Francis Ngannou retained his UFC heavyweight title with a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. This fight was the last on Ngannou’s UFC contract, and there is a real possibility that the 35-year-old does not re-sign with the company.
Even if Ngannou decides to stay, he will be out of action for the foreseeable future, due to the fact that he tore his MCL during his preparation for the fight against Gane. This will require him to undergo surgery, which, according to his manager Marquel Martin, will keep him out of action for approximately nine months.
What will the UFC Heavyweight title picture look like without Ngannou?
With Ngannou gone, Gane could immediately get another title shot. While he did just lose, there is always a chance that a UFC could fight for gold again, immediately after losing a championship bout.
Dominick Reyes fought for the UFC Light Heavyweight title in Sep. 2020, after losing a title fight to Jon Jones in February of that year. Jones vacated the title after that fight. The UFC subsequently set up Reyes against Jan Blachowicz for the vacant title. However, Reyes was in a different position to Gane.
Most fans and analysts believed that Reyes had done enough to secure the victory against Jones, and that the judges had wrongly scored the fight for the defending champion. Gane’s fight with Ngannou was closely contested, but it was clear that the Cameroonian had won. This is likely to prevent Gane from fighting for the title next.
The shadow that looms large over the heavyweight division is the aforementioned Jones. When Jones vacated his light heavyweight title, he attributed this decision to his desire to compete at heavyweight. However, he has not fought since. The former champion has posted pictures of himself on social media with a bulked-up frame, but has not committed to taking a fight. One of the reasons for this has seemingly been his disagreements with the UFC over his pay. These disputes have been made public on social media. Speaking before UFC 270, UFC President Dana White said that he had not spoken to Jones about him taking a fight.
Jones finally moving up would fill the sizeable void at heavyweight that would be left by the possible departure of Ngannou. The UFC would undoubtedly put Jones into a title fight, but, until the 34-year-old makes it clear he wants to compete, it seems unlikely that he will be fighting for UFC heavyweight gold next.
Stipe Miocic has not stepped foot in the Octagon, since he lost the title to Ngannou in Mar. 2021. In interviews, he has said that he would like to have a chance to reclaim the title in his next bout. Miocic is widely considered the greatest heavyweight of all time. The 39-year-old’s achievements in the sport could get him a title shot, in spite of his recent inactivity. If Jon Jones agrees to fight, this would increase the likelihood of the Ohio native fighting for the title, such is the magnitude of this match-up. Even if Jones does not fight, Miocic has a claim to be next in line for a championship opportunity, purely based on his dominance over the division in recent years.
Derrick Lewis could propel himself back into title contention with a victory over Tai Tuivasa at UFC 271 on Feb. 12. After he was dominated by Ciryl Gane in the interim Heavyweight title contest at UFC 265 in August, Lewis’s time at the top of the division looked like it was coming to an end. However, the 36-year-old rebounded with a first-round knockout of the rising Chris Daukaus in December. He has agreed to a quick turnaround to take on another surging prospect in Tuivasa.
This appears to be a favorable stylistic match-up for the Houston native, as Tuivasa is also a brawler who has shown very little grappling in his career. Lewis could feasibly be the number-one contender very soon. However, he has repeatedly said throughout his career that he is not motivated by the title and has also spoken of his preference for three-round bouts. As a result, even if Lewis is on a winning streak, he may choose to not pursue a championship opportunity. This reduces the likelihood of him fighting for the title next.
Curtis Blaydes is in a strong position to challenge for the title. He is coming off a dominant, albeit, uneventful decision win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 266 in Sep. 2021. Having won four out of his last five bouts, Blaydes has earned a championship opportunity. However, the arrival of Jones at heavyweight would almost certainly cost him a title fight. In this case, Blaydes’s grinding, wrestling-heavy approach is likely to count against him. This has brought him success in his career but has also made him a target for criticism from fans. This is something that the UFC matchmakers will consider before they make the title fight.
Ngannou’s contract situation has left the UFC heavyweight division in a state of flux. His injuries have further complicated proceedings. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Stipe Miocic vs. Curtis Blaydes will be the next title fight in the division. If Ngannou does not re-sign with the UFC, the company is likely to strip him of the title. If he does remain, then the UFC will make an interim championship contest due to the length of time he will be sidelined after undergoing surgery.
Jones could completely change the complexion of the division if he makes it clear that he wants to compete. His achievements in the sport, and his ability to draw fans, will almost certainly get him a title shot. Fans will be eager to see how a man who is regarded by many to be the greatest of all time would fare in a higher weight class. However, until Jones makes this step up, the heavyweight division will move forward without him.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.