With a new interim UFC Heavyweight Champion set to be crowned, we look at some of the must-watch fighters competing on UFC 265.
When Manuel Kape first came over to the UFC, there was a considerable amount of hype surrounding the Angolan flyweight.
Kape had earned a reputation in Japan for his exciting fighting style and finishing instincts, and even earned a victory over former UFC title challenger Ian McCall during the 2017 RIZIN Bantamweight Grand Prix.
A knockout win over Japanese standout Kai Asakura only further served to skyrocket Kape’s stock in the land of the rising sun before he announced that he had signed a UFC contract in March of 2020.
However, in the time since then, Kape has yet to demonstrate the seemingly endless potential that made him such a star overseas. ‘Prodígio’s’ first two trips to the Octagon resulted in decision losses to Alexandre Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau.
To make matters worse, Kape then had the unfortunate honour of starring in a viral video with Khabib Nurmagomedov at the UFC Performance Institute, where the Dagestani flexed his impressive footballing knowledge in front of a bemused Kape.
Kape’s opponent at UFC 265 is Ode’ Osbourne, a Contender Series alumni making his third trip to the UFC Octagon. If Kape is going to fulfil his massive potential, this is a must-win fight.
One of the most popular fighters in the history of the UFC, Derrick Lewis’ penchant for both incredible knockouts, and hilarious post-fight one-liners has endeared the American to the UFC audience.
The circumstances of next week’s Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship fight are controversial, to say the least, with the current champion, Francis Ngannou having fought mere months ago in a weight class where a single title fight per calendar year has seemed to become the norm.
However, despite the questionable circumstances that led to the creation of the interim belt, it is hard to argue that the Black Beast is not deserving of another shot at UFC gold. Earlier this year Lewis picked up arguably his most impressive win to date, knocking out perennial contender Curtis Blaydes in just two rounds back in February.
However, Lewis has one final obstacle on his route to the title to overcome, and it’s not going to be easy.
Despite being just 9 fights into his professional MMA career, just two years into his UFC run French heavyweight Cyril Gane has established himself as one of the elite fighters in the division.
Overcoming Gane’s diverse offence and technical striking acumen are going to be a unique challenge for Lewis. However, if there is anyone in combat sports right now with the power to turn a fight on its head with a single strike, it is the Black Beast.
It is a somewhat common occurrence in combat sports for a fighter to seek to cut that little bit of extra weight in order to compete at a lower weight class to enjoy an all-important size advantage against their opponents.
Slightly rarer, are the fighters who decide that the endless stresses surrounding making weight ultimately prove to be not worth the eventual size advantage against their opponent on fight day, and detrimental to their performance in the Octagon as a whole and decide to move up a weight class.
What makes Michael Chiesa so unique, is that even after moving from lightweight to welterweight in 2018 is that he still appears to benefit from a size advantage in the Octagon.
In fact, the move to 170lbs has completely revitalised Chiesa’s UFC career. The American is currently riding a four-fight win streak with victories over the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos and Neil Magny, and is currently sitting at #5 in the UFC welterweight rankings.
To continue his ascent towards UFC gold, at UFC 265 Chiesa will have to get past surging contender Vicente Luque, who most recently dispatched former champion, Tyron Woodley, in the very first round.
Perhaps one of the lesser-known names on this list, Kazakhstani lightweight Rafael Fiziev has demonstrated all of the qualities necessary for UFC superstardom during his burgeoning tenure with the promotion.
After amassing an impressive record fighting Muay Thai across Thailand, Fiziev made the switch to MMA and compiled a 6-0 record finishing all of his opponents to earn a call from the UFC in 2019.
A disappointing defeat in his debut to fellow contender Magomed Mustafaev, Fiziev has rebounded with a pair of impressive performances against UFC stalwarts Alex White and Marc Diakiese and a first-round KO of perennial contender Renato Moicano back in December.
Much like his Tiger Muay Thai teammate Petr Yan, Fiziev’s striking prowess really has to be seen to be believed, with every kick striking the body of his opponents sounding more like the crack of a baseball bat than a regular strike.
At UFC 265 Fiziev faces off against the ultra-experienced UFC veteran Bobby Green, in a fight that will be almost guaranteed fireworks for the viewing audience.
Though his prime fighting years may now be well and truly behind him, it is a testament to the fighting skill of Jose Aldo that he has remained a fixture of the title picture of any division that he is in since his debut under the ZUFFA banner all the way back in 2008.
After embarking on one of the most violent runs ever seen in the sport of MMA and earning legendary status en route, Aldo rebounded from the first three-fight losing streak of his career back in December with a win over Marlon Vera at UFC Fight Night 183.
Despite having done nearly everything there is to do in the sport of MMA, the Brazilian has shown no signs of slowing down in recent years and is looking to have one final run with the belt before calling time on his career.
Standing in Aldo’s way in his quest to reclaim UFC gold is bantamweight contender Pedro Munhoz, possibly best known for his knockout win over Cody Garbrandt back in 2019.
This fight offers both combatants the opportunity to make a statement in the upper echelons of one of the UFC’s most talent stacked divisions with the opportunity for a Performance of the Night bonus no doubt a real possibility.
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