Ciryl Gane has had rapid ascension to a UFC interim heavyweight title shot after just nine professional fights is a testament to how uniquely and convincingly his combination of size, speed, footwork and confidence has dispatched anyone, anywhere so far; a skill set similar to those Muhammad Ali used to change the perception and expectations of heavyweight champions and to become widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight champion of all time.
Could Ciryl Gane Be The Muhammad Ali of MMA?
Footwork to float like a butterfly
In contrast to the styles of preceding heavyweight champions such as Rocky Marciano and Sonny Liston, who typically employed flat-footed, plodding movement, planting heavy lead legs anchoring power punches, Muhammad Ali displayed an unprecedented lightness on his feet for a heavyweight, footwork that looked like choreographed dancing, making made him harder to hit and helping set up lower risk shots at range.
While it might it is more common for featherweights like Max Holloway to display elusive footwork and movements that make opponents miss, heavyweights don’t often show the athletic and highly technical footwork that Ciryl Gane possesses, as exemplified by the balanced bouncing and circling movement, fluid and seamless switching stances he utilized against Junior dos Santos.
From Mark Coleman to even Francis Ngannou, the UFC has not seen a heavyweight champ display athletic footwork that is closely comparable to Ciryl Gane’s, and given how lightly Gane moves on his feet and how fighting is a choreography of violence, it comes as no surprise that Ciryl Gane is also smooth on the dance floor.
This man could be a Interim champ in a few weeks pic.twitter.com/zyzv2hyfxO
— Jason Williams (@jasoneg33) July 18, 2021
Size and speed to sting like a bee
At 6’3″ with a 78″ reach, Muhammad Ali was taller and longer than most of the heavyweight champions that preceded him, but it was the coordination of this length and size with the balanced speed of his jab and footwork that devastated his opponents and nearly made him unbeatable in his prime.
While the preceding video displays how Ali’s footwork and speed were instrumental in setting up the effectiveness of his jab, the following video shows how Ali leaned on the jab throughout his career to stay at range with low-risk punches which damaged and demoralized his opponents.
At a shredded 6’4″ with an 81″ inch, Ciryl Gane has an even longer reach than the 6’9″ Alexander Volkov, and like Ali, Gane leans on the length and speed of his jab to damage his opponents while also setting up powerful left kicks to the body, straight lefts and right uppercuts while keeping at safe range away from his opponents’ power.
Confidence of a king
The mental game is a critical aspect of any combat sport and confidence or lack thereof, can make or break a fighter, and it goes without saying that one of Muhammad Ali’s most endearing or infuriating characteristics was his brash confidence and trash-talking which no doubt played an integral part in his success.
While Ali’s confidence was most prominently expressed through his legendary trash-talking, Gane shows a more quiet, elegant confidence that is exuded in how he addresses his opponents both on his feet and on the mat, holding himself in a manner that appears as if he knows he is a better striker and athlete than the man standing in front of him no matter where the fight goes.
While some fighters make statements or comments that are motivated by getting media attention or even convincing themselves that they are confident, such as Conor McGregor’s trash-talking leading up to and after his trilogy fight, Ciryl Gane presents as nothing but earnest when he says “Anyone, anywhere.”
While nine professional fights is a small sample size and it may be premature to crown Ciryl Gane or to mention his name in the same breath as Muhammad Ali, he appears to have no doubt about his upcoming title fight against Derrick Lewis when he says “I know I can do very well against him” and “this fight is going to be a master class”. And given the parallels in size, speed, footwork and confidence between Gane and Ali, Saturday August 7th at UFC 265 could be the coronation of one of the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artists.