Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweights have a 6-foot-5, 247-pound problem on their hands that no one has been able to address.
Ciryl Gane kept his perfect professional record intact and laid claim to the interim heavyweight championship, as he brought down Derrick Lewis with punches in the third round of their UFC 265 main event on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston. Lewis bowed out 4:11 into Round 3, suffering his first setback in more than two years.
Just 10 fights into his career as a professional mixed martial artist, Gane followed his game plan to perfection. The 31-year-old Frenchman minimized risk and negated the frightening knockout power Lewis brings to the table with sublime distance management and seamless stance switches, methodically breaking down “The Black Beast” with bursts of punches, knees from the clinch and kicks to the body and legs. The last of Gane’s 32 landed leg kicks left his counterpart in a state of retreat, sent him into a downward spiral and ultimately forced him to buckle in the face of merciless pressure.
In the aftermath of UFC 265 “Lewis vs. Gane,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Ciryl Gane vs. Francis Ngannou: Gane has risen through the ranks faster than anyone could have surmised when he debuted in the UFC as an intriguing prospect with a 3-0 record in 2019. The MMA Factory product has rattled off seven consecutive victories inside the Octagon, his degree of difficulty increasing with each outing. “Bon Gamin” destroyed Lewis by any measurable standard, outlanding him by a ridiculous 98-16 margin in significant strikes, all while connecting at an 80% (98-for-122) clip. Up next for Gane: a blockbuster unification bout with a former stablemate in Ngannou. “The Predator” last competed at UFC 260 on March 27, when he captured the undisputed heavyweight crown with a second-round knockout of Stipe Miocic.
Jose Aldo vs. Cory Sandhagen: Already an all-time great with a hall-of-fame resume in tow, Aldo showed the world that he still has a few chapters left to write in his remarkable career. The Nova Uniao cornerstone put together one of his most comprehensive performances in years, as he took a clear-cut unanimous decision from Pedro Munhoz in the three-round co-headliner. Aldo swept the scorecards with 30-27 marks from all three judges. He attacked Munhoz at all levels, unleashing crisp combinations to the head while zeroing in on the body and legs with well-timed kicks. By the time it was over, Aldo was credited with landing a personal-best 114 significant strikes: 74 to the head, 32 to the body and eight to the legs. Sandhagen last appeared at UFC on ESPN 27, where he wound up on the wrong side of a contentious split decision against T.J. Dillashaw on July 24.
Vicente Luque vs. Leon Edwards: Luque was once again sensational and continued to establish himself as one of the sport’s premier welterweights, as he submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 winner Michael Chiesa with a brabo choke in the first round of their co-feature at 170 pounds. Chiesa raised the white flag of surrender 3:25 into Round 1. Luque absorbed some damage to the face and conceded a takedown to the Sikjitsu star. However, he swept Chiesa almost immediately, caught the choke during the scramble that followed and let his vice-like squeeze do the rest. Luque has won four fights in a row, all of them finishes, and now owns a stellar 14-3 record in the UFC. Edwards was responsible for one of those defeats, having outpointed the New Jersey native to a unanimous decision in March 2017.
Tecia Torres vs. Xiaonan Yan: A rejuvenated Torres improved to 2-0 in her head-to-head series with Angela Hill, as she earned a unanimous decision over the former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder in their three-round women’s strawweight showcase. She outperformed Hill by substantial margins in significant strikes (144-96) and total strikes (166-99) while exploiting discernible speed and strength advantages across their 15-minute rematch. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Torres, who has returned to relevance with a three-fight winning streak at 115 pounds. Yan crashed and burned in a second-round technical knockout loss to former champion Carla Esparza at UFC Fight Night 188 on May 22.
Yadong Song vs. Marlon Vera: The highly regarded Song rebounded from a March 6 loss to Kyler Phillips when he eked out a split decision over Casey Kenney in a three-round battle at 135 pounds. Judges Sal D’Amato and Chris Lee scored it 29-28 and 30-27 for Song, while Kerry Hatley saw it 29-28 for Kenney. Song outlanded the Arizona-based judoka in all three rounds but saved his best work for the third. There, he found another gear and managed to distance himself from Kenney with relentless aggression and effective output. The 23-year-old Chinese prospect now sports a 6-1-1 record in the UFC that includes a controversial decision over Vera in May 2020. “Chito” last fought at UFC on ESPN 25, where he was awarded a unanimous verdict over Davey Grant on June 19.
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