Prior to UFC 270: Francis Ngannou vs Ciryl Gane, many – present company included – believed this was Gane’s for the taking. While his former teammate holds the record for world’s hardest punch, Gane is a technician of the highest order. An elite heavyweight who not only boasts a full toolbox but also moves like a middleweight. Pure nightmare fuel for every one-shot cannon on the roster – just ask Derrick Lewis. In the plot twist of the century, Ngannou would defend the belt via unanimous decision… simply by living up to his moniker.
Apex predators aren’t defined by raw power or even size. As the classic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu adage goes, if size and power were everything, the elephant would be king of the jungle. In nature, what defines an apex predator is evolution. A terrifying capacity to sharpen their instincts over time and hunt with maximum efficiency. And that was precisely what we’ve witnessed from Francis “The Predator” Ngannou today.
The first two rounds seemed to confirm our initial thesis. Gane was piecing up Ngannou from a distance, circling his opponent with far more fluidity, and backing up his output with a good measure of venom. On the adverse, Ngannou was already showing early signs of fatigue. Flat-footed, low hands, and mouth agape to filter the requisite oxygen in. At around the minute mark of Round 3, the tide would turn in jaw-dropping fashion.
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You have to understand, this outcome – the manner in which it unfolded – wasn’t even within the realm of possibilities for anyone outside of Francis Ngannou’s camp. After all, we’re talking about a man known for throwing everything except the kitchen sink at his opponents, who only began demonstrating a grasp of boxing fundamentals when he captured the UFC Heavyweight Championship title from Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 (see Daniel Cormier’s breakdown above). Although keeping the fight on their feet was never the route to victory, it was expected. What else did we think he was going to do? You don’t spend a lifetime refining your striking ability only to suddenly become a wrestler.
So to watch Francis Ngannou catch Ciryl Gane’s kick before exploding into a power slam was nothing short of a reality-shattering moment (as well as being a shattering-of-the-earth and shattering-of-the-spine moment). Then again when he secured the whizzer kick. And then again with the body feint into a double leg. By the end of the night, Francis Ngannou would successfully land more takedowns than his first 13 UFC events combined, plus a whole lot of control time; utterly manhandling a talent who had never been taken down in the Octagon.
UFC 270: Francis Ngannou vs Ciryl Gane masterclass in levelling the playing field against the superior striker. The nail in the coffin was when Gane surrendered top position in a textbook reversal from Ngannou, before the former unsuccessfully attempted a last-ditch leg lock on the latter. The cherry on top? Francis Ngannou was recovering from a torn MCL and damaged ACL heading into this bout, hence the knee sleeves. What are the kids saying these days about being built different?
If UFC 270 is how we’re starting numbered events in 2022, safe to say, we’re in for another bloody ripper of a year, fight fans.