UFC 270 PREVIEW: Heavyweight bout caps exciting card

By E. Spencer Kyte | Posted 2 years ago

The UFC officially kicked off its 2022 campaign last weekend with a 10-fight show from its APEX facility in Las Vegas closed out by Calvin Kattar reminding everyone he’s a proven Top 5 featherweight with a vicious effort that halted Giga Chikadze’s seven-fight winning streak.

In reality, that event was an amuse-bouche — a little something to whet everyone’s appetite after a three-week run without any action inside the Octagon. It was a nibble to get you excited about what was to follow, and what follows looks delectable.

UFC 270 touches down at Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Saturday night, with the first Pay-Per-View offering of the year containing a combination of intriguing emerging talents in competitive matchups, a championship trilogy fight in the flyweight division, and quite literally the biggest fight the UFC could make at this moment: a heavyweight clash between reigning champ Francis Ngannou and interim titleholder Ciryl Gane that will shape the direction the division will take.

Before getting to the big boys that are set to close out the show, here’s a quick look at some of the other names to know and key matchups on tap this weekend at UFC 270.

Name to Know: Rodolfo Vieira

The 32-year-old Brazilian middleweight was one of the best grapplers in the world before trading the mats for the cage and making the shift to mixed martial arts.

A five-time Brazilian jiu jitsu world champion and multiple-time medalist in various other elite competitions, Vieira earned 100 victories in 110 matches during his professional grappling career. Thus far since moving to MMA, “The Black Belt Hunter” has gone 8-1, including earning three wins in four starts inside the UFC cage.

Vieira suffered the first loss of his career in February when he was submitted by Anthony “Fluffy” Hernandez, but he rebounded five months later with a third-round submission win over Dustin Stoltzfus where he showed improved stamina and control. This weekend, Vieira squares off with fellow Brazilian Wellington Turman, and if he can string together a few victories in 2022, the grappling legend could make a push towards the Top 10 in the 185-pound weight class.

Name to Know: Ilia Topuria

Topuria is on the short list of the best prospects in the entire sport — an undefeated 24-year-old with a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, proven knockout power, and an as-yet-undefined ceiling.

Originally scheduled to face Movsar Evloev in a mouth-watering matchup between unbeaten up-and-comers in the featherweight division, the young rising star will instead step in opposite French-Canadian battler Charles Jourdain, who picked up a dominant victory on the final fight card of 2021 and quickly volunteered to replace Evloev when he was forced out of the pairing.

Despite already earning three victories inside the Octagon, this is a vitally important contest for Topuria, who currently finds himself on the outside of the Top 15. Jourdain is tough, durable, and always up for a good scrap, and the first guy that should be able to push Topuria in every facet of the fight.

Featherweight has been an exciting and competitive division for a number of years, but there is potential for there to be a great deal of change within the 145-pound ranks this year as fighters like Topuria, Evloev, Bryce Mitchell, and Arnold Allen all push to replace some of the more tenured veterans in the Top 15.

An impressive win over Jourdain on Saturday night would go a long way to helping Topuria do just that in 2022.

Flyweight Championship Fight: Brandon Moreno (19-5-2) vs. Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1)

In order to explain how we got here, we have to go back to November 2020 and UFC 255.

That night, Moreno fought Brandon Royval in what many viewed as a bout to determine the next title challenger in the 125-pound weight class, with Figueiredo defended his title against Alex Perez a few fights later in the main event.

Moreno made quick work of Royval, earning a stoppage victory towards the end of the first round after Royval appeared to have dislocated his shoulder. He called for an opportunity to face the winner of the flyweight championship fight, and later that evening, Figueiredo ran through Perez, catching him in a guillotine choke less than two minutes into the contest.

In need of a main event for the next Pay-Per-View, the UFC approached Figueiredo about defending the title against Moreno three weeks later at UFC 256. The champion agreed, the challenger was on board, and Figueiredo made history for the quickest turnaround between UFC title fights at just 21 days.

Their first meeting ended in a majority draw — two judges scoring the bout 47-47, while the other scored the fight 48-46 for Figueiredo. The deciding factor in the contest was a third-round point deduction incurred by the champion after connecting with an errant low blow. It was an entertaining scrap, and the result necessitated a rematch, but many came away from the fight believing Figueiredo would get the better of things the second time around.


While the champion came out a little flat, the challenger was sharp as could be from the word “Go,” sticking Figueiredo with clean punches and dominating the action every step of the way before forcing him to tap to a rear-naked choke midway through the third round.

Moreno’s impressive title-winning effort brought him to 1-0-1 in the two-fight series, and a third straight fight with Figueiredo wasn’t the initial plan for his first title defence. But after Alexandre Pantoja suffered a knee injury, the former champion was tabbed to challenge Mexico’s first UFC titleholder in a third straight clash between the two.

Can Moreno replicate his effort and retain his title or will Figueiredo figure him out and begin a second stint atop the flyweight division?

Heavyweight Championship Fight: Francis Ngannou (16-3) vs. Ciryl Gane (10-0)

Now this is a heavyweight championship fight!

With all due respect to Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, men that combined have been a part of every UFC heavyweight title fight since UFC 198 on May 14, 2016, Ngannou and Gane represent the new breed of superstar talents in the heavyweight ranks and this clash feels like something special in a way that the last handful of bouts for the heavyweight belt didn’t, including Ngannou’s victory over Miocic in April.

Ngannou was forecasted to be champion early in his UFC career, and while he stumbled in his initial attempt to claim gold, he reset, rebuilt himself, and rebounded with a second-round stoppage win to claim the belt at UFC 260 last spring.

Gane didn’t generate as much buzz as Ngannou through his first couple UFC appearances, but as the wins kept piling up, the Frenchman became hard to deny. He claimed the interim heavyweight title with a third-round stoppage victory over Derrick Lewis in August, pushing his record to 10-0 overall, and setting up this showdown.

This is the UFC version of a bull facing off with a matador and it’s going to be fascinating to see who emerges victorious.

Ngannou possesses an uncanny combination of power and speed for a man of his stature. If he were from Cameron, North Carolina, instead of Batié, Cameroon, he would be starring on the defensive line for an NFL squad, not slinging haymakers inside the Octagon. He doesn’t get enough credit for his Fight IQ and the development he’s shown over the years because his power is so hellacious that it ends fights in startling ways, wiping your memory of anything other than the clean shot that sent another gigantic, athletic, talented fighter crashing to the canvas in a heap.

Gane moves like a much lighter man, bouncing around the cage on his toes, showcasing tremendous movement and footwork along with a keen understanding of distance and range. A former kickboxer and Muay Thai practitioner, he’s blended the fine points of those arts into an all-around game that includes sneaky submission skills and a bottomless gas tank, making him as complete a threat as there has been in the heavyweight division.

Don’t get it twisted though: while he has the patience to pick opponents apart for five rounds if a chance to swarm doesn’t present itself, the unbeaten 31-year-old has knockout power as well and doesn’t let opponents recover once he’s got them on the ropes.

There are a bunch of secondary and tertiary layers to this fight that add to its intrigue, including the fact that Gane is coached and cornered by Fernand Lopez, who helped guide Ngannou to the UFC and his initial championship opportunity before the two had a falling out, and that Ngannou and the UFC have been at odds over contract negotiations since he won the title last year.

This is a fascinating fight for myriad reasons and it’s going to be beyond compelling to see how everything plays out on Saturday night in Anaheim.

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