This is how you kick off a new year on pay-per-view!
Saturday’s event at Honda Center in Anaheim, California has been reconfigured a little thanks to injuries and illnesses but remained headlined by a pair of mammoth championship fights.
First up, Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo close out their trilogy with the UFC flyweight title hanging in the balance, and then, it’s a championship unification bout between former teammates and training partners in the heavyweight division, as Francis Ngannou takes on undefeated Frenchman Ciryl Gane in the main event.
Here’s a preview of what to expect this weekend.
Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane
I was going to use some clichéd line to kick off this main event preview, but instead, I think I’ll just keep it simple and be completely honest with you: this is a meeting of the two best heavyweights in the world right now and it’s going to be awesome no matter how it plays out.
Ngannou has won five straight and answered every lingering question there was about him in his championship-winning effort against Stipe Miocic last March. He showed improved patience and a more diverse offensive arsenal, as well as strong takedown defense and the trademark power that has been the hallmark of his whole career to date.
All Gane did last year was earn three more victories to push his record to 7-0 inside the Octagon and 10-0 overall, while claiming the interim heavyweight title with a third-round stoppage win over Derrick Lewis on the road in Houston. The 31-year-old is smooth and fluid, having exhibited the ability to work at a steady clip for 25 minutes if needed, and the diverse finishing skills to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.
This is the best matchup possible in the division right now — the kind of elite test that will tell us a great deal about each man — and it’s only made more compelling by their shared history.
Gane’s head coach Fernand Lopez is the man that guided Ngannou at the start of his career, but they had a falling out soon after “The Predator” lost his first meeting with Miocic, and that wound still seems unhealed, as evident by Ngannou walking by Lopez, Gane, and Nassourdine Imavov backstage at UFC 268 in New York City without so much as giving the French contingent a nod.
Will Ngannou turn back the unbeaten interim champ or will Gane continue his winning ways and emerge as the undisputed heavyweight champion?
Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo
Sometimes you want a little distance between each chapter in a combat sports trilogy. Other times, however, getting them back-to-back-to-back is the best way to go, and in the case of the flyweight title saga between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo, doing it for a third straight time this weekend just feels right.
Moreno entered as the challenger in each of the first two meetings, but arrives as the champion here, having claimed the title in June with a dominant third-round submission win. He clearly studied their first encounter and made adjustments, working behind his hands, staying tight, and taking the fight to Figueiredo without ever letting himself over-extend.
After a six-fight run where he looked poised to dominate the division for a considerable amount of time, Figueiredo came out flat in last summer’s sequel, getting beaten to the punch more often than not and reaching with power punches in spots where he’d found success by being more technical in the past. Whether it was just a bad night, the impact of another tough weight cut, or something else, “Deus de Guerra” wasn’t himself, and will need to remedy that if he wants to get back to the top of the division this weekend.
The reason running it back again right away makes sense is because after battling to a majority draw in December 2019, most envisioned Figueiredo earning a clear victory in the rematch, since a point deduction was the only reason things ended level the first time around. But then Moreno dominated the second meeting, making good on his promise to one day wear UFC gold, and setting the stage for Saturday’s third straight meeting between the two.
Both of the first two fights were tense, compelling contests, and there is no reason to believe that won’t be the case this weekend as well.
Michel Pereira vs. Andre Fialho
Long known for his unorthodox style filled with big, explosive movements, Pereira dropped two straight after winning his debut, including a bout where he was disqualified for landing an illegal knee. Since then, he’s dialed back the wildness and posted three straight wins, following up his tandem victories over Zelim Imadaev and Khaos Williams to close out 2020 with a unanimous decision triumph over Niko Price at UFC 264 in July.
A four-fight winning streak in 2021 that included stoppage victories over a pair of UFC veterans put Fialho on the promotion’s radar, and when Muslim Salikhov was forced out of his pairing with Pereira, the UFC reached out to the Portuguese newcomer to step in for him. The 27-year-old trains with a great crew at Sanford MMA in South Florida, fought quality competition throughout the last couple years, and appears to be hitting his stride, kicking off last year with a knockout win over James Vick before posting three consecutive first-round stoppage finishes.
This is an intriguing opportunity on both sides. Pereira is closing in on the Top 15 and could become a real factor if he finds a way to combine the patience he’s shown in his last two wins with the explosiveness that made him a fan favorite early in his career. Meanwhile, Fialho has the chance to propel himself into the mix in the 170-pound weight class right off the hop by toppling the streaking Brazilian, and worst case, he gets the opportunity to show he belongs at this level.
No matter how this one shakes out, it should be entertaining.
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Cody Stamann vs. Said Nurmagomedov
While only a couple years older than his foe, Stamann has been a fixture in the Top 15 for the majority of his UFC career. He’s landed on the wrong side of the results in each of his last two outings, but losing to fellow ranked talents Jimmie Rivera and Merab Dvalishvili on the scorecards is no reason to dismiss the Xtreme Couture fighter as a competitive member of the bantamweight upper class.
Nurmagomedov has competed just four times since joining the UFC in 2018 and makes the walk this weekend for the first time since October 2020. Last time out, he earned a 51-second knockout victory over Mark Striegl, pushing his record to 14-2 overall, and this pairing with Stamann is his opportunity to show he deserves to be considered amongst the top names in the 135-pound weight class.
Can Stamann rely on his significant experience advantage to work his way back into the win column or will Nurmagomedov shake things up in the Top 15?
Michael Morales vs. Trevin Giles
Just 22 years old, Morales was one of the more impressive prospects to come through the UFC APEX during the most recent season of the annual talent-search series, posting a unanimous decision win over Nikolay Veretennikov to improve his record to 12-0. Training out of the Entram Gym in Tijuana alongside fellow UFC 270 competitor Genaro Valdez, the youngster from Ecuador has tremendous height and reach for the division and an abundance of upside heading into his first appearance inside the Octagon.
Giles arrives in Anaheim set to compete in a third division after making his debut at light heavyweight and spending the last seven fights competing at 185 pounds. The Texan has posted a 5-3 record in the UFC to date, and earned wins over Brendan Allen and Ryan Spann on his way to the Octagon, so if he can tap into those talents and bring his power with him to welterweight, he could be a factor in the welterweight class.
Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor Henry
After having his nine-fight winning streak snapped last time out, Brazilian standout Raoni Barcelos looks to get moving in the right direction again when he takes on veteran newcomer Victor Henry on Saturday night.
Barcelos was on the cusp of cracking the Top 15 at bantamweight heading into his June engagement with Timur Valiev, having earned five straight victories inside the Octagon to advance his record to 16-1 overall. Unfortunately for the 34-year-old from Rio, he landed on the wrong side of a majority decision verdict, sending him into Saturday’s pairing looking to start a fresh winning streak.
A catch wrestling disciple of Erik Paulson and Josh Barnett, the 34-year-old Henry has been one of the top bantamweights operating outside the major North American promotions for a number of years. He holds wins over veterans like Hideo Tokoro and Masanori Kanehara, UFC alums Anderson Dos Santos and Albert Morales, and current UFC competitor Kyler Philips, and touches down in the Octagon having won eight of his last nine fights.
Jourdain was quick to volunteer to replace Movsar Evloev when the undefeated Russian was forced to withdraw from his clash with Topuria, and now gets the opportunity to thrust himself into the thick of the chase in the 145-pound ranks if he’s able to hand Topuria his first loss. The 26-year-old turned in an impressive performance against Andre Ewell at last year’s final event, getting himself back in the win column and moving in the right direction again.
As appetizing as the pairing between Evloev and Topuria was, this is an outstanding short-notice option that should deliver loads of excitement on Saturday.
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Pete Rodriguez
Aussie DWCS graduate Jack Della Maddalena had to sweat a little waiting for a dance partner before Pete Rodriguez stepped into the vacancy created by Warlley Alves’ withdrawal, setting up this clash of welterweight newcomers on Saturday night.
The 25-year-old from Perth turned in an impressive showing last fall, pushing his record to 10-2 overall and securing a UFC contract with a unanimous decision win over Ange Loosa. Since dropping the first two fights of his career, the man Australian fans refer to simply as “Della” has rattled off 10 straight victories, with all but his appearance at the UFC APEX last year ending inside the distance.
Tabbed to replace Alves late last week, Rodriguez gets the opportunity to compete on a massive pay-per-view card against a highly regarded newcomer in a high-reward contest on Saturday. Based in Tucson, Arizona, “Dead Game” has followed up his nine-fight amateur run by posting stoppage victories in each of his first four pro appearances, all of which have come with the iKon Fighting Federation.
Tony Gravely vs. Saimon Oliveira
A member of the Class of ’19, Gravely has split his first four appearances inside the Octagon, losing his debut to Brett Johns before posting a pair of victories and then falling to Nate Maness in September. The 30-year-old wrestler, who trains out of American Top Team, fought a tough slate on his way to the UFC and has shown an ability to rebound from setbacks in the past, and now gets the opportunity to do so against a promotional newcomer.
Oliveira earned his ticket to the UFC last summer with a split decision win over Mexican veteran Jose Alday, pushing his record to 18-3 in the process. It was the fifth straight victory for the 30-year-old, who began his pro career in 2013 and was out of action for roughly 21 months heading into his victory on the Contender Series last year.
Matt Frevola vs. Genaro Valdez
The 31-year-old “SteamRolla” started his career with six straight wins, including a victory on the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series, but has struggled to find consistent results since, going 2-3-1 through his first six UFC appearances. Last time out at UFC 263, Frevola was stopped in seven seconds by short-notice newcomer Terrance McKinney.
Like Morales, Valdez represents the Entram Gym and arrives in the UFC with an unblemished professional record. He moved to 10-0 with a second-round stoppage win over Patrik White last October to secure a contract, but is taking a considerable step up in competition here.
Saturday’s contest is a chance for Frevola to “return the favor” in a way, as he was once the undefeated DWCS alum making his first start in the UFC, only to get quickly stopped and handed his first loss. Will he be able to do the same to Valdez or will “El Rayadito” maintain his clean sheet through his first foray into the UFC cage?
Silvana Gomez Juarez vs. Vanessa Demopoulos
The 37-year-old Argentine Juarez, who trains out of the Entram Gym in Tijuana, suffered a first-round submission loss to Loopy Godinez in early October, prior to her scheduled appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. Before that setback, “La Malvada” had earned four straight victories and 10 wins in her first 12 starts.
A fixture for Legacy Fighting Alliance, Demopoulos has not been able to replicate her success there in a pair of appearances in Las Vegas, coming up short in her DWCS date with Cory McKenna in 2020 and again in August when she filled in for Tracy Cortez opposite JJ Aldrich. The 33-year-old grappler should be buoyed by the success her former opponent Godinez had against Juarez and could really use a victory as she enters her sophomore appearance.
Kay Hansen vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius
Hansen appeared poised to be one of the leaders of the youth movement in the 125-pound weight class after earning a third-round submission win over Jinh Yu Frey in her debut, but following a loss to Cory McKenna in her second outing, the Californian spent all of 2021 on the sidelines working through some personal matters. Just 22 and carrying a wealth of experience for someone her age, Hansen still has the potential to join the likes of former opponent Erin Blanchfield, Miranda Maverick, and Casey O’Neill at the vanguard of the new wave of talent climbing the ranks in the flyweight division.
The 32-year-old Jasudavicius has only been fighting for a little over four years, making her amateur debut at the tail end of 2017 and her first professional start in the summer of 2019. She’s earned consecutive victories since suffering the lone loss of her career in a championship clash with Elise Reed under the CFFC banner, including a unanimous decision victory over Julia Polastri last September on Dana White’s Contender Series.
While Hansen carries a considerable experience advantage, Jasudavicius will be working with a five-inch height and reach advantage, which could make things interesting on the feet. It’s also worth watching to see if Hansen has any struggles early trying to find her rhythm and her range after more than a year on the sidelines.
Don't miss a single strike of the first pay-per-view of 2022 at UFC 270: Ngannou vs Gane, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on ESPN+. Prelims begin at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Main card begins at 10pm ET/7pm PT.
UFC 270: Ngannou vs Gane took place on Saturday, January 22, 2022, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.