Arguably more than in any other sport, a victory in mixed martial arts is not always a victory. Just ask the UFC heavyweight Ciryl Gane.
Gane (8-0), who against Alexander Volkov (33-8) in the main event of a matinee UFC Fight Night on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas (1 p.m. ET on ESPN +), is unbeaten in MMA. But his most recent fight, a five-round decision Jairzinho Rozenstruik in February, did not generate the buzz it should have had.
That fight was Gane’s first appearance in a UFC main event, and while he won every round against a dangerous opponent, it was – frankly – boring. Rozenstruik dug an early hole in the scorecards and never took great risks to overcome it.
Gane realized this and intelligently took what was given to him. He cruised to a dominant – if less than exciting – 25-minute decision.
Gane’s performance was criticized by UFC President Dana White, who simply said, “He won, but let’s leave it at that.” For his part, Gane said he was initially disappointed with the performance but joined in after speaking with his coach Fernand Lopez.
How Gane reacts to this experience is one of the most fascinating aspects before the main event on Saturday. Volkov, 32, is talented, versatile and a dark horse in the heavyweight title fight, but the table isn’t set for him right now. It’s set for Gane.
Gane has never lost in MMA and has shown ample championship potential in five bouts in the UFC. Gane is a former teammate of the current champion of Francis NgannouThat’s what would obviously add an interesting twist should the two ever fight for a title.
Gane is in the position he is because he won his last fight. So, despite all the criticism he might have received for not throwing Rozenstruik away, in this fight he did what he had to do to be in his place and doing a show could be his next fight for a UFC title.
According to the numbers
58.7: Percentage of major Volkov assault attempts that hit their target, the best among active UFC heavyweights. No. 2 on the list is Gane with 55.3%.
3.19: Significant punches landed from Gane for everyone he absorbed, tops among the active heavyweights in the UFC. Volkov is second best with a difference of 2.67.
69.9: Percentage of significant attack attempts by opponents Gane dodges, the best percentage among active UFC heavyweights. It absorbs 1.85 beats per minute, the third lowest sum currently in the league. Volkov is number 5 in forward defense with 56.6%.
22: Volkov knockouts among his 25 finishes in a 33-win career.
Sources: ESPN stats and information and UFC stats
Five against five
The latest results from Ciryl Gane
Victory: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UD, February 27, 2021; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Junior dos Santos (TKO2, December 12, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Tanner Boser (UD, December 21, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Don’Tale Mayes (Sub3, October 26, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Raphael Pessoa (Sub1, 08/10/2019)
The latest results from Alexander Volkov
Victory: Alistair Overeem (TKO2, February 6, 2021; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Walt Harris (TKO2, October 24, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Curtis Blaydes (UD, June 20, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Greg Hardy (UD, November 9, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Derrick Lewis (KO3, October 6, 2018)
How to watch the fights
Don’t have ESPN +? Get it here.
There are also FightCenter, which provides live updates for every UFC card.
Battle card from Saturday Saturday
ESPN +, 4 p.m. ET
Ciryl Gane vs. Alexander Volkov | Heavyweight
Tanner Boser vs. Ovince Saint Preux | Heavyweight
Raoni Barcelos vs. Timur Valieve | Men’s bantamweight
André Fili vs. Daniel Pineda | Featherweight for men
Tim thinks vs. Nicolas Dalby | Welterweight
Renato Moicano vs. Jai Herbert | Light
ESPN +, 1 p.m. ET
Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Danilo Marques | Light heavyweight
Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Michel Prazeres | Welterweight
Warley Alves vs. Jeremiah Wells | Welterweight
Marcin Prachnio vs. Ike Villanueva | Light heavyweight
Julia Avila vs. Julia Stoliarenko | Women’s bantamweight
Charles Rosa vs. Justin Jaynes | Featherweight for men
Yancy Medeiros vs. Damir Hadzovic | Light
Five More Things You Should Know (from ESPN Stats & Info)
1. Tanner Boser and Ovince Saint Preux will try to get back on track at the co-main heavyweight event. Boser will try to avoid his first loss in three fights. Saint Preux has lost four of its last six fights.
2. The light heavyweight fight between Kennedy Nzechukwu and Danilo Marques is a striker versus gripper matchup. Nzechukwu averages 5.38 hits per minute, and Marques lands 4.83 takedowns per 15 minutes.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this bout preview.