Francis Ngannou’s coach grades Ciryl Gane’s rebound from title loss: ‘He showed some improvements’

·3 min read

Eric Nicksick, head coach of Francis Ngannou at Xtreme Couture, liked what he saw from the UFC heavyweight champion’s last opponent.

Ciryl Gane returned to action Saturday against Tai Tuivasa in the main event of UFC Fight Night 209, the first UFC card on French soil. The bout marked Gane’s first fight back since losing to Ngannou back in January at UFC 270.

Gane successfully knocked out Tuivasa and once again set aim at the champion as Nicksick watched the fight carefully.

“I thought he looked great other than the one little hiccup, but fighting in the heavyweight division against the guy who’s ranked No. 3, you’re maybe going to see a little adversity here and there,” Nicksick told MMA Junkie on Sunday. For him, as a coach, you’d like to see some adversity and see how he fights his way through it and bounces back. And he did just that.

“Myself and Din Thomas did a little breakdown on what we thought the approach might be from Gane and Tai, and we were pretty spot on with that. I think Gane used his kick game almost as jabs and feelers and staying long, as well as occupy the left hand from Tai with the right high kick. He did a really good job, and he was able to catch Tai rushing in with some of those counters using his movement, which I think he’s great at. I think he showed some improvements and looked great in the fight. To me, it was a good main event.”

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The heavyweight title picture has never been murkier. Ngannou is out recovering from a knee surgery and also has pending contract negotiations with the UFC, as he fought out his deal in January and is months away from potentially becoming a free agent. There’s also a list of contenders in Gane, Stipe Miocic, and Curtis Blayes. Can’t also forget about Jon Jones’ highly anticipated heavyweight move, which is expected to materialize in the near future.

Nicksick is not ready to say Gane is the No. 1 contender following his knockout win over Tuivasa. He thinks the Frenchman maintained his status among the top contenders of the division.

“I think there’s a lot of really good guys in the division right now,” Nicksick said. “I think the unfortunate outcome in the Aspinall-Blaydes fight, because I wanted to see both of those guys perform. Curtis is right there again, and I guess the kind of wild card is Jon Jones if he ever shows up. And then you got, in my opinion, the greatest to ever do it in Stipe Miocic waiting there too.

“I think the heavyweight division is actually pretty thick right now. There’s a lot of good talent, a lot of good guys coming up the ranks, and Ciryl Gane is definitely one of those.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 209.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie