Preview: UFC 265 ‘Lewis vs. Gane’

Lewis vs. Gane

By Tom Feely Aug 6, 2021

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 265 live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns with another pay-per-view event with live fans—the second one in Houston in just three months—and while the UFC 265 lineup has its flaws, the formidable main card should fuel some excitement. Derrick Lewis draws the headlining assignment in his hometown, even though it comes with an interim title of dubious value attached. Ignoring those issues, his fight with Ciryl Gane represents a fascinating matchup in the heavyweight division. From there, the rest of the main card features all-action affairs with solid stakes. Jose Aldo and Pedro Munhoz look to state their cases in the bantamweight title picture, while Vicente Luque and Michael Chiesa attempt to do the same at welterweight. Add in an intriguing rematch between Tecia Torres and Angela Hill, plus top bantamweight talents Yadong Song and Casey Kenney in an underrated banger, and this becomes an even stronger slate.

Now to the preview for the UFC 265 “Lewis vs. Gane” main card:

Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship

#2 HW | Derrick Lewis (25-7, 16-5 UFC) vs. #3 HW | Ciryl Gane (9-0, 6-0 UFC)

ODDS: Gane (-370), Lewis (+310)

The nature of this interim title fight is a bit spurious, but it is still neat to see Lewis headlining a pay-per-view in his hometown, and from the UFC’s standpoint, that is apparently all that matters. Lewis announced himself in the UFC with brutal knockouts of Jack May and Guto Inocente, but subsequent losses to Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan seemed to paint “The Black Beast” as a glass cannon who would tread water in the UFC’s heavyweight division. However, Lewis wound up going on a six-fight winning streak and became a contender with a simple adjustment: Rather than try to press things and knock his opponents out, he learned to stay patient and wait for the knockout to come him. It was a surprisingly easy proposition, given the lack of high-level technique at heavyweight and Lewis’ ability to shock opponents with power. It led to some absolutely interminable fights when his opponent would not press the action—the less that is said about his wins over Shamil Abdurakhimov and Francis Ngannou the better—but it was the exact right approach to work in the heavyweight division, stripping everything down to durability and power, the latter of which Lewis has in spades. Lewis’ win over Alexander Volkov in 2018 provided the full Lewis experience and made him a breakout star. After two-plus rounds of getting nothing done against Volkov, Lewis scored a last-minute knockout and then took off his shorts in celebration, proclaiming afterwards that he did so because his “balls was hot.” That took Lewis from cult favorite to minor star, enough so that the UFC asked him to step in less than a month later to challenge Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight belt—a fight that ended in a second-round Cormier win. After a second straight loss to Junior dos Santos, Lewis took a break to get some much-needed back surgery and looks to have even turned another corner, as he is in the best shape of his career and seems more lethal than ever when given an opening. It is legitimately impressive that Lewis managed to thread the needle as well as he did against Curtis Blaydes in February, perfectly timing a takedown attempt to knock out the Elevation Fight Team rep with an uppercut. That set Lewis up as the theoretical top contender for Ngannou’s heavyweight title, though there was one hitch: The UFC wanted the Ngannou-Lewis title rematch for this card in Houston, but Ngannou would not be ready for the bout until September. As the UFC has proven time and again, its schedule rules all, no matter who is available. With the UFC wanting Lewis to headline with a championship fight in his hometown, an interim title bout was thrown together between “The Black Beast” and the division’s most intriguing talent in France’s Gane.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 265 live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

Even for a hyped prospect, Gane’s rise through the heavyweight ranks has been absolutely stunning, and it is amazing to think that it could have happened even faster. A talented kickboxer, Gane had all of three fights before the UFC picked him up, and this was the rare instance where the promotion was not rushing things. In those three fights, Gane showed enough fluidity to his game that it became apparent he would not be tested at the regional level. He was not tested much early in his UFC career, either. In just a shade over four months, Gane beat Raphael Pessoa, Don'Tale Mayes and Tanner Boser with little effort, even finishing Pessoa and Mayes via submission. Then—and this seems absolutely forgotten with Gane’s subsequent rise to this spot—he completely fell off the map for what was essentially a lost year, as the Frenchman spent nearly all of 2020 watching his scheduled fights fall through for various reasons. Gane did get in a win over dos Santos at the end of the year, and he has spent 2021 answering the last questions about whether or not he can succeed as a heavyweight contender. Gane stayed out of trouble against the one-punch power of Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s counter-heavy approach and then handily beat Volkov in a tough test on the other end of the heavyweight spectrum. Less than two years after his UFC debut—and with a year off in between—Gane could complete an amazing rise and set himself up for a title challenge against Ngannou.

In any other division besides heavyweight, Gane would be the clear pick. He is the faster and slicker fighter with more offensive options and enough reach to stay out of the way. He is likely the better wrestler and grappler, to boot. However, this is the heavyweight division, and this is a fight against Lewis, the personification of that heavyweight division—durable enough to get by and blessed with more than enough power to end the fight with one mistake from his opponent. The dynamic here is pretty simple: Gane is going to be winning this fight until he is not. This is a fight that Lewis has lost before. Dos Santos sticks out as the closest example, and even the late-career version of Mark Hunt is a decent proxy of heavyweight kickboxing skill. Despite Gane’s lack of one-shot knockout power, it is easy to envision that he can finish this fight via attrition given 25 minutes with which to work. That is definitely the smart pick, but Lewis is worth the dice roll. While Gane has rapidly shored up the defensive holes that were apparent on his regional film, Lewis is still a level above someone as flat-footed as Rozenstruik in terms of the speed with which he can deliver fight-ending power, particularly with his newfound comparatively better shape. At a certain level this is just a bet that fighters as well-put-together and smart as Gane just do not succeed in the funhouse mirror that is the heavyweight division. The pick is Lewis via third-round knockout.

Continue Reading » Aldo vs. Munhoz Advertisement
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>