UFC 265 is in the books and Francis Ngannou has found himself a new, uber-menacing foe: Ciryl Gane. The French Muay Thai maestro stopped Derrick Lewis in emphatic fashion last night to be crowned interim UFC heavyweight champ.
For Ngannou, Gane is the latest in a long line of hurdles to cement himself as the undisputed king of the UFC heavyweight scene. For Gane, Ngannou is the biggest obstacle in his own path to the same mantle.
When these two titans of the octagon finally clash, it’s going to be a heavy duty war of the highest order. Two of the strongest, deadliest strikers the sport has ever seen, Ngannou and ‘Bon Gamin’ will light it up when they do battle.
For now, most fighters, fans and pundits alike will say it’s hard to pick a definitive favorite between the two. They are, after all, on a similar level of elite fighting prowess to one another.
However, digging a little deeper reveals a few hints that Ngannou might just have Gane’s number. Here are three reasons why Francis Ngannou will win the war with Ciryl Gane:
#3. Francis Ngannou will likely be more aggressive than ever
It’s safe to say ‘The Predator’ is not happy with the current state of the UFC heavyweight title situation. The Cameroonian slugger has made very clear his frustrations with Dana White and the UFC over the decision to make an interim title.
Ngannou has also been very vocal on his issues with the UFC fighter pay scale. His long-gestating dream match with light heavyweight legend Jon Jones has become a focal point in both men’s arguments for more money.
Between his demands for better compensation and the decision to hold up the title scene despite his good health, Ngannou may well be furious by now. Always a ferocious fighter, the otherwise chilled and even-tempered champion might crank his aggression up a notch.
Similar to Stipe Miocic at UFC 220, Ngannou will be out to prove to White, the UFC and himself that he is the ace of the heavyweight scene. For Miocic, his fury at the time stemmed from a lack of promotion despite being the long-reigning champ. For Ngannou, it's about reclaiming his undisputed glory and proving his worth a fighter,.
If Ngannou channels his professional resentments as well as Miocic did, Ciryl Gane could be in for a very unpleasant evening.
Everyone from Muhammad Ali to Conor McGregor has emphasized the importance of the psychological advantage in a fight. The combatant with the sharper focus, drive and intensity nearly always has the edge. For Ciryl Gane, facing an especially hot-tempered Ngannou could spell lights out.
#2. He is a more complete fighter
In 2018, the flaws in Ngannou’s game were badly exposed by then-UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 220. As devastating as his boxing is, Ngannou simply had little to no mastery of grappling. Once the fight was taken to the ground, ‘The Predator’ quickly became ‘The Prey’.
By the end of round five, a crestfallen Ngannou appeared to have had his confidence rocked. This became even more noticeable in his next fight, another decision loss, this time to Derrick Lewis.
Learning from his mistakes, Ngannou checked his ego at the door and applied himself dutifully to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In 2019, he quickly resumed his winning ways with fast knockout shots. In 2021, he is one of the most complete fighters in the heavyweight division.
On his feet, he is one of the most dangerous men on earth. On the ground, he’s no slouch either. As gifted as Ciryl Gane has proven himself to be, he is not quite as well-rounded as Ngannou has become. In all areas, Ngannou holds the experience and muscle memory necessary to get the job done.
#1. 'The Predator' is the deadliest striker in the game
Getting hit by Francis Ngannou is akin to getting hit by a full speed tank. The hardest recorded puncher in the history of the UFC (and the world as a whole), Ngannou throws bombs that would make Rumble Johnson wince. This was never more evident than when he caused Alistair Overeem to short circuit at UFC 218.
While Ngannou has often been criticized for relying too heavily on his punching power in the past, the results speak for themselves. ‘The Predator’ has knocked out a murderers’ row of UFC heavyweight titans including Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic.
As powerful and durable as Ciryl Gane is, one well-placed shot from Ngannou is all it takes. While Gane’s prodigious mastery of Muay Thai is undeniably powerful, he is not quite as seasoned or as explosive as ‘The Predator’.
Ngannou’s striking prowess is what brought him to the dance and it will likely keep netting him TKO/KO wins in the future.