Francis Ngannou, the “baddest man” in Mixed Martial Arts, faces the ultimate test of his credentials this weekend when he defends his UFC heavyweight championship against Cyril Gane, a dangerous, undefeated rival who looms as a real threat to his primacy.
The pair headine UFC 270 in California, to be broadcast live on SuperSport Action and Variety 3 (Sunday, 5am).
A melting pot of storylines give this showdown big appeal, not least the clash of styles with “The Predator” Ngannou, MMA’s version of Mike Tyson on account of his unbridled power, against Gane, a big man with middleweight moves and deep Muay Thai skills.
The pair also have history, having been stablemates in Paris in their early years in the sport. They sparred, too, with various accounts of what went down, including one version that claims the Cameroonian struggled.
There’s also Ngannou’s tangled relationship with UFC, meaning this may well be his last fight in the octagon given his manager’s bitter relationship with Dane White, UFC’s president.
For Ngannou this bout will be his eighth appearance on an eight-fight deal he signed five years ago. If he were to lose to Gane this weekend, he would become a restricted free agent, which would allow him to negotiate outside of the UFC.
Ngannou will be defending his belt for the first time since capturing it in a rematch with Stipe Miocic last March. But his feud with the UFC has seen him sidelined while his French opponent went on a vicious three-fight streak to take his record to 10-0.
Many now see Gane as a dangerous threat to Ngannou who can be outworked, if not outpunched, if he isn’t switched on for this fascinating showdown of big men.
UFC 270 also features a third clash between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo plus a spicy bantamweight bout between sees veteran Cody Stamann and hot prospect Said Nurmagomedov.