Last Week This Week: UFC 270

Last Week This Week: UFC 270

In the sport of MMA, more so than other sports, the media and people alike move on from last week’s events so quickly. Games or events that are supposed to be “talked about for a long time” are instead last week’s news the day after they happen. The UFC is no exception, with fans and the company itself moving on to the next event. Within these highly promoted pay-per-view events, the UFC inserts the promotional for the following pay-per-view next month. 

Fighters are giving it their all in the octagon, only for the next event to completely overshadow what they just accomplished or went through. In this column, the aim is to spotlight what happened the weekend before, instead of moving on to the next fighters and set of stakes. Let’s start with UFC 270. 

What was at stake?

The event featured a somewhat lackluster undercard, with not too much depth in terms of ranked fighters. Most of the card consisted of fighters making their UFC debut or prospects with only a few appearances. The main draws were the main event and co-main event, with Francis Ngannou defending his undisputed belt against interim champion Ciryl Gane. 

Francis knocked out the most decorated heavyweight champion in Stipe Miocic last March to win his title. This fight was a rematch to the first fight, in which Francis got dominated by Stipe’s wrestling. In the leadup to 270, it was announced Ngannou entered with only one fight left on his deal and only 12 months left on his contract. 

In the UFC, most fighters sign long deals, with five to ten fights on a single contract. This is done out of financial security for the fighters, but also a way for the UFC to keep fighters on low wages for a long stretch. These contracts also feature a champion clause, which once activated extends the deal for three more fights or another year, but gives the champions a certain percentage of the pay-per-view revenue. With all of the clauses and importance on renewing their contract, it is extremely rare for a fighter to enter free agency in their prime, let alone a champion. Francis, if he won the fight, could enter this rarified air. 

In the opposing corner, Cyril Gane was undefeated, 10–0 with most of those fights happening in the UFC. He is one of the fastest, most agile fighters that the UFC has ever seen at the heavyweight division. His athleticism and speed combined with his great technique made him one of the best kickboxers in the UFC as well. From Joe Rogan to Daniel Cormier, everyone has him pegged as the evolution at the heavyweight division, historically full of hard hitting, slow fighters who were not well rounded in the striking department. 

Yet, there was a lot more meaning to the fight for Gane and Ngannou, because they used to train together. Gane currently trains out of France, calling the gym Factory MMA his home  throughout his career. Francis trained out of this same gym to start his UFC career, and their paths crossed for a few months. In the end, tension arose between the head coach at Factory MMA, Ferand Lopez, and Ngannou, which led the latter to leaving the gym for Xtreme Couture out of Las Vegas.

The fight was more than just an extremely skilled kickboxer and muay thai fighter going up against a fighter with record-setting power. Free agency, backroom politics, and tense relationships all played into the buildup for the fight. While the drama and headline remain minimal in the week before the fight, the baggage began years ago, with the heavyweight belt still on the line. 

In the co-main event, Deiveson Figeiredo and Brandon Moreno were set to square off for the flyweight belt. This was the third fight in a trilogy, with the first ending in a draw and the second ending with Moreno finally capturing the flyweight crown. The 125-pound division was about to be removed from the UFC, with not enough talent and excitement around the division as a whole, when Deiveson Figeiredo entered the picture and took it by storm. He knocked out a lot of fighters with unprecedented power for a fighter this light, along with a strong Jiu-jitsu game. He also defended the belt constantly, with the first fight against Moreno happening after fighting only three weeks ago. The first fight was an all-action war, but Figueiredo won the fight due to the power difference overall. The main reason for the draw was a low blow which led to him losing a point. 

Moreno showed an ability to handle Figueiredo’s power and took some hard shots throughout the fight. His chin and lack of fear towards Figueiredo led to the upset in their second fight, in which Moreno dominated with his jab and submitted the black belt. Moreno became Mexico’s first champion, after getting cut from the UFC years ago. His underdog story reasoned well among fans, leading to a lot of popularity and stardom leading into this third fight. For the first time in the trilogy, he entered as the favorite. 

In response to his loss, Figeiredo joined Henry Cejudo’s gym in an attempt to revamp his game and focus more. Moreno trained with Cejudo several years ago and now ends up fighting a fighter cornered by Cejudo (where have I heard that before?). In the third showdown, it was all about redemption for Figeiredo and validation for Moreno. 

What ended up happening?

In the first two rounds of the UFC 270 main event, Gane dominated most of the interactions. He moved away from all of Francis’ power punches with fast head movement. Gane would touch Francis with the jab over and over again, peppering him with body punches and creative leg kicks as well. This seemed to be a runaway fight for Gane, with more rounds left for him to win.

In a surprising evolution, however, Ngannou showcased wrestling chops with a huge takedown in the third round. A caught leg kick turned into a huge slam to the ground. While not much happened on the ground, Gane would get up, but Francis showcased high level trips and balance maneuvering. The same would go for the fourth round, but Gane ended up with a heel hook, almost submitting Francis a few times. I thought he had him, but Ngannou showcased a rare grappling defense for a known boxer.

Before the fifth round, I had the fight scored 2–2. Gane ended up in a takedown, but went for another heel hook. Unfortunately, it failed, and Francis ended up on top of Gane. At the end of the fight, Francis won via unanimous decisions. He will now enter free agency at the prime of his career, showcasing an evolution in his overall game. Ngannou revealed he injured his MCL in one of his knees a month before the fight and still, somehow, managed to fight. A true warrior is now looking to secure his long term financial future. 

The co-main event was the best fight of the night, as Moreno and Figeiredo put on a showcase at what the best of the lightest male division can offer. Figeriedo adjusted his stance this fight, opting for a more karate stance, with a more patient approach. Moreno continued to push forward, using his jab and lack of fear to his advantage again. The new approach threw Moreno off just enough for Figeiredo to capitalize with his power. Figeiredo attacked Moreno’s lead leg relentlessly, trying to slow down the faster fighter. 

Moreno ended up with more strikes at the end of the fight, but Figeiredo dropped Moreno a few times with clean straights and hooks. In the third round, Moreno dominated, but got dropped in the last minute with a clean right hook. Moreno got dropped three times in the fight, enough for Figeiredo to edge out a unanimous decision and become champion yet again. In a rare case, both fighters ended up as winners. The Anaheim crowd went crazy for Moreno, certifying the fact that Brandon is a star. Figeiredo retained his title and showcased a true competitive spirit to bounce back from losing the crown to regain it. The fight was close enough to deserve a fourth fight down the line, because I am still not sure who the better fighter is. 

Both of the fighters who headed in as underdogs won on Jan. 22. They overcame the weight of past and current expectations to power through. Figeiredo and Ngannou evolved their games and showcased their willingness to make adjustments in the middle of the fight. Gane is left in need of work within the grappling realm; wrestling should play a key role in his next training camp. For Moreno, he is still the people’s champion.

Image courtesy of ESPN+

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    slope gameMar 8, 2022 at 1:40 am

    Yes, The Anaheim audience erupted in applause for Moreno, confirming his status as a superstar. Moreno was dropped three times in the bout, allowing Figueiredo to win a unanimous decision and reclaim his title. In a rare instance, both combatants were victorious. The Anaheim audience erupted in applause for Moreno, confirming his status as a superstar.