This past Saturday in the main event of UFC 270, we saw a unification bout for the heavyweight championship of the world. Francis Ngannou (17-3) was defending his heavyweight crown against the interim champion Ciryl Gane (10-1).
Despite Ngannou’s incredibly dominant run to the title, Gane entered UFC 270 as the betting favorite. Gane and Ngannou used to both train under Gane’s trainer Fernand Lopez and that caused a lot of drama leading up to the fight.
Given Gane’s elusive style, many thought he would be able to outpoint the champion. Well, through two rounds, that’s exactly what happened. We didn’t know at the time, but Ngannou was suffering through severe ligament damage in his knee.
It’s damaged to the point where he needs surgery. However, he fought anyway at UFC 270. He didn’t look like himself and he definitely wasn’t explosive early on. However, the game plan changed in third round and it saved his title reign.
Ngannou caught a high kick from Gane and took him down. Throughout the third round, Ngannou was able to control the interim champion. From that point, Ngannou turned into a wrestler. He won the final two rounds after that and retained his title at UFC 270 by unanimous decision.
What’s next after UFC 270?
Most of the time when we write these articles, we talk about who the UFC will pair against the winning and losing fighters. However, there’s more uncertainty with Ngannou than anyone else in recent memory.
One thing that makes things cloudy is the fact that he will have to have knee surgery. With that, he’s likely out most of the year. Ngannou fought the final fight of his contract at UFC 270, but he has a champion’s clause that keeps him with the UFC through the end of 2022.
That said, he might not even be able to fight the rest of the year due to the knee injury. Ngannou’s representation and the UFC appear far apart right now from a potential deal to extend the champion. However, there’s plenty of time to work through it.
My gut tells me that a deal will be worked out and Ngannou will remain with the UFC. However, don’t expect him back until maybe the end of the year. With that, I could see the promotion making another interim heavyweight title.
If they do, I’m expecting a matchup between Stipe Miocic (20-4) and Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC). The GOAT vs the heavyweight GOAT with the winner being lined up to fight Ngannou either at the end of 2022 or first part of 2023.