UFC PARIS PREVIEW: Heavyweight power vacuum puts winner of Ciryl Gane vs Tai Tuivasa in pole position, while Robert Whittaker aims to become first to finish Marvin Vettori
- Ciryl Gane headlines first UFC event in France against Tai Tuivasa on Saturday
- The heavyweight division is suffering from a power vacuum at the moment
- Winner of main event will be front-runner for title shot or chance at interim belt
- In the co-main event, Robert Whittaker meets Marvin Vettori in a huge clash
UFC France has rightly been stacked to the gills with top quality fights as the promotion makes a long-awaited debut in front of a new audience.
French fans, starved of top quality MMA for years due to the sport being banned, will be treated to hometown hero Ciryl Gane taking on Tai Tuivasa on Saturday night in the main event.
Gane will have the burden or added motivation of Accor Arena screaming him on but the Australian will not fear being in enemy territory.
Ciryl Gane is back in action after losing against Francis Ngannou earlier this year
Tai Tuivasa is on a five-fight winning streak and comes into enemy territory
The magnitude of this fight has ratcheted up a notch by a number of factors.
Firstly, the power vacuum in the heavyweight division is giving the UFC a headache. Francis Ngannou’s win over Gane in January was the worst possible result for the organisation.
Ngannou, their undisputed champion, is still yet to agree a new deal and could well walk away at the end of the year to become a free agent.
He wants lucrative exhibition bouts against the likes of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, though it remains to be seen how realistic those are.
There’s also the fact that the Cameroonian is coming back from serious knee surgery so might not be ready to defend his belt for some time.
While the UFC plot their next move, the division is in limbo. Tom Aspinall’s clash with Curtis Blaydes at UFC London was supposed to provide a compelling narrative for the next top contender.
It was at least a ‘semi-final’ and the winner could have fought this Saturday’s victor.
But Aspinall’s freak injury just 15 seconds in denied both him and Blaydes the chance to make a statement, robbing the UFC of a narrative too.
That’s not necessarily bad news for Gane and Tuivasa. If the Frenchman can bounce back to winning ways, or his opponent wins a sixth in a row, it will be hard to deny them a title shot, in whatever form that is.
Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones are the silent players here. They have agreed to fight but there’s still no real timeline on it, with the former heavyweight champion asking to delay.
Jones wanted the fight in September but it has all gone very quiet since then. ‘Bones’ has not fought for two years since vacating his light-heavyweight title and has spent the time since both bulking up and in dispute with his paymasters.
‘Bon Gamin’ says the future is still bright and insists he will bounce back from the January loss
It seems those issues have now been resolved and the Miocic fight seems a likely debut in the division.
But Gane or Tuivasa will not want to wait around. The winner this Saturday needs some kind of roadmap presented to them and heavyweight has lacked clarity for months.
Hopefully a decisive conclusion for either man will pave a clear route forward.
In the co-main event, middleweight No 1 contender Robert Whittaker meets No 3 Marvin Vettori.
Whittaker accepts that a third fight against champion Israel Adesanya is inevitable further down the line and beating the Italian would go a long way to putting him in position.
That said, Adesanya beat him well in both encounters, a TKO in the first and decision earlier this year.
Robert Whittaker lost against Israel Adesanya earlier this year but wants another crack
‘My goal is obviously to get that fight with Israel, to try and get that belt back, especially with the way our second fight concluded,’ Whittaker previously told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The plan is simple: to beat everyone in front of me and eventually they will run out of people and he will have to fight me. I feel like it is inevitable, if we stay the course.’
Vettori’s only defeat in his last seven fights came at the hands of the champion, who also beat him by decision.
The gritty Italian is known for his durability and toughness but lacks the skill and all-round game of Whittaker.
‘The Reaper’ will enter the bout as favourite but even a win will glean limited options for him, hence recent talk of a move up in weight.
Adesanya is the dream fight back on home soil but if that is of little immediate interest to the UFC, he could try his luck at light-heavyweight.
Nathaniel Wood is the only British fighter competing on the card this weekend
That said, Whittaker has been adamant that once he moves up, there’s no chance of him losing the pounds again to come back down again so it is a significant career decision.
There’s British interest on the card too, with Nathaniel Wood taking on Charles Jourdain, fresh from his superb win at UFC London.
Wood was one of the most impressive performers at the O2 Arena back in July. His distance control and comfort in moving up to featherweight was evident, as well as vicious leg kicks.
Jourdain, a Canadian, is an all-action fighter too and this one has the makings of of a barnburner.
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