Out-of-the-blue, the UFC has announced that Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane will fight for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 265 on August 7th in Houston, Texas.
Up until this point it had been well established that the UFC’s plan was to have current champion Francis Ngannou go up against Lewis, but it seems that they’ve changed course after ‘The Predator’ turned down the opportunity to fight him at that event.
It’s a move that’s likely create a lot of controversy given that Ngannou was only crowned champion three months ago, while other titleholders have sat out for far longer in the past without the UFC bringing in an interim belt into the equation.
Nevertheless, it’s a big opportunity for the two fighters, with Gane having being installed as the early favorite to win after compiling a perfect 9-0 start to his MMA career, with six of those victories having come in the UFC’s Octagon.
Gane made an immediate impression by securing back-to-back submission victories over Raphael Pessoa and Don’Tale Mayes, followed by a unanimous decision victory against Tanner Boser.
Since then his level of competition has risen and he’s proven to be up to the challenge, TKO’ing Junior dos Santos, decisioning Jairzinho Rozenstruik and then just this past Saturday night earning a convincing win on the scorecards against Alexander Volkov.
Meanwhile, former title challenger Lewis has put together a four-fight winning run over the past couple of years, starting with decision victories against Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi.
Since then he’s demonstrated his famed knockout power with stoppage wins against Aleksei Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes to secure the No.2 spot on the heavyweight rankings.
Lewis vs Gane will headline a UFC 265 event that is also set to feature a women’s bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena.
As for Ngannou, he remains the heavyweight champion, but it’s unclear when he will return to action and in the meantime a storm appears to be brewing between the fighter, his management and the UFC over their decision to forge ahead with this interim title bout.