Ciryl Gane’s uphill climb just grew a little less steep.
The unbeaten Frenchman took his most important step yet in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the UFC Fight Night 186 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The judges’ 50-45 scorecards told the story, and though it may have lacked the pizzazz of his previous outings, it was no less crucial in Gane’s continuing rise from obscure prospect to known commodity.
Rozenstruik never shifted out of first gear. Gane stuck, moved and exploited his athletic advantages in a comprehensive performance that moved him to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the UFC. He was credited with two takedowns and outstruck Rozenstruik by a 128-49 margin. Only the first round was competitive from a statistical standpoint.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Rozenstruik vs. Gane,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Ciryl Gane vs. Alexander Volkov: No longer an unknown commodity, Gane has clearly established himself as an elite heavyweight with recent wins over Rozenstruik and Junior dos Santos. The 30-year-old MMA Factory product can now set his sights on some of the division’s true movers and shakers, and with fewer miles on the odometer, he has the additional benefit of Father Time being on his side. Volkov last competed at UFC Fight Night 184, where the former Bellator MMA and M-1 Global champion cut down Alistair Overeem with second-round punches on Feb. 6. The 6-foot-7 Russian has rattled off nine victories across his past 11 appearances.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Thiago Santos-Aleksandar Rakic winner: Ankalaev decided to forego brute force in favor of a more cerebral approach, as he captured a unanimous decision over onetime Fight Nights Global titleholder Nikita Krylov in the light heavyweight co-headliner. All three judges scored it 29-28 for the Gorets Fight Team rep. Ankalaev executed three takedowns, engaged Krylov at close range and neutralized the Ukrainian’s most potent offensive weapons. He has pieced together a six-fight winning streak since his stunning last-second submission loss to Paul Craig at UFC Fight Night 127 two years ago. Santos and Rakic will lock horns at UFC 259 on March 6.
Pedro Munhoz vs. Jose Aldo: A series of devastating kicks to the lower lead leg and an unshakable chin carried Munhoz to a unanimous decision over former Cage Fury Fighting Championships, King of the Cage and Ring of Combat titleholder Jimmie Rivera in their three-round bantamweight rematch. All three cageside judges scored it for “The Young Punisher,” who avenged his November 2015 defeat to Rivera. More importantly, Munhoz stopped the bleeding from a two-fight losing streak and re-established himself as a key player at 135 pounds. Aldo last appeared at UFC Fight Night 183 in December, when he took a unanimous decision from Marlon Vera.
Alex Caceres vs. Julian Erosa: Caceres stretched his run of consecutive victories to four with a unanimous decision over Kevin Croom in a three-round featherweight showcase, drawing 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 marks from the cageside judges. “Bruce Leeroy” now has 13 wins inside the Octagon, and it seems safe to assume he has exceeded all expectations that greeted his arrival as a quarterfinalist on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Caceres has tasted defeat just once in the last three years—a UFC on ESPN 1 submission loss to 2013 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Kron Gracie. Erosa last fought at UFC Fight Night 185, where he wiped out Nate Landwehr with a flying knee in just 56 seconds on Feb. 20.