Francis Ngannou has no shortage of challengers for his heavyweight title.
Former two-time champ Stipe Miocic awaits his rematch for the belt, and he and Ngannou are even after splitting their first two fights. The great Jon Jones is also a perennial threat the moment he makes his UFC heavyweight debut. A new challenger for Ngannou also emerged in the main event of UFC 265, as Ciryl Gane dominated Derrick Lewis en route to becoming the new interim heavyweight champion with a stunning TKO victory.
The celebration for Gane (10–0) was tempered, as the interim title is clearly not his end goal. An even more intense challenge awaits in Ngannou, though that matchup suddenly looks a lot more difficult for Ngannou after Gane’s flawless execution in piecing apart Lewis. Gane controlled all 14 minutes of the fight, continually changing stances and utilizing a combination of speed and power that rendered Lewis completely ineffective. There was never any legitimate offense from Lewis, and Gane’s vicious flurry of leg kicks on Lewis’s lead leg removed the possibility of that decisive power punch.
The 265 card was good but not great, but it did offer its share of high points. José Aldo looked like a genuine threat in victory against Pedro Munhoz. This was a vintage performance for Aldo (30–7), who has now collected wins in his last two bantamweight fights. Though Munhoz (19–6, 1 NC) showed considerable toughness by withstanding the onslaught from Aldo, he was simply not competitive in this bout. One of the more interesting parts of this fight happened in commentary, where Dominick Cruz floated the idea of a fight against Aldo, which would be memorable.
Vicente Luque also put forth an impressive performance. Luque (21-7-1) picked up his fourth straight win with a submission victory against Michael Chiesa that featured a sudden ending sequence in the opening round. Chiesa (18–5) had Luque in a rear choke, which he was close to fully applying, but Luque broke free and applied the D’Arce choke, which Chiesa was unable to break. The victory keeps Luque in title contention for Kamaru Usman’s welterweight belt, but he is still in line behind a log jam that includes Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, and likely even Gilbert Burns.
Tecia Torres looked outstanding in her unanimous decision victory against Angela Hill. This was a rematch from 2015, which Torres (13–5) also won by unanimous decision. Hill (13–10) was never a threat in this fight, and the win elevates Torres in the strawweight division, where she will seek a top-five opponent in her next bout. And the card opened with an exciting bantamweight bout pitting Song Yadong against Casey Kenney. Despite an impressive third round from Kenney (16-4-1), Yadong (17-5-1, 1 NC) controlled the first two rounds, leading to a split decision victory.
The presence of Amanda Nunes was sorely missing at UFC 265, but the lasting image will be Gane taking possession of the interim title. Gane left no doubt with a commanding win against Lewis, staking his claim in the UFC heavyweight division and capturing Ngannou’s attention in the process.
INTERIM HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT: DERRICK LEWIS VS. CIRYL GANE -- 12:29 AM ET
The undefeated streak for Ciryl Gane continues.
Gane (10-0) looked extremely impressive in a TKO victory against Derrick Lewis. Gane dominated Lewis (25-8, 1 NC), utilizing a combination of speed and power. He controlled the first two rounds, continually switching stances, which caused even more problems for Lewis. Gane attacked Lewis’s lead leg with kicks in the third round, removing a considerable amount of Lewis’ power for his right-handed shot.
Lewis opened the fight with a head kick, but he never built any momentum from there. Gane had a perfect game plan and flawless execution against Lewis, never allowing the most decorated knockout artist in MMA to fight the type of bout he was seeking.
Gane is now the new interim heavyweight champion, primed for a title unification fight against Francis Ngannou.
BANTAMWEIGHT FIGHT: JOSÉ ALDO VS. PEDRO MUNHOZ -- 11:52 PM ET
José Aldo delivered a vintage performance, winning by unanimous decision against Pedro Munhoz.
This is two straight for Aldo (30-7) at bantamweight, and he looked outstanding against Munhoz (19-6, 1 NC). Aldo dictated the pace of the fight with his defense, then capitalized with his offense. His boxing was sensational, and he completely dominated the second and third rounds.
Aldo broke his personal record for significant strikes landed. Munhoz somehow withstood a ton of punishment, and he clearly could not keep pace with a more aggressive Aldo, who will be 35 next month but clearly still has life left in his MMA career.
WELTERWEIGHT FIGHT: MICHAEL CHIESA VS. VICENTE LUQUE -- 11:28 PM ET
Vicente Luque earned his eighth career submission win, showing off his elite status as a jiu-jitsu brown belt in a first-round victory against Michael Chiesa.
The D’Arce choke provided a phenomenal finish for Luque (20-7-1) that came immediately after Chiesa (18-5) had Luque in a rear choke, which he was close to fully applying. But Luque broke it, then applied his own choke, and there was no doubt his chokehold was locked in tight.
Luque’s win should break him into the top four of the welterweight division. Following the victory, he called out Kamaru Usman for a title shot. While it still makes more sense for Leon Edwards to get a crack at the belt first, this win certainly places Luque on a short list of title contenders.
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT FIGHT: TECIA TORRES VS. ANGELA HILL -- 10:54 PM ET
The first time Tecia Torres defeated Angela Hill in 2015, the win was credited to her grappling. Their rematch was a chance for Torres (13-5) to showcase her striking, which she did for three straight rounds against Hill (13-10) in a unanimous decision.
The victory is Torres’ third consecutive win, putting her in position for a top-five fight in the strawweight division. Torres used her speed and she reacted much faster than Hill, who absorbed nonstop punishment. Torres unleashed an array of body kicks, inside kicks, and shots to the face, and she was never in danger against Hill.
The loss is a major disappointment for Hill, but allows Torres to re-enter the title picture in the strawweight division.
BANTAMWEIGHT FIGHT: SONG YADONG VS. CASEY KENNEY -- 10:21 PM ET
Casey Kenney and Song Yadong went the distance in an extremely competitive fight to open the bout, with Yadong (17-5-1, 1 NC) winning the bout by split decision.
Yadong’s timing on body hits was so precise. His pace never waned, and he led all three rounds in significant strikes. There were points where Kenney (16-4-1) looked especially sharp, but despite a very strong third round, he simply did not do enough to separate himself in the first two rounds.
This marks the second loss in a row for Kenney, but the decision improves the 23-year-old Yadong to 6-1-1 in the UFC.
A new champion will be crowned at UFC 265, as Derrick Lewis fights to win his first UFC championship in an interim title bout against the undefeated Ciryl Gane.
The card is short on star power following the news that Amanda Nunes is not competing due to testing positive for COVID-19. But while the stakes are not as significant as previously anticipated, there are still compelling bouts, mainly Michael Chiesa against Vicente Luque in welterweight action. Both Chiesa and Luque need the win to elevate themselves in the division, and a victory puts them one step closer to a title shot against Kamari Usman.
The opening bout of the main card is Song Yadong against Casey Kenney, which should be a wild affair between the two bantamweights. Another interesting bout pits Tecia Torres against Angela Hill. This is six years after their first meeting, which Torres won by unanimous decision at UFC 188. It is a must-win for either fighter to have a shot at progressing toward a title bout. And while José Aldo seeks to prove that he is not in the twilight of his UFC career, Pedro Munhoz (who is the same age as Aldo) fights to avoid his third defeat in his past four fights.
UFC 265 is centered squarely around the main event, as Lewis and Gane each seek their first piece of UFC gold. This should be a fairly clear-cut bout; if Gane can wrestle Lewis and tire him out, this will be a submission finish and an extension of Gane’s undefeated streak. But if the fighters remain on their feet, Lewis will be one punch away from ending Gane’s night.