Heavyweights in all combat sports are known to land the biggest punches and slam the hardest. Having 200+ pounds on your frame lends to transferring massive, devastating forces against your opponents. It’s uncommon to watch heavyweights for the sake of admiring perfect striking technique when knockouts can occur with any glancing blow.
The Ultimate Fighting Championships’s (UFC) Heavyweight division has been an interesting battleground of the hardest hitting and most terrifying specimens of fighters known to man. Among the champions that have held gold in the division are Brock Lesnar and Francis Ngannou, both freaks of nature made even more terrifying when let loose in a cage. For a bit of perspective, those two fighters are the type of heavyweights who need to cut down weight to meet the UFC’s 265-pound weight cap for the division. Another interesting aspect about the heavyweight division is the very high turnover rate for champions, with the longest title defense run being only three fights held by Stipe Miocic who lost the title late last year to a devastating knockout by Francis Ngannou. The title seems to change every other championship fight, but, despite that, the long recovery time for heavyweight fighters makes the division very slow since you may need a bit of a break if you get hit by a +200 pounds man over several rounds. The current champion, Francis Ngannou, holds the record for the hardest punch recorded on the planet, and with such terrifying strength and a slew of unconscious bodies in his wake, including the former champion, it seems that he will be on the top for a while.
A relatively new fighter hailing from France has lit up the division, climbing his way to his first title shot within five fights in the UFC. Ciryl Gane has introduced a different style in the top ranks of heavyweight fighters. The Frenchman is young for the heavyweight division at a spry 30 years-old and has had a quick run to the heavyweight title, taking little damage in the hardest hitting division. Gane currently holds the interim title after his last bout against Derick Lewis, one of the hardest hitting men on the planet. Although Gane’s fights don’t rely on typical heavyweight power as he brings a much more technical game to the division, having cleared out the hardest hitters and some very technical fighters, by heavyweight standards.
Hailing from a high level Muay Thai background, Gane’s fighting style circles around a sharp in and out blitzing style where he maintains almost perfect distance while landing a large volume of shots against very dangerous fighters. Gane fights with almost no dominant stance, being able to unload sharp strikes with each limb he has at his disposal. The Frenchman floats into his strikes, bouncing all 247 pounds of his frame into the body of his opponents. His kicks are thrown as easily as his punches and his sharp elbows can put down the heaviest of heavyweights. But also, unlike most heavyweights, Gane seems to lack the insane knockout power typical of most heavyweights. That is definitely not to say he hits softly because the man could likely take my head off if I called him pillow hands, but it is to say he doesn’t end his fights like the typical heavyweight.
In his second to last fight against Volkov, one of the more technical heavyweights, he out struck the Russian across all rounds to win on a unanimous decision, but even with landing 135 sig strikes (high for heavyweights) through the match, Gane couldn’t put out Volkov. That may be more of a testament to Volkov’s durability, but Gane’s style depends heavily on volume to break down his opponents. Gane kind of turned around the slight stigma of him being a point fighter in his interim title fight win where he put Derick Lewis down in the third round due to heavy strikes, proving he can in fact throw hands with some of the hardest hitters. A perfect set up for his next fight against the current champion.
Francis Ngannou is up next for Gane in a match that may change the way the heavyweight division is viewed. Were Gane to defeat Ngannou, the hardest hitting man on the planet and not a very technical fighter (don’t kill me please), would he be able to be taken down? Clearly any man able to defeat Ngannou is one to be reckoned with such as former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and even Derick Lewis who Gane already disposed of. But the current champion has yet to be knocked out, and it seems that unless Ngannou is taken down or just beaten on strikes, he won’t be an easy challenge for Gane. Gane risks eating the hardest punches known to man with every blitz, but the Frenchman’s speed could overwhelm the Cameroonian champion. An interesting dynamic as well is the fact both fighters used to be sparring partners in France early in both fighter’s careers. This knowledge of each other’s style may make this fight a lot better than we can expect or so dull that no one cares. This fight will be blessing our eyes in what seems to be early 2022. I, for one, cannot wait to see this fight as heavyweight fights can end in the blink of an eye, especially when the hardest hitter in the world meets the newest and most technical heavyweight to step into the octagon.