The UFC’s first PPV event of the year brought unexpected twists and turns in an all-around exciting card.
Before the first round of the very first of UFC 270, the card experienced unexpected ups and downs. After ESPN decided to increase the PPV price from $64.99 to $74.99 (not including the subscription price for the ESPN+ streaming service), the card went through several evolutions before coming into its final form. There were more pull-outs and cancellations than usual, with several fights being moved to different dates or outright canceled. With only 11 fights remaining on the card, some felt that the offering was a little underwhelming considering the price hike.
Of course, a heavyweight championship bout always promises to entice viewers. Especially one as intriguing as the match-up between champion Francis Ngannou and interim champion Ciryl Gane was. Keeping in line with the unexpected trajectory of the card, this event took fight fans places they did not expect to go.
Make no mistake about it, there were plenty of people picking Francis Ngannou to successfully defend his belt against the formerly undefeated challenger Ciryl Gane. However, the narrative was clear: if Ngannou was going to win, it’d be by KO. And it’d be early; first two rounds or bust.
Those who picked Gane cited that the French athlete had more ways to win; he could submit Francis. He could knock Francis out. Or, the most popular of the picks: he could outlast Francis and coast to a decision win. The fact that people believed Ngannou only had one way to win while Gane had several was reflected in the betting odds, with the interim champ being the favorite.
Francis Ngannou had other plans. With welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in his corner, Ngannou found a way to neutralize Gane’s distance striking in the most unexpected of ways: offensive grappling. In a bout that was supposed to prove whether heavyweight power could best technical skill, it was decided by ground control between two giant men mostly known for their skills on the feet.
It’s hard to believe, but Ngannou won the fight without ever truly landing a clean punch. His takedowns were impressive, and while he wasn’t able to work much ground and pound, he was able to control Gane en route to a unanimous decision victory.
It wasn’t the explosive battle of titans that many fans were hoping for, but fans were reminded of the only truism in the fight game: anything can happen.
Adding to the unexpectedness was Dana White’s noticeable absence when Bruce Buffer announced “And Still.” Normally the UFC president wraps the gold around the champion’s waist, but it was Mick Maynard who donned the belt on Ngannou. This prompted fans to wonder whether the feud over contract issues between White and Ngannou made the UFC president go AWOL.
Being a great company man, Joe Rogan also asked Francis if he was planning to venture into boxing. The champ responded by saying testing the waters in the squared circle was inevitable for his career.
Safe to say, Uncle Dana isn’t going to be happy with that.
It’s exceedingly rare for a fourth fight in MMA to be justified. But in the case of the rivalry between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno, it’s the only fight that makes sense. While the main event was supposed to be the battle of power vs. technique, the trilogy fight between Moreno and Figueiredo proved to be exactly that - albeit in miniature form.
This was a classic, back-and-forth battle between two of the most highly skilled adversaries that the 125-lbs division has to offer. The fight seemed like it was tied 2-2 going into the fifth round, something every fight fan loves to see in their championship bouts.
A late knockdown in the fifth seemed to steal the round for Figueiredo, who reclaimed his belt after losing to Moreno via rear-naked choke back at UFC 263. Like Ngannou had Kamaru Usman in his corner, Figgy had former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo in his. Training with Cejudo paid dividends for the Brazilian brawler, who suffered from a brutal weight cut in his first rematch with Moreno.
While the California crowd was heavily in Moreno’s favor, Figueiredo promised a fourth fight in one of the UFC’s best rivalries - this time in Mexico. Considering they’re 1-1-1 and considering how razor close this fight was, a fourth fight is the logical next step for these two.
Going into his bantamweight bout against UFC veteran Cody Stamann, Said Nurmagomedov was an almost 2 to 1 favorite on the betting lines. Many believed that was a stretch, thinking that the wrestling of Stamann could neutralize the chaotic striking of Nurmagomedov. After all, even though he shares a surname with Khabib, this Dagestani was known for his striking, not his grappling.
Well, Said Nurmagomedov decided to put aside his inner Zabit and instead channel his inner Khabib, scoring a lightning quick guillotine submission only 47-seconds into the first round. A man of few words, Said was like a young Fedor Emelianenko, barely showing emotion in victory and only responding in quips to Joe Rogan’s post-fight interview questions.
It was an extremely impressive performance for the 29-year-old Dagestani, who is staking his claim as one of the most exciting prospects in the increasingly deep bantamweight division.
UFC 270 also featured the highly-anticipated UFC debut of Michael Morales, an undefeated welterweight prospect from Ecuador. Coming into the fight at 12-0 with 9 KOs, the 22-year-old striking wizard is viewed by some as the future of 170.
It appeared there were some jitters early on, as Giles scored an early knockdown. However, the knockdown cleared out the cobwebs, and Morales was eventually able to light up Giles en route to a masterful TKO victory.
One of the youngest fighters in the organization, Morales moves to lucky number 13-0. Keep your eye on this one, he may blossom into something very special.
While Dana White’s absence during the scorecards announcement was felt and Joe Rogan bringing up potential boxing matches was unexpected, the most awkward (and funny) moment of the night came during Rogan’s Octagon interview with strawweight Vanessa Demopoulos.
Making her UFC debut, Demopoulos scored a slick armbar submission victory after being knocked down by her opponent, Silvana Gomez Juarez. While anyone would be ecstatic after winning their UFC debut, let’s just say Demopoulos was very excited to meet Joe Rogan. She caressed everyone’s favorite bald commentator before jumping into his arms.
This immediately sent the MMA social media world in a tizzy, with people claiming that the next fight for the UFC matchmakers to make was between Demopoulos and Rogan’s wife. There were plenty of comments alluding to Rogan getting to “tap that,” and they didn’t mean in an armbar.
An interesting little wrinkle to this story is the fact that Demopoulos worked as a stripper before turning to MMA. The sad part is, she may have given up the more lucrative career.
While an 11 fight card does feel rather light after yet another price increase of PPV events, UFC 270 was a memorable card with exciting fights and interesting storylines.
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