This weekend the UFC has its first event in Uruguay. Headling the card will be a WMMA title fight pitting flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko vs perennial contender Liz Carmouche. I'm sure this fight is set to be a corker, however I am much more interested in a fight which headlines the prelim portion of the card.
Set to make their UFC debuts this weekend are Ciryl Gane and Raphael Pessoa vs one another. They are competing at Heavyweight and both are undefeated. Gane has a record of 3-0 while Pessoa has a record of 9-0. It would be easy to assume that Pessoa will run away with this fight, he has been competing for longer in MMA and has ended but two of his foes en route to a UFC contract. In contrast Gane is 3 fights in to his career and has only been around a couple of years in MMA. It would look as though Gane is a can to crush for Pessoa. Is it the other way around though?
Gane is a training partner of Francis Ngannou and has been described as his protege (although how true that is, I've no idea). Gane's past in fighting is difficult to find and while he has plenty of videos to watch on YouTube, I still can't find a solid record for his kickboxing and Muay Thai fights. Some say he is 10-0, others say 13-0 and some just say nothing. Either way....it looks as though he is undefeated. Moreover, he is a monster of a man. Standing around 6'5 and weighing in at over 250, he is not a man to be overlooked.
Looking at his videos online, Gane seems to be the real deal. His use of the clinch, knees to the body and head kicks is something that the UFC needs to add to the current climate of the heavyweight division. Such antics in the past would have been fulfilled by Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt, but now Hunt is gone and Overeem is far past his best, we need another kickboxer to shake up the division. Gane has fast hands, great kicks, unbelievable in the clinch, pin point knees to the body and devastating elbows. That said, his cardio does look somewhat less than desired. His 3 MMA fights have been over within 2 rounds, but he already shows signs of fatigue during those rounds. Not somewhere you want to be in the heavyweight division.
Pessoa is no slouch, that's for certain. All but two of his fights he has finished 7 of his opponents, 6 of which were in the first round and all but one were by TKO or KO. He trains in Brazil under the tutelage of Wanderlei Silva and is no doubt going to be surrounded by great talent in such a gym. Pessoa in 2017 also fought 7 times inside that year.
What worries me about Pessoa is that while searching for videos etc of his fights. It was extremely hard to get footage. However I did see a fight he won last year at LFA 50. Pessoa defeated Brian Heden on that card. Heden has apparently won 30 fights in his career, however when looking at his record, the quality of opponent is not ideal. When watching Pessoa in that fight, he looked green. Event though he has the MMA experience, his striking looked amateur still and he did get hit a lot, by Heden. No disrespect to Heden but he does not have the striking credentials of Gane.
In my opinion this is actually a feeding fight for the 3-0 Gane and not the other way around. According to Gane 7 opponents turned down the opportunity to fight him in the UFC. What intrigues me about this fight is how each fighter reacts. Gane knows he is a prospect they want to push heavily and in fact Gane had even just signed to Glory Kickboxing when the UFC came calling. Gane decided to retire from kickboxing just to go to the UFC and try his hand there. Will Gane be able to deal with the pressure and the hype surrounding him?
In contrast, Pessoa has little hype going into the fight, he has been training jiu jitsu since 2006 and has way more experience in the sphere of MMA. That said, his opponents have been of questionable quality. Pessoa might just thrive off his underdog statement and particularly might feel insulted that Gane is being looked to as a prospect ahead of him. Yes, their stand up may look miles apart, but how is Gane at defending a single leg? Does Gane have a chin with such small gloves? Who knows and more importantly who cares? We will find out this weekend.
I can't wait for this fight. I think it'll be fireworks no matter what. Both are finishers and both want to make a statement. Let's see who gets it.