'Spectacular' Gane’s arrival signals changing of the heavyweight guard ahead of UFC 270

Ciryl Gane faces former team-mate Francis Ngannou for the undisputed heavyweight crown on BT Sport this weekend, looking to set a new standard for the division.

By George Mills Published: 18 January 2022 - 3.31pm

Defeat is not a feeling that is familiar to Ciryl Gane.

The 31-year-old will make his 11th Octagon walk at UFC 270 on Saturday night yet to be beaten since switching codes to MMA back in 2018, leaving an undefeated record in French national Muay Thai behind.

His rise through the heavyweight landscape has been imperious, his pull towards the crown almost gravitational as he has dispatched of contenders and contemporaries with alarming ease.

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But it was his astonishing demolition job on two-time heavyweight title challenger Derrick Lewis last time out that convinced most he was truly ready to compete for gold.

Gane cruised to a third-round TKO win over The Black Beast in front of a hostile crowd in Houston, Texas, at UFC 265 last August, describing his own performance as “a master class” during his post-fight media duties.

Speaking to a guest on a recent edition of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, host Rogan, a long-time UFC colour commentator, agreed.

“Occasionally, you’ll see a fighter that does something very artistic in striking that sort of elevates the standard,” Rogan explained.

“Cyril Gane beat the s*** out of him”
- Joe Rogan

“Did you see the Derrick Lewis, Ciryl Gane fight? Cyril Gane beat the s*** out of him. He shut him out.

“Gane, who’s 6’5”, 247lb, moves like a 170lber. It’s crazy. He’s bouncing around like Wonderboy [Stephen Thompson] the entire fight, throwing feints.

“He’s completely changed the standard of heavyweight striking and I’m not exaggerating. There’s no question he’s the best-moving heavyweight I’ve ever seen.

“The way he beat Derrick Lewis, who’s a legitimate one punch knockout threat, and the technical acumen that he showed. The skill, the technique, the movement, the ability to control everything that happened inside the Octagon was spectacular.

“It changed my opinion of how a fight with Francis Ngannou would go down.”

Thankfully we won’t have long to wait to see exactly how that fight will go down with the two former friends topping the bill at the Anaheim Centre in California.

Stylistically, the contest provides enough intrigue to ensure a huge audience will be tuned in across the globe when the cage door closes – but with a dollop of added needle between the two men, the fight is an absolute must-watch.

Cracks in the relationship between the two first reared their head while training together at the MMA Factory gym in Paris under the tutelage of coach Ferland Lopez.

Over time, as Ngannou’s star rose in the promotion, his bond with coach Lopez deteriorated and he eventually departed the gym in an acrimonious split, heading for the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas.

“You couldn't ask for a better match up”
- Dana White

In recent weeks, Ngannou’s departure from the gym has become a talking point once again after the undisputed champion accused Gane and Lopez of leaking sparring footage of the pair in the build-up to UFC 270.

“I won’t say I’m surprised knowing the person [Lopez]. I always knew that something like this could come from him,” Ngannou told the UFC’s Megan Olivi.

“I was in Paris two years ago after the Derrick Lewis fight, and I was dealing with some personal stuff on my end.

“I was so in the bad place that I decided to see a psychiatrist. If you look at the psychiatrist’s notes, it’s funny because even two years ago she pointed out Fernand as a problem and to watch out. I thought she was like, crazy. She started to break it down and put it on the note. Now I think she was all right.”

The fight also arrives at an intriguing moment in the careers of both men.

Ngannou, 35, has been locked in increasingly fractious negotiations with the UFC regarding a contract extension and is believed to be entering the final fight of his current deal.

Gane, meanwhile, appears to be regarded highly by the UFC brass having sanctioned the 31-year-old to face Lewis in an interim title fight last year despite Ngannou apparently being fit and ready to fight.

Amid that context, the result on Saturday night could have huge ramifications for the heavyweight landscape with rumours that a defeat for Ngannou could see him exit the promotion altogether.

The Cameroonian kayo king has been eyeing a move into boxing, setting his sights on the current WBC heavyweight king Tyson Fury for a potential lucrative showdown.

Yet despite the lingering tensions between Ngannou and the organisation, this is a fight that has UFC boss Dana White pumped ahead of Saturday night.

“That fight’s ridiculous - one of the best, if not the best, heavyweight match-ups ever,” White told BT Sport’s Adam Catterall.

“You got two guys that train together, two guys that had a falling out and now don’t like each other. One guy has unbelievable knockout power and the other guy moves around like a middleweight, probably the best technical striker in heavyweight history.

“So I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better match-up.

“They’re both champions. You got one (who) has the interim title; the other one has the title. Everything’s on the line - and how in-depth the bad blood is between the camp. You just couldn’t write a better story than this.”

Will we see a changing of the guard by crowning a new undisputed heavyweight king – or will Ngannou see off his most dangerous opponent yet?

Don’t miss a second of the action at UFC 270: Ngannou vs Gane, exclusively live on BT Sport this Saturday night. Click here for all the details on how to watch it.