When Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic in March to win the UFC heavyweight title, it seemed all but certain that Ngannou would make his first defense against ex-light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
But Jones and the UFC got into a dispute over pay, and then Jones said he wanted to wait until 2022 to make his heavyweight debut, so the UFC turned to Derrick Lewis.
When Ngannou decided he wasn’t ready to fight in August, though, the UFC didn’t do Lewis any favors. Instead of having him wait to fight Ngannou, the UFC opted to create an interim heavyweight belt and paired him with Ciryl Gane.
Ngannou is the most fearsome puncher in the UFC, but Gane stylistically may be a more difficult challenge for Lewis.
Lewis holds a win over Ngannou, albeit in one of the worst fights the UFC has ever staged. Lewis had a bad back and could barely move and Ngannou for some reason couldn’t pull the trigger and throw any punches. So for the better part of the fight’s 15 minutes, they shadowboxed.
Gane and Lewis will meet in the main event of UFC 265 on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV) at the Toyota Center in Houston for the interim title and, essentially, the right to meet Ngannou later in the year.
The unbeaten Gane is nearly a 4-1 favorite at BetMGM. Gane is -375 to win and Lewis is +295. At BetMGM, No is a -185 favorite in answer to the question, “Will the fight go the distance?” Yes is +150.
Lewis by KO/TKO or DQ is +450 while Gane by KO/TKO or DQ is +125.
Gane has three finishes in nine fights as a pro and has gone to a decision in his last two fights. And given the style I think he’s going to fight — moving, creating angles, going in and out — I don’t think he’s going to add to the KO total here.
If there is a knockout in this fight, it is almost certainly going to be by Lewis.
Lewis’ KO of Curtis Blaydes in his last fight answered a significant question about him: He was able to deal with a big, burly wrestler and still use his punching power.
He proved that to a lesser extent in his previous fight, against submission ace Aleksei Oleynik. He escaped a tight Ezekiel choke near the end of the first and overpowered Oleynik in the second to get the finish.
I don’t think Lewis will get a knockout, either, so I’m going to play the fight will go the distance. I’ll put down $100 with the hope of winning $150.
I’m also going to play Gane and lay the -375. Even thinking of laying such a big number is scary, but I think Lewis is going to have a difficult time closing the distance.
Other betting plays or UFC 265
• Angela Hill at +115 to defeat Tecia Torres.
• Jose Aldo to win by decision at +175 over Pedro Munhoz.
• Michael Chiesa +105 to defeat Vicente Luque and Chiesa at +400 to win by submission.
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