It appears we’ll have another interim heavyweight world champion in our beloved sport of mixed martial arts in the not-too-distant future, as No. 1 ranked Derrick Lewis (25-7) 1 NC faces No. 3 ranked Ciryl Gane (9-0) for the interim UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 265.
First, we had Valentin Moldavsky defeat Tim Johnson via unanimous decision on Friday, June 25 to claim the interim Bellator heavyweight title.
He’ll now likely face Ryan Bader for the undisputed crown at a to be determined date. Considering Bader is still in the light-heavyweight gran prix, Moldavsky may have to defend his interim belt, before unifying it.
This has a few people upset to say the least, such as UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou’s manager:
“This comes as a complete shock. To make an interim title so soon, if you look at the history of this division, it comes as a surprise. Francis is just now returning to the States to begin training, and he just won the title three months ago.
“We’re unsure of what the reasoning is behind this, but we hope to get clarity soon and figure out something with the UFC soon. At the end of the day, they’re in control of these decisions.” – Ngannou’s manager via Brett Okamoto
Well, to be fair, he is right. He’s right in the sense that Ngannou did just win the belt in March. Not to mention, the UFC does control these types of things. That’s been shown to be a good, and bad thing at times.
The thing is, both men do deserve to fight for the belt, so that’s where the interim title comes in.
But, it is a bit unfavorable. Does anyone remember how Ngannou had to sit out nearly a year waiting for a title shot? The UFC didn’t give him an interim bout, they just made him wait, to fight the greatest heavyweight ever in most peoples eyes.
Not to mention, Ngannou wants to stay active. Surely he’d be ready by late summer, right?
On the contrary, we need to see this fight, and the winner needs to face Ngannou for the belt. It should just be a No. 1 contender fight, rather than a title fight.
After securing his first title shot against then champion Daniel Cormier in 2018, Lewis would then lose two straight; the title fight, and a TKO defeat to former champion Junior dos Santos. He did go into that first title shot on a three-fight win streak, having defeated former Bellator & M-1 Global heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov, as well as current champion Francis Ngannou.
Lewis is the only man to defeat Ngannou in the UFC, aside from former champion, Stipe Miocic, who Ngannou avenged in his last fight to claim the title via KO in round two.
Since that last defeat however, Lewis has won his last four-straight over the likes of four-time WSOF heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov, who also defeated perhaps the greatest of all-time, Fedor Emelianenko in a Combat Sambo tournament.
Lewis then defeated Ilir Latifi, before finishing Alexey Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes, both via knockout.
Ciryl Gane on the other hand has been perfect throughout his combat sports career thus far. He’s a Muay Thai world champion with a record of 13-0 in the art, and also improved his UFC run to six-straight over the weekend with a victory over Alexander Volkov himself.
You see, Lewis KO’d Volkov in the last ten seconds of the bout after getting battered for 14+ minutes.
Gane dominated Volkov for five rounds handily. However, Lewis has been known to do that before. He’s done it against Marcin Tybura, Shamil Abdurakhimov, Viktor Pesta, and in his last fight with Curtis Blaydes.
The last thing we’ll say about this fight is that they’re both former champions themselves.
Lewis won the Legacy FC heavyweight championship and defended it once before coming over to the UFC with a record of 9-2 (1 NC), while Gane won the TKO heavyweight championship in his professional debut, and defended it twice before coming over to the UFC with a record of just 3-0.
This is a very meaningful match up in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Who walks away the interim champion?
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I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.