Francis Ngannou's legacy is on the line at UFC 270
UFC 270 features a staggering amount of high-quality bouts, but none is more significant than the heavyweight title fight between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane.
Sun, January 23 2022, 3:00 AM
Not only does Ngannou find himself up against one of the toughest opponents of his career, but he's also battling UFC management, who have not taken well to his candidness in previous months. Let's examine three key reasons why Ngannou's legacy is on the line at UFC 270.
Ngannou is facing a tough style matchup in Gane
When the UFC controversially opted to make Gane’s bout with Derrick Lewis for the interim title, just one month after Ngannou defeated Stipe Miocic to become champ, it always felt like a contingency plan. Ngannou remains in the UFC for now, but he’s guaranteed a hard night against the prodigious Gane.
From a stylistic point of view, Gane is a big ask for Ngannou. He specializes in grappling, is an accurate striker, and has excellent conditioning. He is a much harder opponent than Lewis, and he’s going to need to bring his best to win.
A win will be celebrated, but a loss will be fatal
The sting of defeat is difficult for any fighter to handle, but a loss reaches far beyond losing a title. The increasing friction between Ngannou and the UFC brass ensures that Gane, long positioned as their golden child, will be hyped to the moon in victory and will give them permission to bury Ngannou.
With an expiring contract due to lapse after this fight, Ngannou can easily be painted as a transitional champion that gave way to Gane’s ascension. Worse yet, a new contract will be harder to make in his favor as an ex-champion with a bad attitude towards management. Ngannou has more to lose than Gane here.
The UFC is hoping that Gane prevails
It is bad form to discuss the notion that the promoter is pulling for a particular fighter over the other, but Ngannou has done everything in his power to become a problem with the UFC. His expiring contract and outspokenness about fair payment for fighters are clearly working against him. Recent news also suggests that Tyson Fury and ESPN are actively pursuing a boxing match against Ngannou.
If Ngannou wins and doesn’t renew his contract to face Fury some time in 2022, it will be the most brazen sports coup since the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis, or when Ric Flair joined the WWF with the NWA belt around his waist.
Don’t be surprised if the fight is close, and Ngannou fails to knock Gane out, that the cards skew to the fighter who is planning to stick around.