Francis Ngannou will step into the Octagon as a champion for the first time this Saturday night when he faces challenger Ciryl Gane at UFC 270.
It’s a highly-anticipated UFC Heavyweight Championship showdown between the incredibly powerful and dangerous Ngannou and the agile Gane who has shown exceptional technique during his time in the UFC so far.
It’s a fascinating matchup of raw power vs. technique. Read on for Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane betting odds and our staff predictions, picks, and analysis before UFC 270.
As it stands, the bookmakers have the champion listed as an underdog before his first title defense.
- Ngannou: +125
- Gane: -145
Gane was available as the underdog all the way up until last week when the odds switched and have now taken a significant turn.
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While Francis Ngannou has made tremendous strides in his tactical and technical approach to fighting over the last few years, it’s difficult to imagine him matching Gane in a technical battle. Ciryl Gane is one of the few heavyweights that can genuinely move as if he is 185lbs in the octagon, and this coupled with years of prior experience in high level striking competition put him vastly ahead of most heavyweights in the world in this area. Where it becomes dangerous however is that while he may be able to move around Ngannou and pick him apart for the larger part of the fight, it only takes Ngannou’s improvements to pay off once or twice to equalize the difference in skill. Ngannou lacks the variety that Gane has but his entries are well-practiced and destructive when executed.
Both fighters are extremely patient at this point in their careers. However they also both like to take control of the centre of the cage, Gane typically uses feints and aggressive footwork to push his opponent back, using his speed to jab his way in and exit before they are able to counter. His light footwork allows him to maintain his preferred range and bridge it when he has set his combination up with his jabs and feints. Ngannou on the other hand is much heavier on his feet, plods forward and uses his jab and low kicks to keep his opponent guessing as to whether they should plant on the front leg and avoid his boxing or remove weight on the front leg to avoid the kicks. The fighter who is able to push the other back will have crossed the first hurdle in this matchup, and with his physical presence, I lean to the idea that this will be Francis, as well as because while they both like to be the aggressor, Gane will more readily use his footwork moving back than Ngannou at all.
Gane’s biggest advantage in this fight will be his kicking game, while Francs plods forward, Gane’s teep and side kicks from outside Ngannou’s arm reach will be imperative in scoring and frustrating the champion, they will also be an important tool in draining Ngannou by going to the body. Ngannou, although immensely evolved since his early UFC career, is yet to show his ability to maintain his dangerousness into the fifth round, and Gane should look to test this. For Ngannou, he does not have the variety of distance kicking that Gane does, but his favored power leg kick could be a weapon used to slow down the light footwork of Gane and mix things up enough to keep Gane reacting, which will give Francis a better chance of getting inside and working his boxing against the fence.
Both men absolutely have the skills to get it done. I think that Ngannou’s composure will be tested, he will back Gane up but find it difficult to catch him stationary long enough to land his combinations consistently. However while Gane will stay composed and outpoint Ngannou for the most part, eventually the damage Ngannou will be able to accumulate if he stays disciplined will add up and he will be able to find the shot to finish things.
Prediction: Francis Ngannou to win via KO
Ngannou’s power is borderline otherworldly. “The Predator” hits with the force of a semi-truck crash landing from outerspace. Every person you read or listen to in the week leading up to UFC 270 will talk about his power; so, in this analysis, I’m going to give a different perspective. Ngannou is more developed than a runoff the mill power puncher and has more layers to his MMA game. The primary attribute Ngannou does not get enough credit for is his fight IQ. All too often, analysts and gamblers talk about Ngannou as if he rushes forward in fights because he doesn’t have the technique to do anything else. I feel this is selling the heavyweight champion short. In 3 of the 4 fights that Ngannou ended in under 90 seconds where he blitzed forward, I still see the blitz attack as strategically sound. Against Blaydes, Ngannou crowded the wrester so he couldn’t shoot any power takedowns. Against Dos Santos, Ngannou forced the technical and tactical former champion to fight faster than he wanted. Finally, against Rozenstruik, Ngannou took advantage of his opponent’s tendency to fight with his back against the cage. In all three cases, Ngannou executed a game plan with unparalleled violence and success, he didn’t just blindly blitz forward. Ngannou is a layered fighter, even if he doesn’t need to showcase his full skillset because he knocks the head off his opponent in a highlight reel of utter violence in under 90 seconds more often than not.
Where Ngannou is often touted as an elite one-trick pony, Gane has the reputation of being one of the most dangerous “jack of all trades” to grace the octagon, especially as a heavyweight. He is unbelievably light on his feet and mobile for a man of his size. He mixes in a variety of technical and fast kicks. He can grapple effectively and implement a slick submission game. And, Gane is intelligently patient, rarely putting himself in a bad position. Rather, the 10-0 interim champion waits for his shot, picks it correctly, and executes it quickly and powerfully. Said another way, if you were to create a MMA heavyweight in a lab, he’d likely come out looking and fighting a lot like Gane. The only real question surrounding the incredibly gifted fighter is whether or not he can eat a clean shot from a fellow heavyweight and keep up his pace and pressure. It is a small question but an important one considering his opponent.
I think Gane is special; and, even if Ngannou doesn’t move over to boxing, could hold the belt sooner rather than later. But, as we’ve seen in recent main events, the more experienced fighter, despite the odds, has won. I feel Ngannou’s fight IQ is being underestimated and Gane’s durability, while possibly solid, hasn’t truly been tested. So, I like Ngannou to unify the belts and do it emphatically.
Prediction: Ngannou by KO/TKO
For as big, fast, technical, and skillful Gane is, he is surprisingly boring inside the octagon. For most fighters, boring equates to either low output or significant lacking a skill which mandates them to only fight one particular way, but for Gane, boring equates to what makes him great – an oddly effective ability to combat the most powerful and dangerous men the UFC has to offer through movement and distance management. This “boring” style has worked flawlessly thus far as a professional, as he has beaten all of his opponents with relative ease.
Beyond a boring, defensive-first mindset, Gane does possess and implement a plethora of offensive attacks when in the octagon. As with every attribute he has, his striking is quite unique for the division he is in, as he utilizes a predominant Muay Thai style which enables him to throw kicks, knees, and elbows to all facets of the body. As for the utilization of boxing inside the octagon, Gane continues his “unicorn” approach relative to the division as he is far more concerned with landing in clean combinations contrary to the more traditional “haymaker” approach. I anticipate Gane continuing this game plan of technical striking with an underlying defensive-first mindset in his upcoming bout against the most dangerous heavyweight in the world. This defensive mindset will likely result in Gane clinch fighting against the cage or even seeking to get the fight to the mat, but whatever he elects to do inside the octagon, defense and distance-management will be at the forefront of his plan early in the bout. As each minute progresses, the danger threat becomes less severe, and at this point, Gane will likely begin to open up his offensive attacks thrown with speed and precision.
Ngannou is the most dangerous man on the planet with respect to hand-to-hand combat. He possesses punching power that is equal to being hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can and is more powerful than a 12-pound sledgehammer being thrown with full force overhead. If that isn’t convincing enough, a teammate of Francis, Sean Strickland, currently ranked 7th in the middleweight division, stated that he seeks to spar Francis because he wants to feel as close to death as possible and he wants the fear of God in his heart. Truly having “out of this world power” equates to his 5-fight win-streak of finishing 4 of 5 in the first 90 seconds of each bout and the other fight ending in the second round. This power was not thrown against Gane in the leaked sparring video back when the two were teammates, and even if the two went toe-to-toe in the gym, headgear and non-4oz gloves warrant the conclusion that Gane has never faced the true, Francis “The Predator” Ngannou. Expanding this notion, Francis has evolved in every aspect of a fighter – cardio, technical striking, and ground game – since his move to Xtreme Couture in 2017. This evolution should come as no surprise to his former coach, as he himself has stated that Francis was the harder worker of the two when compared to Gane. Come January 22nd, the MMA community will find out if hard work will triumph over natural talent.
The question when betting the fight, and is the reason why the odds are as close as they are, is if the power of Francis can combat the plethora of skills Gane has. This question is quite difficult for those who have followed the careers of each; for those who have not, the question can transition to this comparison: in their primes, would you bet the highly-skilled Muhammad Ali or take the ever-dangerous Mike Tyson? I believe the answer to this question boils down to if Francis can remain calm and clearheaded early in the bout, especially if the initial attacks thrown prove to be ineffective. If he can do so successfully, he should eventually land his right hand that puts all of his opponents to sleep. Since he displayed this ability in his last bout against former champion, Stipe, I am electing to back the Predator.
Bet: Francis in rounds 1-2
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.