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It’s fitting that UFC 265 will be headlined by a massive fight in the 265-pound division. Ciryl Gane will look to continue his rapid ascent up the heavyweight rankings in an interim title fight against Derrick Lewis in the main event on Saturday.
Gane’s rise up the ranks has been as rapid as it has been unconventional. He isn’t the typical heavyweight knockout artist who has made his name by smashing opponent after opponent. He’s nuanced, athletic and highly skilled.
His opponent, though, is all about power. Lewis certainly has some skill and can be a clever striker, but the bottom line is he can flatten anyone.
It’s a great warm-up for Gane for a potential fight with Francis Ngannou down the line. For Lewis, it’s a chance to get some UFC gold around his waist, even if it’s just an interim title.
Unfortunately, the card is no longer a title doubleheader. A women’s bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena was scrapped when the Brazilian tested positive for covid-19.
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Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- Ciryl Gane (-380; bet $380 to win $100) vs. Derrick Lewis (+290; $100 bet wins $290—interim heavyweight title fight
- Jose Aldo (-115) vs. Pedro Munhoz (-105)
- Michael Chiesa (-105) vs. Vicente Luque (-115)
- Tecia Torres (-135) vs. Angela Hill (+115)
- Song Yadong (-110) vs. Casey Kenney (-110)
Prelims (ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET)
- Bobby Green (+225) vs. Rafael Fiziev (-280)
- Vince Morales (-105) vs. Drako Rodriguez (-115)
- Alonzo Menifield (-240) vs. Ed Herman (+195)
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz (-125) vs. Jessica Penne (+105)
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass at 6 p.m. ET)
- Manel Kape (-210) vs. Ode Osbourne (+175)
- Miles Johns (-220) vs. Anderson dos Santos +180)
- Victoria Leonardo (-110) vs. Melissa Gatto (-110)
- Johny Munoz (-265) vs. Jamey Simmons (+215)
Odds via DraftKings Sportbook.
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The fight is a big deal for Gane because he has enjoyed such a quick rise to the top. Each time he has gone into the cage it has been against better competition with higher stakes. Now, he’s just one fight from the biggest stakes of them all.
There’s plenty of pressure on Lewis here, too, though. This will be the second time that he has climbed the mountain for a shot at a championship belt. It took him four straight wins to get back to the title picture after suffering that first loss.
If Lewis fails to capture gold again at 36 years old, it’s hard to see him putting together another run to title contention.
Then there’s the fact that he’ll be fighting in his hometown, Houston. While he’ll definitely have the support of the majority of fans in the arena behind him, there is added pressure to perform.
Lewis’ solution? Just focus on creating the best fight possible.
“He likes to sit back and do a lot of leg kicks and stuff like that, but I really want to have an exciting fight here in my hometown. Win, lose or draw, I want it to be an exciting fighter,” he told MMA Junkie.
He should be able to deliver on that end of the promise. Gane’s lack of one-punch power is good for Lewis because it extends the window for the fight and how many opportunities he’ll have to land the knockout blow.
That being said, the Frenchman, 31, has been incredibly savvy and showed a lot of fight IQ despite relatively little experience. He’ll frustrate Lewis with his ability to keep distance, pump the jab and leg kicks while making the American chase him.
Prediction: Gane via decision
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When Pedro Munhoz is on the card, the bar for Fight of the Night becomes pretty high. The Brazilian has taken home a bonus check in three of his last four outings for exciting contests against Cody Garbrandt, Frankie Edgar and Jimmie Rivera.
Munhoz won two of those three fights, with a close split decision to Edgar being the lone exception. But now he’s hoping to add Jose Aldo to that list.
Aldo is one of the greatest featherweights of all time with titles in the UFC and WEC, but that isn’t going to change Munhoz’s game plan or approach.
“It’s going to be the same kind of fight the fans have seen from me all these years—an aggressive style and I’m in there to prove who is the best fighter on that night,” he said, per E. Spencer Kyte of UFC.com. “Nothing against Jose Aldo, but I’m training to go there and do my best, and I do believe that my skills, my technique are more effective than his.”
This is going to be a fun one. Munhoz isn’t afraid to take a punch and/or kick to give one, while Aldo is still a fearsome striker despite losing three of his last four.
That may spell trouble for Aldo. As the 34-year-old has grown older, his chin isn’t what it used to be. He has knockout losses to Conor McGregor, Max Holloway (twice) and Petr Yan. That’s a murderer’s row, but it could still be a deciding factor against a hard-hitting Munhoz.
Prediction: Munhoz via second-round TKO
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The margin for error in the welterweight division right now is pretty thin. Kamaru Usman is dispatching contenders at a good clip, but there are plenty of options at the top of the division.
Both Michael Chiesa and Vicente Luque have a good chance in front of them to become one of those top options.
Chiesa is riding a four-fight win streak since moving to welterweight, while Luque is on a three-fight winning run and is 9-1 in his last 10 fights. The winner of Saturday’s bout between the two should be in the mix with the biggest names in the division.
Neither fighter can afford to look beyond this weekend, though. Chiesa said as much to the media on Wednesday.
“I touched on it prior to the fight being signed and early on in the camp: I’m not looking that far ahead,” he said of a potential title eliminator, per Nolan King and John Morgan of MMA Junkie. “I’m not looking at who could be next or what could come after this fight. I’m just solely focused on Vicente Luque. It would be a mistake for me to start talking about what comes next because I have a tough-ass fight ahead of me.”
He’s right. Luque has become one of the more dangerous finishers at 170 pounds. His lone loss in his last 10 fights came against Stephen Thompson, who is notoriously hard to figure out. Other than that, he’s been a guy who can knock you out or submit you.
Eight of those nine wins were either knockouts or submissions, and he’ll hold a significant striking advantage over Chiesa who will look to grapple.
Prediction: Luque via third-round TKO
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