4 biggest takeaways from UFC Fight Night 226: Rose Namajunas’ curious future, Ciryl Gane saves reputation

What mattered most at UFC Fight Night 226 at the Accor Arena in Paris? Here are a few post-fight musings …

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The phenomenal French crowd

Before addressing any individual performances, let’s pay respect to the performance of the crowd inside Accor Arena, who were nothing short of electric from beginning to end over the course of the 11-fight card.

The venue was at close to capacity from the time the first fighters walked to the octagon, and the energy stayed high all the way to the conclusion of the main event. It helped that French fighters thrived throughout the night, and the two most prominent names atop the card came out with their hands raised in convincing fashion.

I don’t want to turn this into a whole thing about the numbers of events still being run from the UFC Apex, but it has to be said. This card was pretty mediocre on paper outside of a couple notable fights, but to the local crowd in there, it was something special. The UFC could create this type of magic every weekend all over the globe if it wanted to put forth the effort, and its unfortunate the shot callers don’t see the value in that, because it makes the sport and event feel so much bigger.

Manon Fiorot might be the best at 125 pounds

The UFC women’s flyweight division is more intriguing than it has ever been right now, and Manon Fiorot’s rise to prominence is a big part of that. She remains undefeated inside the octagon after spoiling the divisional debut of former strawweight champ Rose Namajunas, and she is very much on the short-list of title contenders.

It’s fascinating times. We’re less than two weeks out from the title rematch between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko at Noche UFC in Las Vegas, and obviously the direction of the weight class hinges heavily on the result of that fight.

If Grasso repeats the feat and upsets Shevchenko again, it’s a whole new world for the entire weight class. Fiorot (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) will be at the forefront of the discussions about who will be next in line for the belt, and it would seemingly be a two-horse race between the Frenchwoman and Erin Blanchfield.

If Shevchenko manages to regain the strap and avenge her loss, however, then things could get more complicated. Would the UFC be keen on doing an immediate trilogy fight between Shevchenko and Grasso, or does the division return to its previous trajectory with Shevchenko running shop and blowing through the contenders? Those are the biggest questions.

I’m eager to see Fiorot get her chance, though. Obviously, her past two wins against Namajunas and Katlyn Chookagian were huge, but you could poke some holes in the performances if you wanted. Grasso, Shevchenko and Blanchfield could pose some serious stylistic challenges for Fiorot, but if she’s able to overcome them, the conversation about who is truly the best women’s flyweight ever will start to evolve.

Rose Namajunas' curious fighting future

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There were many valid questions about Rose Namajunas’ head space coming into her fight with Fiorot, and many of them still exist after she came out on the wrong end of the scorecards.

Namajunas (11-6 MMA, 9-5 UFC) hadn’t seen action in 16 months after she lost the strawweight title to Carla Esparza in one of the most ridiculed fights in UFC history. She previously admitted that retirement was a serious consideration during her layoff, but she opted to come back with a fresh coat of paint.

A change in weight class was the biggest adjustment for Namajunas, but she wasn’t given an easy introduction with top-ranked contender Fiorot. She suffered a hand injury early in the fight that seemingly affected her quite heavily, but even then, she didn’t seem like the sharpest version of herself outside of some aggressive moments in the third round.

All this leads to speculation about where she goes from here. If Namajunas is losing to Fiorot, how would she fair against the likes of Grasso, Shevchenko and Blanchfield? You’d reckon it would be quite the uphill climb.

Does she return to 115 pounds? Does she call it quits having already achieved so much in the sport? If I could get a feeling of what the inside of her mind was saying, I would offer insight, but I don’t. Namajunas operates in a different mental space than most, so it’s hard to get a read on her path forward.

Ciryl Gane holds serve and keeps relevant

Ciryl Gane wasn’t fighting for a UFC title in his main event with Serghei Spivac, but he was fighting for something arguably even more important: His reputation.

The criticism on Gane (12-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) has felt endless since losing to Jon Jones in their vacant title bout in March. He provided little resistance in a fight where many people expected a lot more from him, and that’s followed him over the past six months. He managed to put that moment in the rear-view with a second-round TKO of Spivac, and now he can shift his focus on the future.

This wasn’t the performance or opponent that’s going to put Gane right back to the forefront of the title discussion. However, it did hold his head above water as far as keeping future options open.

We don’t know what’s going to happen after Jones and Stipe Miocic fight for the title at UFC 295 in November. One or both men could potentially retire in the aftermath of that event, which would change the landscape of the division and life significantly for someone like Gane. If he lost this one to Spivac his career would’ve plummeted into desperation mode, but instead, he has new hope.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 226.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie