Heading into UFC 265, It seemed as though the UFC had hoped for a Derrick Lewis victory. The backdrop of Lewis winning a UFC championship in front of a hometown crowd in Houston Texas is the perfect setup to build for a blockbuster rematch against Francis Ngannou for the undisputed heavyweight title.
Over the years the MMA fan base fell in love with Lewis. The highlight reel performances gave him the spotlight, and the personality in the spotlight earned him the love and adoration from the fans. A lot of people are quick to get caught up in the personality and sound bytes from Lewis and overlook the fact that he is one of the best heavyweights in UFC history.
Lewis has many qualities that are perfect for promotional purposes, but none more important than his skillset as a mixed martial artist. The way he has dispatched most of the people he has fought is something to behold. Heavyweight MMA has evolved and come a long way over the years, perhaps more so than any other division in the sport. Large in part to fighters like Lewis.
The highly entertaining brawling style of Lewis works against a lot of the competition, but against a fighter with such a refined striking skillset like Ciryl Gane, that style is a recipe for failure. It’s easy to get lost in the media hoopla surrounding the event in the lead up, but seeing the technical kickboxer piece up a brawler is typically the way things go when it comes to this particular stylistic matchup on the feet.
The new interim heavyweight champ! 🏆
— UFC (@ufc) August 8, 2021
With the victory over Lewis, Gane became the interim Heavyweight champion and proved that just because you’re a big man, doesn’t mean you can’t rely on impeccable technique as opposed to sheer power. The brawling style of throwing heavy heat with emotion is extremely dangerous and entertaining. But that approach against someone with the striking skillset of Gane will prove to be ineffective more often than not.
From the very beginning of the fight, Gane got in Lewis’s face. Standing southpaw but doing a lot of switching stances, the French heavyweight put on a Muay Thai clinic. With kicks to the body, kicks to the legs, and hard piston-like impactful jabs, Gane was able to fluster Lewis from the jump. The output from Gane did not stop. When they were against the cage, it was constant knees to whatever openings Lewis gave him, as well as some dynamic elbows flying from all angles.
— ESPN Images (@ESPNImages) August 8, 2021
Credit to Lewis for not being reckless, and being cognizant enough to look for openings instead of charging forward and hoping for the best, Lewis has greatly improved in the past few years. He took some heat for having such a low output in this fight, that’s less about his inability to find his mark and more about Gane’s ability to not give him openings in the first place.
The footwork of Gane coupled with covering up very well when he was exiting the pocket, and a high fight IQ is to thank for avoiding damage. When Lewis charged forward, Gane would be light on his feet sliding backward out of harm’s way. When he sensed the cage would soon be at his back, he’d move laterally away from the power hand of Lewis, reset, and continue to move forward and take all the openings using all 8 of his weapons.
“The real champion is Francis. He’s still the champion. To be the champion, I must fight against him and — win, of course.”
Final #UFC265 Results ⤵️:
— UFC News (@UFCNews) August 8, 2021
He seamlessly took out one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport with finesse, which is a relatively new concept in Heavyweight MMA. Gane is the embodiment of how far the heavyweight division has come, and a sign of what’s in store for the future.
With his latest victory and a gold belt around his waist, Gane now has his sights set on a former training partner, Francis Ngannou. While Ngannou is no doubt the scariest man on the roster, perhaps more so than Lewis. He also happens to be a stylistic matchup that heavily favors the Interim Heavyweight champion.