Arguably more so than in any other sport, a win isn’t always a win in mixed martial arts. Just ask UFC heavyweight Ciryl Gane.
Gane (8-0), who will face Alexander Volkov (33-8) in the main event of a matinee UFC Fight Night on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas (1 p.m. ET on ESPN+), is undefeated in MMA. But his most recent fight, a five-round decision over Jairzinho Rozenstruik in February, didn’t result in the elation it should have.
That fight was Gane’s first appearance in a UFC main event, and although he won every round against a dangerous opponent, it was — to be frank — boring. Rozenstruik dug himself an early hole on the scorecards and never took much of a risk to overcome it.
Gane recognized that and intelligently took what was given to him. He cruised to a dominant — albeit less than thrilling — 25-minute decision.
Gane’s performance drew some criticism from UFC president Dana White, who simply said, “He won, but let’s leave it at that.” For his part, Gane said he was disappointed with the performance at first but came around on it after speaking to his coach, Fernand Lopez.
How Gane will responds to that experience is one of the most intriguing angles ahead of Saturday’s main event. Volkov, 32, is talented, well-rounded and a dark horse in heavyweight title contention, but right now the table isn’t set for him. It’s set for Gane.
It’s Gane who has never lost in MMA and who has shown ample championship potential during five fights in the UFC. It’s Gane who is a former teammate of current champion Francis Ngannou‘s, which would obviously add an interesting twist should the two ever square off for a title.
Gane is in the position he’s in because he won his last fight. So, despite any criticism he might have faced for not putting Rozenstruik away, he did what he needed to do in that fight to be in the spot he’s in. And if he’s able to get another win Saturday and put on a show, his next fight could be for a UFC title.
By the numbers
58.7: Percentage of significant strike attempts by Volkov that hit their target, the best among active UFC heavyweights. No. 2 on the list is Gane, at 55.3%.
3.19: Significant strikes landed by Gane for every one he absorbs, tops among active heavyweights in the UFC. Volkov is second-best, with a differential of 2.67.
69.9: Percentage of significant strike attempts thrown by opponents that Gane evades, the best percentage among active UFC heavyweights. He absorbs 1.85 strikes per minute, the third-lowest total currently in the division. Volkov is No. 5 in striking defense at 56.6%.
22: Knockouts by Volkov among his 25 finishes in a 33-win career.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five vs. five
Ciryl Gane’s most recent results
Win: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UD, Feb. 27, 2021; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Junior dos Santos (TKO2, Dec. 12, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Tanner Boser (UD, Dec. 21, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Don’Tale Mayes (Sub3, Oct. 26, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Raphael Pessoa (Sub1, Aug. 10, 2019)
Alexander Volkov’s most recent results
Win: Alistair Overeem (TKO2, Feb. 6, 2021; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Walt Harris (TKO2, Oct. 24, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Curtis Blaydes (UD, June 20, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Greg Hardy (UD, Nov. 9, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Derrick Lewis (KO3, Oct. 6, 2018)
How to watch the fights
Don’t have ESPN+? Get it here.
There’s also FightCenter, which offers live updates for every UFC card.
Saturday’s fight card
ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET
Ciryl Gane vs. Alexander Volkov | Heavyweight
Tanner Boser vs. Ovince Saint Preux | Heavyweight
Raoni Barcelos vs. Timur Valiev | Men’s bantamweight
Andre Fili vs. Daniel Pineda | Men’s featherweight
Tim Means vs. Nicolas Dalby | Welterweight
Renato Moicano vs. Jai Herbert | Lightweight
ESPN+, 1 p.m. ET
Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Danilo Marques | Light heavyweight
Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Michel Prazeres | Welterweight
Warlley Alves vs. Jeremiah Wells | Welterweight
Marcin Prachnio vs. Ike Villanueva | Light heavyweight
Julia Avila vs. Julija Stoliarenko | Women’s bantamweight
Charles Rosa vs. Justin Jaynes | Men’s featherweight
Yancy Medeiros vs. Damir Hadzovic | Lightweight
Five more things you should know (from ESPN Stats & Info)
1. Tanner Boser and Ovince Saint Preux will be looking to get back on track in the heavyweight co-main event. Boser will be aiming to avoid his first three-fight losing streak. Saint Preux has lost four of his past six fights.
2. The light heavyweight bout between Kennedy Nzechukwu and Danilo Marques is a striker vs. grappler matchup. Nzechukwu averages 5.38 strikes landed per minute, and Marques lands 4.83 takedowns per 15 minutes.
4. Bantamweight Raoni Barcelos has won nine fights in a row going into his matchup with Timur Valiev. Both fighters average over five strikes landed per minute as well as more than two takedowns per 15 minutes.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this fight preview.