There is no doubt that 2022 will host some of the best UFC fights. We might see the start of one rivalry and the end of another. It all depends on who will be raising their hands at the end of the night.
That's the foundation for UFC 270, which features a heavyweight championship reunion match between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane and a third flyweight championship fight between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo.
The main event pits Ngannou against Gane, arguably MMA's most skilled heavyweights, a pair of large guys who mix unquestionable strength with surprising quickness. Ngannou has defeated his opponents with the most devastating knockouts we've ever seen inside the cage, while Gane has never lost a fight.
Moreno's battle with Figueiredo isn't quite as exciting because they're fighting for the third time in a row, although there are two apparent challengers ready and waiting for the title. But who can complain about another contest between probably the world's two finest flyweights in the UFC?
Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane
Despite his incredible performances, Francis Ngannou isn't a huge favorite too frequently. He was an underdog against former champion Cain Velasquez and in his second match with Curtis Blaydes because of Blaydes' impressive wrestling creds. He was only highly favored over Stipe Miocic in their rematch due to Miocic humiliating him in their first fight, and he was an underdog against former champion Cain Velasquez and in his second fight with Curtis Blaydes because of Blaydes' impressive wrestling credentials. Ngannou's ferocity is rarely represented in the odds, in fact, overseas betting sites ranked by Basketballinsiders are already showing so in their odds blogs. This is reasonable because Ngannou's victory against Miocic reaffirmed his status as MMA's foremost destroyer of worlds, that victory came over a year ago, and Gane has been working on getting better since then.
That being considered Ngannou shouldn't be counted out just yet. He's improved noticeably since joining with coach Eric Nicksick, and he has improved his already remarkable skill set and physical abilities. If the only edge you would like to give him over Gane is strength, that's OK, but it's a huge advantage.
Brandon Moreno vs Deivison Figueiredo
Deiveson Figueiredo has said everything one wants to hear from a boxer trying to get their first victory vs an opponent who looks to have their number: He's in good shape, his nutrition is better than it's ever been, he's focused, he's had the finest summer camp of his career, and so on. He's even taken on a new public personality influenced by Eric Albarracin.
Since Moreno's victory wasn't an accident. It's conceivable that Figueiredo wasn't at his prime, but it's also possible that Moreno is just superior. When Moreno first broke into UFC at 22-year-old, grappling was his bread-and-butter, and it played a key part in him finishing Figueiredo. He's also improved his hitting to the point that he was really knocking Figueiredo off his feet. Even if you believe Figueiredo's most optimistic predictions, I don't think he's suddenly discovered the key to defeating Moreno.
It is predicted this fight will be closer to their first bout than their second, which implies scorecards will be used once more. This time, though, Moreno will be declared the winner, and we may not see Figueiredo at 125 pounds again in the near future.
Michel Pereira vs. André Fialho
Michel Pereira, as erratic as he is, should find this to be a very advantageous matchup. Especially since he's been showing a more consistent side of late as he tries to establish himself as a legitimate contender at 170 pounds.
Andre Fialho is a seasoned hitter. He'll move forward, waiting for the ideal moment, and then unleash a barrage of direct heat on Pereira's chin. The issue is that Pereira seldom remains in one place for lengthy periods. He's a hummingbird at his most energetic, and one can bet he won't let Fialho cut the cage off. Fialho is a formidable power puncher, no doubt, but he'll have trouble connecting cleanly against Pereira.
Cody Stamann vs. Said Nurmagomedov
Nurmagomedov is a dynamic striker who thrives at long range but can also produce power fast while playing close to the goal. It's up to Stamann to put him off by timing his flurry, including takedowns, and making this battle as unpleasant as possible. He's more than able to do it, however, his lack of a finisher's reputation will restrict his ability to terrify Nurmagomedov. If he can't strike a good punch at least once in a while, he'll find himself in a standup fight he doesn't want to be in.