriguez looks like he fought for 15 minutes, he's so beat up," Rogan said. "That my friends is how you make a UFC debut."

Winner: Acing the Interview

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    When Vanessa Demopoulos hit the canvas, she was done.

    To the extent that she told Rogan soon after that she'd "woke up on the ground."

    But the fact that she was talking to Rogan at all was indicative.

    A native Ohioan now fighting out of California, Demopoulos took a huge right hand, not to mention a subsequent series of ground strikes, from Juarez early in the first round of their scheduled three-rounder at 115 pounds.

    But rather than remaining defenseless on the way to a quick stoppage loss, she was able to regain composure and begin working from her back to reverse the momentum.

    Moments later, she'd done so.

    Demopoulos seized upon the right arm of her aggressive foe, eventually locking it up and rolling over to cinch in the armbar that drew Juarez's tap-out surrender and end matters at 2:25.

    The ebullient winner slapped hands with Rogan upon realizing he'd arrived for a chat, then later jumped into his arms to conclude her first winning stay in the Octagon.

    "Oh my god, it's Joe Rogan," she said. "I'm here with Joe Rogan."

    It was the seventh win of her pro career and fourth by submission, including three by armbars.

    "I love jiu-jitsu," she said. "I can do jiu-jitsu all day long, every single day."

Winner: Canadian Exchange

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    First time in the UFC. First time on a pay-per-view card.

    But you'd have never known it from looking at Jasudavicius.

    Instead, the 32-year-old from southern Ontario looked the part from the moment she emerged from the locker room, smiling and slapping hands with the early-arriving crowd on the way to the cage and handling her business once there while winning a unanimous flyweight decision from Hansen.

    A graduate of Dana White's Contender Series last September, the Canadian was five inches taller and had a five-inch advantage in reach over her foe, who was rising in weight to 125 pounds after spending the earliest portion of her career at 115.

    Jasudavicius used that size when the two were at range, but she was also effective in defending takedown attempts by Hansen—who wound up 1-of-7 in her tries across 15 minutes. And it was similar once they did get to the ground, where Jasudavicius had better than six minutes of control time.

    Hansen rallied in the final five minutes as her corner pleaded for volume, but she was unable to land anything decisive and Jasudavicius earned official scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.

    B/R's combat sports team concurred with the majority and also gave the winner a one-point margin.

UFC 270 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Francis Ngannou def. Ciryl Gane by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)

    Deiveson Figueiredo def. Brandon Moreno by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)

    Michel Pereira def. Andre Fialho by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

    Said Nurmagomedov def. Cody Stamann by submission (guillotine choke), 0:47, Round 1

    Michael Morales def. Trevin Giles by TKO (punches), 4:06, Round 1

    Preliminary Card

    Victor Henry def. Raoni Barcelos by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Jack Della Maddalena def. Pete Rodriguez by TKO (punches), 2:59, Round 1

    Tony Gravely def. Saimon Oliveira by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Matt Frevola def. Genaro Valdez by TKO (punches), 3:15, Round 1

    Early Preliminary Card

    Vanessa Demopoulos def. Silvana Juarez by submission (armbar), 2:25, Round 1

    Jasmine Jasudavicius def. Kay Hansen by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

      

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