This weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship kicks off its 2022 pay-per-view schedule with UFC 270 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California for a card that will be headlined by a heavyweight championship bout. In truth, it will be very interesting to see how the UFC, through its partnership with ESPN, will generate buyrates during the new year because the first quarter of the PPV calendar doesn’t necessarily have anything mainstream scheduled. While next month’s Adesanya/Whittaker rematch should provide a quality bout, it’s more of a contest for diehard fight fans. The UFC 272 headliner of Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal is more sizzle than substance, and considering that they were both dominated in their last fight by Kamaru Usman, the amount of interest in that sizzle might be minimal.
The narrative in the heavyweight division is somewhat murky because after an impressive KO victory against Stipe Miocic nearly a year ago to claim the title, Francis Ngannou hasn’t defended the championship. When Ngannou said he wasn’t ready to fight against Ciryl Gane for an event in August of last year, Dana White scheduled a rather pointless interim title fight for Ciryl Gane vs. Derrick Lewis, which Gane won via TKO in the third round. I would say that Gane/Lewis was more or less a number one contender fight, and that prehaps Dana made it an interim title bout as a safety net if the UFC couldn’t get a Ngannou defense on paper.
As far as the result of the heavyweight title bout, as usual, it can be a toss up in the heavyweight division because one punch can end the fight, but outside of that, it might depend on what Ngannou shows up in the Octagon this weekend. His first shot at the belt in 2018 was hampered by a lack of cardio and technique, the same thing that led to a very lackluster loss against the previously mentioned Lewis later that year. However, since that time, Ngannou improved his cardio and striking, which is basically what allowed him to win the title during the Stipe rematch last year. That being said, much of the narrative of his title defense will depend on if he stayed in fighting shape in the past year and if he will have the focus to retain the belt. Occasionally, you’ve seen in MMA before that when someone reaches the top of the mountain with the championship win, an unintended level of complacency develops with their approach to the fight game. This is a concern because Ngannou didn’t seem to eager to fight in August, and if any fighter isn’t prepared, especially in the heavyweight division, it could be a rather brief title run.
Outside of Gane’s undefeated record, on paper, the challenger is a more well-rounded fighter and thus it makes sense that the sports books have him at about a 1.5 favorite to win. Gane has a mixture of KOs, submission, and decision wins on his record so he has the power to compete in the heavyweight division, but he’s not one-dimensional either. At the same time, Ngannou’s power can’t be underestimated and it literally only takes one punch for him to end the fight. The argument could be made that he’s the most dangerous puncher in the entire UFC.
As far as a winner, I think it depends on if the fight goes into the championship rounds. Despite the improved cardio, the vast majority of the champion’s victories are in the first round and it remains to be seen if he can be successful in the later rounds. As mentioned, Gane has wins on the score cards so it might be wise for him to attempt to get the champion into the fourth or fifth round to test the cardio. I would say that Ngannou will be the most dangerous inside of the first two rounds. If it gets to the third round, the advantage will probably tilt toward Gane. Similar to the vast majority of Ngannou’s fights, the determining factor will be if he can land the KO punch. It’s only a little more than a guess, but I will pick Ciryl Gane to get the win, mostly because I think he will use movement and technique to score more points in the early rounds.
The Flyweight title fight in the co-main event should be very entertaining, but the majority of the under card is rather undistinguished so the narrative of the pay-per-view will be the heavyweight division. It certainly didn’t hype the division when the champion simply declined to fight last August, but a continuous story around the weight class is the potential debut of former Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones to possibly challenge for another belt. Jones, who vacated the 205 LBS belt in mid-2020 with the claim that he wanted to move up to heavyweight to fight for more money, couldn’t agree on a contract with the UFC so he has been on the sidelines for two year since he last fought, a close decision win against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247. Some cite Jones’ stellar skill, but his numerous mishaps outside of the octagon have completely overshadowed his ability as a fighter. I sincerely don’t think someone has a claim to potentially be the greatest fighter of all time if they’ve taken themselves out of competition on several occasions because of their own unwise decisions. The bottom line is, Jones hasn’t consistently fought the best competition because at this point, he hasn’t consistently fought for the majority of his career. Don’t get me wrong, Jon Jones has a tremendous amount of talent, but he’s also equally a waste of talent.
In September 2021, he was arrested for a domestic violence incident, and it goes without say that anyone that hits a woman is a coward. Following the incident, MMA coach, Mike Winkeljohn banned Jones from the gym he trained at previously. The story of Jon Jones’ career will be arrests, failed drug tests, anabolic steroids, and a waste of his true potential, not his accomplishments in the octagon. Considering Jones’ extensive history of legal problems and failed post-fight tests along with his money disagreements for a contract, it’s very doubtful that he actually fights in the heavyweight division. So, the direction of the heavyweight will probably be determined by the winner at UFC 270 and potentially another Stipe title shot in the next few months.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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