LAS VEGAS — Nothing that was being said about Ciryl Gane before he fought Jairzinho Rozenstruik on Saturday at Apex — he’s big, powerful, incredibly athletic and one of the potential stars in the heavyweight division — changed after they spent 25 minutes in the cage together.
This, though, was one of those rare shutout victories in which he wasn’t particularly happy. Gane defeated the fourth-ranked Ronzenstruik by winning 50-45 on all three cards, but it was a desultory affair that would have had a packed arena filled with boos by the middle of the first round.
UFC president Dana White wasn’t thrilled and skipped the post-fight news conference. Contacted by Yahoo Sports, White said the bout “wasn’t what I expected.”
“Everybody’s talking about Gane being this big contender, but look what Francis Ngannou did to Rozenstruik,” White said. “This was his coming out party and his chance to show the world who he is. He won, but let’s leave it at that. He won.”
Ngannou handed Rozenstruik his only previous defeat, stopping him in 21 seconds at UFC 249 last year. Ngannou raced out of his corner throwing haymakers until he connected.
Gane and Rozenstruik showed immense respect for each other and were reticent to throw their hands. Thus, a fight that on paper looked like it could be a wild slugfest was reduced to a snoozefest.
“Heavyweights are hit or miss,” White said. “I thought it was going to be a much better fight than it was. I think Jon Jones said it best in his tweet, though. These guys need to get a lot busier.
“With the heavyweights, you can have an incredible fight like you did [between Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes] last week, when they get out there and start banging and put on an incredible, incredible show. Sometimes, you get this.”
He didn’t mean it as a compliment, and he was being kind.
No, to be fair to Gane, even the heavyweights that White praised, Ngannou and Lewis, have been in less than thrilling fights. The bout between them at UFC 226 on July 7, 2018, was one of the division’s worst fights ever, and boos rained down upon them from the packed crowd at T-Mobile Arena. Yet, Ngannou rebounded to earn a title shot against champion Stipe Miocic next month at UFC 260, and Lewis knocked out Blaydes last week to move up to No. 2 in the division.
So this is only one fight in what figures to be a long career, but the hype train on Gane will no doubt slow down considerably for the time being.
All the blame can’t be placed on Gane, though, who is now 8-0. For as little as Gane did, Rozenstruik did even less. Fernand Lopez, who formerly coached Ngannou and now coaches Gane, said it was unfair to put all of the blame on his guy.
He said, correctly, that Gane was making the fight and applying pressure throughout, and that Rozenstruik did little.
“What I would say to Dana is that you need two people to make a good fight,” Lopez said. “If there is one guy in there holding on and not trying to fight, it’s not the same thing as you saw [from Gane] tonight. Certainly, the kid has to improve, but there’s no way you can say, ‘Oh, you saw what Francis did and so he should have, too.’ No.
“Look, I’m not impressed with someone who comes out and rushes, swinging, and just catches someone. Compare that to a clinic where he is making the fight and breaking him down and doing all of this.”
Gane said he thought he did well though he said he wasn’t totally happy with his performance. He said he understood White’s criticism, and said he was trying throughout to get a finish.
But he wasn’t about to take the blame for the dud the fight turned out to be.
“Dana is the boss and he wants a show with a big KO and I didn’t finish the fight,” Gane said. “I expected more. But I was the one who was making the pressure in that fight.”
Rozenstruik showed in a win over Alistair Overeem that he can carry his power into the late stages of the bout. But even in the fifth when he had to know he was down badly on the cards, he never opened up.
He might have felt Gane’s power and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
Whatever it was, it was a night that was disappointing to all. The fight on paper looked like it’d be a wild slugfest, but the reality was well less than that.
“You get that once in a while, unfortunately,” White said. “We’ve had way more of the other kind, but it happens.”
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