Actual or Not: Derrick Lewis could possibly be No. 1 heavyweight on this planet on Saturday

MMA

UFC 265 is about for Saturday and provides an interim heavyweight title conflict because the headlining battle. Derrick Lewis faces Ciryl Gane in the principle occasion, and if he is in a position to win, Lewis would enhance on some of the spectacular heavyweight resumes in UFC historical past. With so many massive wins, together with one over present UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, might Lewis stake his declare as the perfect within the division?

As for Gane, the quickly rising star from France is on the precipice of UFC stardom in simply his tenth skilled MMA battle. Is he prepared for this step as much as the highest tier of competitors at heavyweight?

Saturday’s co-main occasion additionally carries implications. Jose Aldo, the two-time UFC featherweight champion, has an opportunity to bolster his standing at bantamweight significantly as he takes on Pedro Munhoz. A win for both fighter retains them close to the highest of an especially aggressive division, and it could possibly be a must-win battle for Aldo to maintain any reasonable hopes of one other title shot alive.

The interim UFC heavyweight title is on the road in the principle occasion of UFC 265, as veteran Derrick Lewis takes on rising star Ciryl Gane.

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UFC 265: Lewis vs. Gane
• Saturday, Aug. 7, Toyota Middle, Houston
Important card: 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV
Prelims: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN+
Early prelims: 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+

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In what might change into the perfect battle of the evening, Michael Chiesa and Vicente Luque sq. off in an important welterweight conflict. How shut the winner shall be to title competition stays to be seen.

Future UFC pay-per-view playing cards are additionally making buzz. Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler at UFC 268 is a conflict of two of the perfect lightweights on this planet. However will the winner get the primary crack at whomever emerges from Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier?

And let’s not overlook about this previous weekend. AJ McKee accomplished a star-making efficiency within the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix with a first-round knockout of Patricio “Pitbull” Freire — a victory that additionally received him the Bellator featherweight championship and a $1 million bonus. McKee is a real homegrown Bellator star, with all 18 of his skilled wins coming beneath that promotional banner. He is anxious to show himself to be top-of-the-line 145-pounders on this planet, no matter promotion — however is his dialogue of cross-promotional superfights merely a pipedream?

As we kick off a busy week on this planet of MMA, Carlos Contreras Legaspi, Phil Murphy, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim dig into the largest questions of the second to separate what’s actual from what’s not.

Lewis could make a case as the perfect heavyweight on this planet if he beats Gane

Raimondi: There’s a small quantity of compelling proof to maybe assist an argument that Lewis could be the highest heavyweight after this weekend. If he beats Gane to grow to be interim heavyweight champion, he may have received 5 straight. A win over Gane would imply Lewis has overwhelmed six of the highest 11 within the UFC’s heavyweight rankings, plus the champion, Francis Ngannou. And if Lewis in some way manages to knock Gane out, he’ll be in sole possession of the document for many KO/TKOs in UFC historical past.

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These are all floor degree factors that could possibly be made for such an argument, that Lewis — not Ngannou — is No. 1. However I will say “not actual,” as a result of a better look is required. Sure, Lewis beat Ngannou, however that was a weird battle — one of many least energetic within the historical past of the UFC’s heavyweight division. Ngannou was listless coming off the primary lack of his profession, to Stipe Miocic; Lewis was coping with accidents. That battle was a wash, for my part. It shouldn’t maintain any standing. Ngannou and Lewis are each a lot better fighters than they have been in 2019.

Since that battle, Ngannou has not misplaced. And he has overwhelmed the higher opponents, together with Miocic, the perfect UFC heavyweight ever, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Ngannou knocked out Junior dos Santos, who completed Lewis by TKO. Each have knocked out Curtis Blaydes, however Ngannou has finished it twice. Ngannou even owns a win over Cain Velasquez, who was essentially the most dominant heavyweight in UFC historical past at one level. Velasquez was nonetheless a tricky matchup regardless of his harm struggles, and Ngannou took him out within the first spherical.

So sure, a Lewis win in his adopted hometown of Houston on Saturday could be huge. However Ngannou continues to be the person with the gold belt and he is the highest man, whatever the winner at Toyota Middle.

All that being stated, if Lewis beats Gane, we’re speaking about an unimaginable run for somebody who wasn’t anticipated to make it massive when he entered the UFC in 2014 and began off simply 3-2 with losses to Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan — and it makes the dialogue for Lewis’ future UFC Corridor of Fame standing significantly stronger.

In simply his tenth professional battle, Gane is able to safe a title shot

Wagenheim: Completely actual. Now, I am not saying Gane is unquestionably going to defeat Lewis on Saturday, after which take the belt from Ngannou. But when he can deal with Lewis, Gane may have proven all he has to point out as a way to be a reliable challenger to Ngannou. Already this yr, Gane has elevated himself from prospect to contender, beating a pair of top-10 heavyweights in Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

One issue working in opposition to Gane is that, as a rising fighter craving to impress, he would possibly really feel stress to do extra than simply win. His victories over Volkov and Rozenstruik confirmed clear command, however each bouts went the gap. And Dana White, who as UFC president will get to log out on title battle bookings, was crucial of Gane.

The UFC does have a few high-profile choices as potential challengers for Ngannou, in longtime pound-for-pound king Jon Jones and ex-champ Stipe Miocic. But when Gane fights a Gane battle this weekend, he has a powerful probability to maneuver inside attain of the title shot he is been working towards.

Michael Chandler had Charles Oliveira in hassle earlier than Oliveira got here again and received the vacant UFC light-weight championship in Could. May a win in opposition to Justin Gaethje earn Chandler one other shot on the title? Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports activities

The winner of Gaethje-Chandler will certainly battle for the title in his following bout

Okamoto: I will let you know what — that is laborious to foretell. Formally, I’ll say that is actual, however have in mind, there is no such thing as a such factor as a “assured title shot” within the UFC. The UFC can name any matchup it desires a “No. 1 contender battle” beforehand, however finally, timing and marketability (i.e. cash) play large elements in these choices.

I anticipate the UFC reserving a light-weight title battle between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier early subsequent yr. Timing-wise, that is nice for the Gaethje vs. Chandler winner. Time to recuperate, let the title battle play out, after which a pleasant runway into the following championship bout. The wild card, and there are lots of people who will not need to hear this, is Conor McGregor. At all times.

Personally, I needn’t see Poirier vs. McGregor IV. I actually needn’t see it any time quickly. But when McGregor is able to come again within the second half of subsequent yr, and Poirier is the champion (and in case you’re Poirier in that situation, you’ve got received the belt and you’ve got all of it, so why would not you need one other cash battle in opposition to McGregor?), it is a very actual risk.

Briefly, the UFC isn’t going to move on a profitable fourth battle between Poirier and McGregor if it is there for the sake of Gaethje or Chandler. They only will not. All that stated, I nonetheless assume a method or one other, whether or not it is as a result of outcomes of the fights themselves or the timing of McGregor’s return, the winner at UFC 268 will certainly battle for a championship subsequent.

AJ McKee will get his want to show himself in opposition to stars from different promotions

Legaspi: Not actual. The brand new Bellator champion grew to become a millionaire and shook the MMA world along with his first-round win in opposition to Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. He has the scale, athleticism and talents to compete in opposition to everybody at 145 kilos, however a cross-promotion tremendous battle isn’t going to occur within the close to future.

It is regular for MMA followers to attract comparisons between McKee and UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, upcoming title challenger Brian Ortega or former champion Max Holloway, and all of these comps appear truthful after what occurred on Saturday evening.

McKee is in a singular spot, with all of 18 of his skilled wins coming beneath the Bellator banner, and the promotion won’t let him go simply. After being topped Bellator featherweight champion, he recommended a run for the 155-pound belt to grow to be champ-champ in his dwelling promotion earlier than desirous about a dream battle in opposition to stars which might be beneath contract with one other firm.

UFC president Dana White has modified his thoughts previously on topics that he had beforehand dismissed wholeheartedly, like permitting girls to compete within the UFC. However to sit down on the similar desk with Bellator’s Scott Cocker to barter a battle between their 145 champions isn’t going to occur. He is been categorical on the matter in current information conferences.

Former Bellator champions like Eddie Alvarez, Ben Askren or Michael Chandler are proof that the extent of competitors might be comparable in a variety of circumstances, however they took the lengthy street and finally signed with the UFC to show themselves in opposition to that promotion’s expertise.

Michael Chiesa has received 4 fights in a row since transferring to welterweight. Saturday’s battle in opposition to Vicente Luque, a winner of three straight and 10 of his final 11 in his personal proper, could possibly be a key for both fighter making a push in the direction of the title at 170. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC through Getty Photographs

The winner of Michael Chiesa vs. Vicente Luque will grow to be a title challenger quickly

Legaspi: Actual. That is most likely the perfect non-title battle which you can make at 170 kilos proper now.

Luque is greater than only a heavy hitter, and with Henri Hooft and Gilbert Burns in his nook, Luque can attain the title contender degree. After painful losses in opposition to Leon Edwards and Stephen Thompson, Luque lastly beat one of many largest names within the division when he completed Tyron Woodley’s UFC profession through submission.

At 29, Luque appears mature in each side of the sport. His Brazilian jiu-jitsu is well-respected, and he has a variety of methods to knock his opponents out.

On the opposite aspect, Chiesa is a veteran on a four-fight win streak. He is unbeaten since he moved as much as 170, the place he is overwhelmed former champion Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Rafael Dos Anjos and Neil Magny.

Regardless that Chiesa vs. Luque could possibly be top-of-the-line fights on the UFC 265 card, it is uncertain the winner can instantly set up himself as the following in line for the title. And whereas they’re behind the likes of Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz in reputation, and Edwards on the subject of advantage, Luque and Chiesa carry one thing to the desk that the others do not — a recent problem for champion Kamaru Usman. Usman has already has overwhelmed Masvidal (twice), Edwards, Burns and Colby Covington — his opponent for UFC 268.

Saturday’s battle in opposition to Pedro Munhoz could possibly be Jose Aldo’s final reasonable probability to push in the direction of one other UFC title shot. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC through USA TODAY Sports activities

Jose Aldo must beat Pedro Munhoz if he ever desires one other UFC title shot

Murphy: That is actual. Even at 34, the Aldo aura is gone. Ever since Alex Volkanovski picked aside the King of Rio in his yard, the mystique Aldo carries to the Octagon has regularly diminished. His title shot vs Petr Yan off a 135-pound debut loss was criticized within the second, after which much more closely panned after Aldo was on the fallacious aspect of a Yan demolition. After TJ Dillashaw’s profitable return — disputed outcome however — bantamweight has a case because the UFC’s deepest division. These elements make the stakes for this battle in opposition to Pedro Munhoz a lot larger than meets the attention.

If Aldo wins, he’ll have successive victories over revered bantamweights Munhoz and Chito Vera. That leaves Dillashaw, Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font as the one higher-ranked bantamweight choices above Aldo, other than champion Aljamain Sterling and challenger-to-be Yan. Take your decide; any battle pairing amongst Aldo, Dillashaw, Sandhagen and Font has No. 1 contender potential.

Nonetheless, if Aldo loses to Munhoz, even when it is shut, it might make it 4 losses in Aldo’s final 5 fights and 7 defeats in his final 11. Most critically, it might give Aldo only one win in 4 appearances at 135 kilos and produce with it a considerable tumble down the steep divisional ladder. At that time, Aldo would doubtless want a number of wins and a redeemed rematch or two to even get consideration to return to the place he’s immediately.

Outdoors of title fights themselves, this might show Aldo’s most consequential look within the final 12 years. Followers are fast to overlook stars of yesteryear. With one other unfavorable end result this weekend, Aldo runs out of rationale for inclusion for big-money bookings.

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