UFC 265 Primer with Picks

Derrick Lewis is a generous home underdog vs. unbeaten Ciryl Gane in Saturday's UFC 265 headliner for the interim heavyweight title.

Updated on Friday, 8/6/21, at 6:22 p.m. Eastern.

Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis (25-7-0-1 MMA, 16-5-0-1 UFC) will take on undefeated French kickboxer Ciryl Gane for the interim heavyweight championship in Saturday’s UFC 265 main event at Toyota Center in Lewis’s hometown of Houston.

As of Thursday, most books had Gane (9-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) installed as a favorite in the -350 to -375 range. William Hill was offering the best underdog odds on Lewis (+290), but nearly all books had him at +270 or better.

Some spots had the total at 1.5 rounds (-220 ‘over,’ +185 ‘under’), while other shops had it at 2.5 (‘over’ -125, ‘under’ -110).

Lewis tipped the scales at 264.5 pounds Friday morning, while Gane weighed in at 247 pounds.

Since October of 2015, Lewis has compiled a 13-3 record with his only losses coming against Mark Hunt and a pair of former UFC heavyweight champions in Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos. He is tied with Matt ‘The Immortal’ Brown for the most KOs in UFC history with 12.

The ‘swangin’ and banging’ connoisseur has won four fights in a row, including back-to-back KO victories over Aleksei Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes. Lewis has thrived in underdog roles throughout his career, cashing tickets at generous payouts of +300 (vs. Blaydes), +255 (vs. current heavyweight kingpin Francis Ngannou), +140 (vs. Alexander Volkov) and +400 (vs. Jared Rosholt before signing with the UFC under the Legacy Fighting Championship banner).

Only six of Lewis’s 33 career contests have gone the distance, with him winning four of those and losing two. He owns 20 career wins by KO and one by submission. Lewis has been KO’d four times and submitted just once (Cormier).

This is the eighth time Lewis has been scheduled for a five-round contest. He’s gone beyond three rounds just twice, losing by fourth-round KO to Hunt in a Fight of the Night bout in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2017. He also captured a fourth-round KO win over Shamil Abdurakhimov in 2016.

Lewis has bagged seven fight-night bonuses, including four Performance of the Night rewards in KO wins over Gabriel Gonzaga, Marcin Tybura, Volkov and Blaydes. He’s participated in three FOTN’s in defeats against Hunt and Dos Santos and in a KO victory over Travis Browne.

The 31-year-old Gane is five years younger than Lewis, but he also went 13-0 in Muay Thai competitions from 2014-18 before getting into MMA. The 6-foot-5 Gane will have a two-inch advantage in both height and reach. However, Lewis has a 43.5-inch leg reach that is 1.5 inches longer than Gane’s.

After beginning his MMA career with three knockout wins in Canada under the TKO banner, Gane was inked by the UFC and scored a first-round submission victory over Raphael Pessoa in August of 2019. Next, he forced Don’Tale Mayes to tap with a third-round sub (heel hook) just 10 weeks later.

Following a unanimous-decision win over Tanner Boser, Gane opened a lot of eyes by dusting Dos Santos via second-round KO at UFC 256. The promotion gave him his first main-event slot in February against Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Although the fight was an absolute snoozer, Gane showed he has top-level cardio by soundly defeating Rozenstruik in each of the five stanzas.

Let’s hope Saturday’s scrap doesn’t resemble Gane’s win over ‘Bigi Boy.’ He chose to stay on the outside and pepper the smaller Rozenstruik with kicks galore, but he avoided getting into a slugfest with the powerful striker.

Gane added another win to his resume in June, coasting to an easy UD win over Volkov.

PREDICTION:

Gane wants to implement a similar plan to the one he utilized against Rozenstruik. He doesn’t want to get into a bunch of punching exchanges at close distance with Lewis. Again, this could make for a boring contest. But let’s be clear that Lewis isn’t going to sit back and just allow Gane to kick him without any resistance. For those thinking back to the Lewis-Ngannou bout that was somehow more boring than Gane-Rozenstruik, remember that Lewis was dealing with back and knee injuries at that time. He’s doing a much better job with his nutrition and taking care of his body these days. Gane’s chances are much better as the fight drags on, but we’ve seen Lewis rally to victory with late KOs when he was down on the scorecards against both Vokov and Tybura.

I’m not turning down Lewis at these sort of underdog odds — ever! I understand Gane being in the ‘chalk’ role, but not at this expensive price. Let’s go with 1.5 units on Lewis for the +290 payout and one unit on the prop for Lewis to win by KO for a +400 return (BetMGM, DraftKings and William Hill are offering this).

I’m okay if someone wants to vary the units with more on the Lewis prop at better odds. The likelihood of Lewis winning by decision or submission are extremely slim, but there’s always the chance of some sort of disqualification (Diego Sanchez vs. Michel Pereira comes to mind) and I’d hate to miss out on the +290 winner in a circumstance such as that.

In the co-main event, former featherweight champ Jose Aldo (29-7 MMA, 11-6 UFC) takes on fellow Brazilian bantamweight Pedro Munhoz in a 135-pound battle. As of Thursday, most books had this fight as a pick ’em (-110 or -115 either way), with DraftKings listing Aldo as a -120 favorite. The total was 2.5 rounds (‘over’ -225, ‘under’ +163).

Since dropping down to bantamweight, Aldo is 1-2 in three Octagon appearances. However, his split-decision loss to Marlon Moraes at UFC 245 was extremely controversial. Most media members and MajorWager scored the bout for Aldo by a 29-28 margin. Moraes basically spent the last 7-8 minutes of the fight running from Aldo and avoiding the action.

Dana White certainly felt that Aldo prevailed because he gave him the title shot against Petr Yan after Henry Cejudo vacated the belt by announcing his retirement. Aldo fought well against Yan, the 28-year-old Russian who saw his 10-fight winning streak and perfect 7-0 UFC record snapped when he was disqualified for an illegal knee vs. Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. Yan landed a knee to Sterling’s head while he was clearly down on the canvas 31 seconds into Round 4, losing the belt and wasting a dominant performance by making an incomprehensible decision.

Anyway, Aldo and Yan was an outstanding fight for three rounds, with both fighters punishing the other with an array of kicks and strikes. But in Round 4, Yan took the upper hand and spent the final two minutes of the stanza mauling Aldo. How the referee didn’t stop the fight is beyond me. Even worse, he could’ve halted the carnage much earlier in Round 5 before finally doing so at the 3:24 mark.

Nevertheless, Aldo bounced back nicely with a solid UD win over Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera last December. Vera had gone 6-1 in his seven previous contests, with the lone defeat coming in a controversial decision against Song Yadong.

Munhoz (19-5 MMA, 9-5 UFC) is 1-2 in his last three fights. The losses came against Frankie Edgar (split decision) and Sterling. He bounced back from those back-to-back L’s by capturing a UD win over Jimmie Rivera in February. Before the loss to Sterling, Munhoz defeated former 135-pound champ Cody Garbrandt by late first-round KO in a FOTN.

PREDICTION: Aldo is actually the younger man, albeit by merely two days, for the first time since he faced Jeremy Stephens in 2018. He has a five-inch reach advantage and a one-inch edge in height over Munhoz. Other than the fourth and fifth rounds against Yan, Aldo has looked spectacular at bantamweight and he clearly still has plenty of good fighting in front of him. I like Aldo at -110 or -115 for three units.

Even with the women’s bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena getting scrapped after the champ tested positive for COVID-19, this 13-fight card is stacked with intriguing matchups.

None are more interesting than the welterweight showdown between fifth-ranked Michael Chiesa and sixth-ranked Vicente Luque. Chiesa (18-4 MMA, 11-4 UFC) is a perfect 4-0 since moving up to 170 from lightweight with wins over Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Rafael dos Anjos and Neil Magny.

Most spots have this fight as a pick ’em, with a few shops listing Luque as a -120 ‘chalk.’

Condit is the former interim welterweight champ who I felt defeated Robbie Lawler to win the undisputed title at UFC 195 (the judges disagreed, giving Lawler the split-decision nod in one of my all-time favorite fights). RDA is the former lightweight champ who also had a nice run at 170 before returning to 155 in the past year. Magny’s 18 career UFC wins rank him second behind only George St-Pierre in the welterweight loop.

Luque (20-7-1 MMA, 13-3 UFC) is tied for eighth place in career wins (13) in the UFC’s 170-pound division. Since December of 2015, the Brazilian is 13-2 with 12 finishes. His only defeats came via decision vs. Leon Edwards and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

PREDICTION: I like the 29-year-old Luque (Chiesa is 33, not to imply that’s part of my reasoning for this wager) for two units.

**Other Plays**

Let’s go with one unit on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds at a -115 price for Alonzo Menifield vs. Ed ‘Short Fuse’ Herman. Five of Minefield’s six scraps in the Octagon have gone ‘under’ 1.5 rounds.

I’ll go with one-half unit on Song Yadong to beat Casey Kenney in a bantamweight showdown. The 23-year-old Yadong is 5-1-1 in the UFC with the draw coming in a fight when he was deducted a point for an illegal knee.

**B.E.’s Octagon Nuggets**

This UFC 265 Cold Open will get you fired up for Saturday night!

–Here’s ESPN’s Brett Okamoto’s interview with Lewis.

Here’s a link to Friday’s ceremonial weight-ins with faceoffs.

–Khabib Nurmagomedov, the former lightweight kingpin who retired with an undefeated 29-0 record last October, sat down with Henry Cejudo and Mike Tyson on ‘Iron’ Mike’s HotBoxin’ podcast earlier this week. He was asked about Conor McGregor’s deleted tweet remarking about Nurmagomedov’s father and his fourth-round submission win over McGregor at UFC 229. Check out these remarks from Khabib, who was left extremely unsatisfied with the lack of a challenge from McGregor, who tapped to a face crank.

We hit on the recently booked UFC 268 showdown between Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje earlier this week. The hope is that the promotion will be able to hold the show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. However, Chandler is concerned that the bout is in jeopardy if the event is indeed held at MSG in NYC. That’s because the state of New York is going to start requiring that individuals provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms and indoor entertainment venues on Sept. 13. Chandler explained that he’s “not anti-vax,” but he will “not be vaccinated by Nov. 6.” He pointed out that he won’t get the vaccine “until it’s 100-percent FDA approved.”

–Joe Rogan is in the middle of a comedy tour, so he won’t be an analyst on the UFC 265 broadcast. Play-by-play man Jon Anik will be joined by Dominick Cruz and Cormier in the broadcast booth.

–In an interview on the Full Send podcast earlier this week, Dana White addressed Jon Jones’s situation. White said that Jones can fight Stipe Miocic — and added that Miocic has already accepted that fight — or wait on the winner of Saturday’s bout against Francis Ngannou. Whatever the case, Jones won’t be back in the Octagon until next year.

–Luke Rockhold vs. Sean Strickland has been booked for UFC 268. Rockhold, the former middleweight champion, will try to end Strickland’s five-fight winning streak. He hasn’t competed since July 6 of 2019 when he was KO’d by current light-heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz in a 205-pound contest. Rockhold is 1-3 in four fights since beating Chris Weidman to win the middleweight strap at UFC 194 in 2015.

–Another gold line from ‘The Black Beast’ at Thursday’s UFC 265 presser:

–After the presser, the heavyweights faced off:

–And in this clip (via MMAFighting), you can view all five faceoffs for the main card.

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