By Gene Lesser
It's 2022 and with it comes the UFC's first pay-per-view of the new year, UFC 270, which takes place this Saturday night, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The top heavy card features two spectacular and highly anticipated title fights. In the main event, former training partners square off in a heavyweight title-unification bout to determine the who is the baddest man on the planet. Francis Ngannou, the current UFC heavyweight champion, looks to defend his title for the first time against interim heavyweight champion, Ciryl Gane. In the co-main event, we will be treated to a trilogy fight between, current flyweight champion, Brandon Moreno, and former champion, Deiveson Figueiredo. The rest of the card may not feature household names but it does offer some intriguing matchups. As always, you'll find all of my picks for UFC 270: Ngannou vs. Gane at the bottom of this article.
All of the fight odds are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook at the time of publishing. All of the stats are provided by UFCStats.com.
Francis Ngannou (+125) vs. Cyril Gane (-145)
There is no love lost between these former training partners, but more specifically between Francis Ngannou and MMA Factory owner/coach Fernand Lopez. The two had a falling out shortly after Ngannou's title fight loss to Stipe Miocic in 2018 and the relationship has continued to deteriorate since.
Enter Ciryl Gane, who will look to remain undefeated and "avenge" his coach by capturing MMA Factory's first UFC title, from their former teammate turned adversary. For Ngannou, he's looking to not only defend his title, but to do it against Lopez and his top fighter. Not to mention, this is the "last" fight on his UFC contract, and a win or loss here, will go a long way to determining his negotiating power with the UFC. There is a lot at stake for both men when that cage door closes Saturday night.
To say Gane is a unique heavyweight fighter would be an understatment. There is truly no one like him in the division. He is a very skilled and well-rounded heavyweight that moves like a bantamweight. He will look to use those movements to stay on the outside and pick Ngannou apart. Gane's lateral movements, along with his fakes and feints, will help to keep his opponent off balance and avoid the big power shots. Ngannou's highlight reel is filled big power shots. He is the quinteessential heavyweight knockout artist and will be looking to add Gane to long list of fighters he's knocked out.
I believe that Gane will become the UFC's heavyweight champion, just not Saturday night. It is easy to fall for these lazy narratives..."Ngannou only has a puncher's chance" or "Ngannou will gas out and lose if the fight goes past the first round." These narratives may have been valid early in Ngannou's career, but since he got with Xtreme Couture and Coach Nicksick, we've seen drastic changes to his game. He is a more patient and calculated striker. He is throwing more and more crisp combinations while mixing in vicious leg kicks. I believe the most surprising and important change to his game is the willingness to engage in offensive grappling and wrestling exchanges. This is the result of his improved takedown defense and get up game which was one of his biggest holes in his game. He no longer fears the fight being contested in the clinch or on the mat and we saw that pay dividends in his last fight against Stipe Miocic.
Gane has a propensity to do two things that I believe will lead to his downfall Saturday night. First, he often gets into clinching exchanges against the cage for no good reason. He almost uses it as a reset for his offense, but in this fight, it will leave him in a vulernable position as he will be within Ngannou's punching range. Secondly, he has a bad habit of keeping his chin up in the air and relying on his head movement and speed to avoid punches, specifically, when disengaging from the clinch and/or in close exchanges. That is something you do NOT want to do when fighing Ngannou. We've seen other fights do this and Ngannou put them to sleep. Simply put, I believe Ngannou will attack the legs and body of Gane, early and often, which will lead to him landing one of his patent knockout punches.
2.00 units on Francis Ngannou (+125)
Brandon Moreno (-180) vs. Deiveson Figueiredo (+155)
If the first two fights are any indication, we are in for an absolute war between these two flyweights. Their first title fight ended in a draw due to an illegal blow by Deiveson Figueiredo, who ended up retaining the title. Their second fight saw Brandon Moreno secure a third-round submission victory and the flyweight title. Enter the trilogy.
Moreno is a slick counter-striker who is blessed with a granite chin, but it was his wrestling and ground control that was the difference in their second fight. I believe that he will look to implement a similar game plan Saturday as it successfully lead to him becoming the first Mexican-born UFC fighter to win a title in UFC history. Figueiredo felt he needed to change things up this time around and "change things up" is exactly what he did. He moved his training camp to the U.S., specifically, Fight Ready MMA in Arizona, training with the likes of Henry Cejudo and his acclaimed coaches. Figueiredo's weight and physique look to be on point entering this fight which is key for a fighter that has historically had issues making the flyweight weight limit.
Figueiredo was lined as over a -300 favorite in their first fight and based on the judge's scorecards, he clearly won the fight outside of the point-deduction. In their second fight, which featured alot of distraction and weight cutting issues, Figueiredo was lined as over a -200 favorite, but lost his title. Now he comes into this fight as a +155 underdog. This is an overreaction in my opinion. Figueiredo is the better fighter across the board. There is a reason he was such a big favorite in their first two matchups. He is the better and more diverse striker, possesses more fight changing power, is a good grappler with strong transitional ground skills, and add in that he has a nasty fight ending guillotine. Making the sacrifice to leave your family back in Brazil for months while you train at one of the best MMA gyms in the world, with one of the best fighters in the world in order to get your belt, says everything you need to know about Figueiredo entering this fight. Add in the skills and line history of this matchup, and I can not help but side with the former champion here.
Third times the charm for Figueiredo.
2.00 units on Deiveson Figueiredo (+155)
"Underdog of the Night" Pizza Bet - Trevin Giles (-105)
Trevin Giles is technically the underdog as his opponent, Michael Morales, is a -115 favorite. Morales is making his UFC debut, against the UFC vet in Giles, after coming off of Dana White's Contender Series (DWCS). Typically, fighters coming off of DWCS struggle in their debut, especially against UFC veterans. I'm banking on that trend continuing here. It won't be pretty but I believe Giles squeaks out a win Saturday night.
"Prop Bet of the Night" Pizza Bet - Deiveson Figueiredo To Win By Finish (+330)
The logical play would be to take Francis Ngannou to win by KO/TKO/DQ (+165) (bonus play) as this is the most likely outcome for him if he beats Gane, but I want to step out on a limb for this one. My official "Prop Bet of the Night" pizza bet is Deiveson Figueiredo to win by finish (+330). Figueiredo hurt Moreno several times in their first fight and was close to finishing him multiple times. In their second fight, even though he was getting takedown, he continued to try and lock up a guillotine. Moreno is tough as nails and hard to finish, but he is very hittable. I believe Figueiredo lands a big shot that sits Moreno down and eventually leads to him getting the finish and his belt back in the process.
"Parlay of the Night" Pizza Bet - Jack Della Maddalena (-335)/Raoni Barcelos (-510)/Michel Pereira (-280) = +110
Maddalena, a highly touted prospect, making his UFC debut, is fighting a guy who's only had four pro fights in his career. The UFC knows exactly what they were doing with this matchup for Maddalena. For the second leg of this parlay, simply put, Barcelos is better than his opponent everywhere. I believe Barcelos puts on a clinic here. For the third leg of this parlay, we have a relatively more competitive fight, but one that I believe the re-focused and streaking Pereira ultimately wins.
UFC 270: Ngannou vs. Gane Picks:
Main Card - 10:00 PM ET on ESPN+
Francis Ngannou (+125) vs. Ciryl Gane (-145)
Brandon Moreno (-180) vs. Deiveson Figueiredo (+155)
Michel Pereira (-280) vs. Andre Fialho (+225)
Cody Stamann (+165) vs. Said Nurmagomedov (-195)
Trevin Giles (-105) vs. Michael Morales (-115)
Preliminary Card - 8:00 PM ET on ESPN/ESPN+
Raoni Barcelos (-510) vs. Victor Henry (+375)
Tony Gravely (-250) vs. Saimon Oliveira (+200)
Jack Della Maddalena (-335) vs. Pete Rodriguez (+260)
Early Preliminary Card - 6:00 PM ET on ESPN+
Silvana Gomez Juarez (+120) vs. Vanessa Demopoulos (-140)
Matt Frevola (-200) vs. Genaro Valdez (+170)guillotine. Moreno is tough as nails and hard to finish, but he is very hittable. I believe Figueiredo lands a big shot that sits Moreno down and eventually leads to
Kay Hansen (-235) vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius (+190)