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What We Learned at UFC 270

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
 2022-01-24

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Here are the top takeaways from an action-packed night inside the Octagon.

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UFC 270 exceeded expectations, delivering an entertaining slate of fights.

Carried by Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo, which was awarded Fight of the Night honors, 270 featured a title change as Figueiredo regained the flyweight title. In addition to the title change, Saturday’s pay-per-view also included a dominant performance from Said Nurmagomedov, all before the main event. And the card closed with Francis Ngannou–Ciryl Gane, with Ngannou successfully defending the heavyweight title in a very unexpected manner.

Despite a thin card and a rise in the pay-per-view price, sources close to ESPN indicated that executives overseeing ESPN+ were pleased with the buy rate for UFC 270, as well as confident moving forward in Ngannou as the headline attraction.

Here are my top takeaways from that eventful night:

Moreno vs. Figueiredo, Part 4?

In a division lacking depth, a fourth meeting between and Moreno is the best option possible, especially considering it is a barnburner every time they meet. The next challenger will be decided in March when Askar Askarov faces off against Kai Kara-France, but neither Askarov nor Kara-France can bring the same anticipation to a flyweight title bout that either Figueiredo or Moreno can. For the UFC, Figueiredo winning was the best-case possible.

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Figueiredo speaks with the media after his championship victory over Moreno (not pictured) at UFC 270.

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Ngannou and Gane Can Go the Distance

The heavyweight title bout closed out 270, with Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane surprisingly going the full five rounds. Ngannou unveiled new pieces to his repertoire with his wrestling and grappling, and defeated Gane by unanimous decision. While that approach would not have been nearly as effective against Jon Jones or even Stipe Miocic, it worked perfectly to defeat Gane.

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UFC 270 was an outlier for the heavyweights. Gane finally seized control with a takedown in the fifth round, and he had a tired Ngannou exactly where he wanted him. Yet he went for an ankle lock, which allowed Ngannou to reverse positions and maintain control. Ngannou also did not land any knockout-caliber blows, which is usually his path to victory, and this was his first win by decision. Showing versatility is important for Ngannou, who has an opportunity to create a very memorable run as champion. That is, of course, if he signs a new contract with the UFC.

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Ngannnou (l.) defeats Gane in the UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 270.

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's victory earned Ngannou a new deal

Dana White did not strap the belt around the waist of the victorious Ngannou (in his place was UFC vice president of talent relations Mick Maynard), nor did he conduct his customary postfight press conference.

Once Ngannou won, White likely had no intention of speaking. The last time a similar incident occurred was a couple of decades ago, which was an entirely different landscape in the UFC. It took place when Josh Barnett fought Randy Couture for the heavyweight title at UFC 36 in March 2022 on the last fight of his deal. Barnett won the title, then wouldn’t negotiate a new contract. This was further complicated when Barnett was later stripped of the title due to a failed drug test, and the next time he fought in UFC was '13.

There will not be a similar story for Ngannou. Ultimately, the UFC will sign him to a new deal. And a much more expensive one than his current deal.

Who will be Ngannou's next opponent?

UFC has put time and money into Ngannou, who further increased his value with the victory at 270. Always in need of a new superstar, Ngannou checks two very important boxes for the UFC: he is a must-see fighter and possesses worldwide appeal. They would never let him sign with Bellator or PFL. And while boxing Tyson Fury would lead to an outrageous payday, it is a one-off, which doesn’t help Ngannou, especially considering it is a matchup that favors Fury.

Ngannou is under contract until December, so there is ample time to negotiate. A safe bet is that he fights on International Fight Week over the summer. As for an opponent, there is a trilogy fight with two-time heavyweight champ Miocic, with both Ngannou and Miocic holding a win against the other. Or there is the possibility of a money-making bonanza against Jones. On paper, Ngannou vs. Jones could be the biggest fight draw in UFC history.

More MMA Coverage:

UFC 270 Recap: Ngannou Defends Heavyweight Title by Unanimous Decision

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com . Follow him on Twitter @ JustinBarrasso .

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