Last week’s UFC LV46 main event of Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze was a banger. One lesson learned from that bout is that in the UFC, every fighter ranked in the top 10 is world-class dangerous, and it never pays to look past an opponent as Chikadze did with Kattar. In fact, the beatdown Kattar suffered at the hands of Max Holloway a year ago was the same as what he administered to Chikadze.
The year 2022 starts with a 1 unit win as Insight the Octagon was bullish on that Kattar scrap exceeding 2.5 rounds. Our published price of -165 held great advantage over the closing line of over -200.
This week UFC 270 from Anaheim, Calif., features a fight for the heavyweight title between two dynamically gifted fighters and a flyweight championship trilogy between a newly crowned, proud Mexican champion and a most dangerous Brazilian former champion driven to retain the title.
FRANCIS NGANNOU + 125 VS. CIRYL GANE -145
Heavyweight (256 pounds) championship
The story between these two fighters is layered, lengthy and complex. Suffice it to say that there are several tangible and intangible aspects to this unification bout.
One tangible aspect is that both fighters have trained together under Gane’s current coach, Fernand Lopez. No one understands Ngannou as well as Lopez.
One intangible aspect is the friction between Ngannou and the UFC, which has existed almost from the time he won the belt against Stipe Miocic to present, intensifying when the UFC allowed Gane to grab the interim title.
Ngannou is a huge, sculpted man standing 6-foot-4 and tipping the scales for his most recent bout at 263 pounds. He’s fit, profusely powerful and his plan of attack is simple: Find a way to touch the opponent. Ngannou is a soft-spoken and extremely polite person, but don’t confuse his meekness outside the cage with his destructive powers within.
Ngannou is a tremendous specimen who has risen from a cycle of poverty, then eventually landed in Paris, where he taught himself to box. Today Ngannou remains in the development stages of being a refined mixed martial artist, which is scary because of the improvements sure to come.
Currently Ngannou’s effectiveness revolves around explosive quickness coupled with power striking. To date, he is not very versed in wrestling/grappling.
For Ngannou, any bout’s blueprint is simple: Keep the fight standing, move forward in order to seek, touch and destroy.
Gane is a polished mixed martial artist whose MMA foundation comes from the fact that he played soccer and basketball as a youth then developed a specialization in Muay Thai striking. Gane possesses natural athleticism, and the leg strength he developed playing those sports have gifted the 6-3 fighter with fluid, deft athleticism, which translates into the ability to maneuver like a man 50 pounds lighter.
Gane competed at 247 pounds in his last bout, in which he dismantled Derrick Lewis to take the interim title, so he’ll be the slighter man in the cage. From the opening bell, Gane will be the athlete using movement and evasion to gain a rhythm, score points and frustrate the more powerful stalker. Gane’s employment of high intelligence and effective movement will be used to compete with Ngannou from afar. He’ll be quite judicious in choosing when to engage, clasp or shoot on Ngannou, especially early.
I expect Gane will shoot for a takedown or two early in this affair, not because he really wants to drag this fight to the floor but because his battle plan requires Ngannou to have to defend all aspects of his fight arsenal.
Gane’s movement, distance control and jab will be used to sap the champion of his zip. Eventually Gane’s evasive footwork will manifest itself into a more offensive tactic. This will force Ngannou to have to defend, back up and expend precious energy.
Gane must usurp Ngannou’s explosive power early in order to more efficiently attack later in the bout or at least begin to dictate the fight with his IQ, cardio, quickness, precision and athleticism.
Ngannou must find a way to cut off the cage (yes, it’s the larger cage in California this week) and press Gane backward and into the fence, where Ngannou can unleash hooks, crosses, elbows and knees from the pocket.
The 30-foot cage favors Gane as it does with all athletes requiring the control of distance, space and angles because it is 44% larger than the small cage, in which Ngannou defeated Miocic.
This fight opened Ngannou -115 to Gane + 100. Last Friday on the ‘Bout Business Podcast Gane -120 for 2 units was released. My judgment is that the price on Gane was incorrect at opening.
Total in this fight: 2.5 Under -125
It’s my judgment that Gane will avoid early confrontation with Ngannou and that any plan he has must include taking the champion into deep waters for success. Ngannou can touch anyone at any time and turn their lights out. I just don’t believe he’ll be able to catch Gane during this bout.
BRANDON MORENO -175 vs. DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO + 155
Flyweight (125 pounds) championship
It’s flyweight trilogy time!
Their first bout was ruled a draw and in their second bout Moreno submitted Figueiredo in the third round last June in Phoenix.
In both of those championship five-round bouts, Figueiredo struggled making weight, and it absolutely affected his performance, especially in the second fight. Figueiredo is a monster for the division who could be competing at bantam, but he insists on trying to tax his system into allowing him to make 125 pounds. Many believe Figueiredo would be an immediate threat to the top five at bantamweight, but his difficulty making 125 alters his effectiveness at flyweight.
Figueiredo’s ability to effectively make 125 is the single most determining factor in how I handicap this fight.
Figueiredo is a black belt in BJJ, he has ferocious power striking, kicking and, when able to perform at his best, is an overwhelming force in his bouts no matter where the fight goes. However, much of his ability has been eroded in those last couple of bouts by the weight cut.
Further, Figueiredo has again swapped gyms for this trilogy. In his zeal to capture that perfect plan, he’s gone from team Alpha Male to Phoenix to train with Henry Cejudo at Fight Ready. Let’s hope they have the magic elixir to make Figueiredo’s drop to 125 manageable.
Moreno, a large flyweight himself, is two inches taller and sports a two-inch reach advantage. Moreno’s fighting acumen is founded in Muay Thai striking, BJJ black belt proficiency and the heart of a true Mexican warrior.
Moreno has the size and length to keep Figueiredo at distance and the grappling chops to roll with him should the fight go to the canvas. But Moreno must plan to face an opponent who will be the best version of himself the market has ever seen.
In their second fight last June, Figueiredo opened -235 before closing -190 and yes, Insight the Octagon was all over Moreno then in a fight that took place in the heart of Sonora, Mexico, where every screaming voice was for Moreno. Saturday the fight is in Southern California and the crowd will be as voracious in its support for Moreno as it was in Phoenix. The difference will be that Figueredo knows what to expect, unlike in the first bout when the overwhelming Moreno support clearly rattled him.
I don’t know what Figueiredo can do to change my opinion of how this fight will transpire other than being one of the first athletes to step on the scale Friday morning and making weight easily. Should he accomplish that, I will regard him as being in a very competitive spot.
Should I detect this week that the overwhelming amount of Mexican love and adulation heaped on Moreno over the last several months has affected his focus or ability to properly train for this bout, I’ll account for that in my final assessment of this fight, but early research shows the Moreno is training like a champion for this bout.
There is no way to make any position on this bout without viewing the weigh-ins Friday morning.
One thing we understand: this is a new day, a new event and new pricing, so the handicap is a new one also.
Moreno opened -170 for this bout. Figueiredo now being the underdog changes this handicap completely.
Total for this fight: 3.5 rounds Over -115
I’ll have strong positions on this bout later this week.