If the UFC wanted to find out if the top ranked fighters at heavyweight and middleweight in the official UFC rankings deserved their spots, UFC Paris should have put any nagging doubts to rest.
In the heavyweight main event, No. 1 ranked Ciryl Gane topped No. 3 ranked Tai Tuivasa via third-round knockout. The battle earned the oft-criticized Gane (“he’s too safe”) his first “Fight of the Night” bonus and clearly locked in the ex-interim UFC champ as the top-ranked challenger for Francis Ngannou’s UFC heavyweight title.
In the co-main event, No. 1 ranked middleweight Robert Whittaker showed all concerned that he remains the best UFC fighter at 185 pounds outside current champion Israel Adesanya. The former champ defeated No. 2 ranked Marvin Vettori via unanimous decision. One judge gave a single round to Vettori, outside of that, Whittaker owned the scorecards.
The event also left UFC fans with a couple of names to add to their “must watch” fighter lists.
Ciryl Gane: During his post-fight interview with ESPN, a nonplussed Ciryl Gane said of his UFC Paris opponent, Tai Tuivasa, “this is the first time, a guy touched me and I go on my ass, that’s so crazy.” But that knockdown, Gane said it was more a knockout than a knockdown when talking to UFC commentator Michael Bisping, might have been what Gane needed to take the next step in his MMA career. I know it wasn’t what he wanted, but hey, he recovered and came back to finish Tuivasa in the third round.
Gane has gotten a reputation as a safe, maybe boring, fighter. His goal when he steps in the octagon is to hit and not be hit. Well, Tuivasa hit him — hard — and while it put him on his ass, it didn’t stop him. Gane recovered and then took control of the fight, hurting and weakening Tuivasa with body kicks — he finished the fight with 30 strikes to Tuivasa’s body in total in the second and third rounds — before finishing things with head strikes.
Gane found out he can work through adversity in this contest. I don’t know if that knowledge will make him more aggressive — I doubt it will do that — but he and his team now know he can get out of a dicey situation with a heavy hitter and that’s something that’s required at the top of the heavyweight division.
Tai Tuivasa: Tai Tuivasa lost the fight to Ciryl Gane, because of that he might drop a notch of two in the official UFC heavyweight rankings, but it’s hard to imagine any right-minded fan or UFC decision maker walked away from UFC Paris and thought, “well, that’s a wrap on Tai Tuivasa’s UFC career.”
Tuivasa might never hold a UFC title, but at 29, he’s young enough and violent enough that a title shot could well be in his future. Even if it’s not, Tuivasa is a certain type of heavyweight the UFC needs, someone who, to quote Tuivasa himself, is, “down to get down.”
The knockout loss to Gane ended Tuivasa’s run of five straight knockout wins, but his run of winning fight-night bonuses is intact. He and Gane earned “Fight of the Night” honors in Paris, giving Tuivasa four straight bonus winning performances.
Robert Whittaker: Robert Whittaker cemented his status as the best non-title holding middleweight in the UFC with a solid win over Marvin Vettori in the co-main event of UFC Paris.
Whittaker’s head kicks made the difference in this contest. Those kicks rocked Vettori more than once and showed that the former champ is the better and more well-rounded fighter. Whittaker also displayed his smarts by scoring a takedown late in the contest and scoring with ground strikes as the final minute of the bout ticked down.
I don’t know what this win gets Whittaker, as he was already the No. 1 ranked contender in the official UFC middleweight rankings, but his performance against Vettori didn’t hurt him. That’s probably the best Whittaker, who has two losses to current middleweight champ, Israel Adesanya, can ask for.
Roman Kopylov: Roman Kopylov might have saved his UFC career on Saturday and he did so with style, power and precision.
Kopylov was 0-2 in the UFC heading into his UFC Paris matchup against Alessio Di Chirico. Kopylov fought once in 2019 and once in 2021 before competing on Saturday.
The 31-year-old showed powerful kicks throughout the fight and those kicks might have helped him set up the finish with his punches. This was an outstanding performance for Kopylov and should give him momentum as long as he can stay active.
Charles Jourdain vs. Nathaniel Wood: This was a fun fight between Charles Jourdain and Nathaniel Wood, with Wood getting the nod thanks to his more powerful striking and his ability to get the fight to the ground via “cheeky” trips.
The 29-year-old Wood was out of action between October 2020 and July 2022 because of injuries. When he returned to action as a featherweight, he scored a win over Charles Rosa. His victory over Jourdain at UFC Paris should make him feel even more comfortable as a 145-pound fighter.
Keep an eye on Wood, this English scrapper because he looks like he is finding his comfort zone inside the octagon.
Abus Magomedov: For fans who wanted a break between the prelims and main card, Abus Magomedov deserves your thanks.
Magomedov, who had not fought since December 2020 with KSW, landed a nasty front kick and then swarmed Dustin Stoltzfus to get the knockout win in 19 seconds.
Expect the 32-year-old to look up for missed time coming off this win.
Nasrat Haqparast: Nasrat Haqparast ended a two fight losing skid with an excellent performance against John Makdessi at UFC Paris. Haqparast’s speed made all the difference in this fight. His quickness allowed him to land strikes on the inside and then retreat before Makdessi could return fire.
Fares Ziam: Fares Ziam picked up on the timing of Michel Figlak’s forward pressure early. With that, he was able to slip the attacks and return powerful and accurate counters.
Ziam also showed some nice balance and progress in his wrestling skills during this contest.
This was a good bounce back performance from Ziam, who was coming off a February submission loss to Terrance McKinney.
Benoit Saint-Denis: Benoit Saint-Denis celebrated his marriage last week. This week he scored his second UFC stoppage win and his first via knockout.
The 26-year-old Saint-Denis used his powerful and aggressive striking to take the fight to the debuting Gabriel Miranda.
Saint-Denis is tough, tenacious, skilled and powerful. He’s still young in his MMA career — he went pro in 2019 — but he is 100 percent a fighter to watch in the lightweight division.
Cristian Quinonez: Cristian Quinonez did an excellent job using his length and jab to negate the power of the shorter Taha in the early going of the fight. That style and his height advantage allowed Quinonez to set up the kill shot, catching Taha with some power of his own, landing an enormous right as Taha got his head out over his feet and opened himself up as a juicy target. If Quinonez wanted to make a statement in his UFC debut, he succeeded.
Stephanie Egger: I like when fighters look to get right back on the horse. And that’s what Stephanie Egger did.
Mayra Bueno Silva submitted Egger in the first round of their August 6 clash. She got the opportunity to erase that loss from her mind on Saturday when she accepted a short-notice matchup on the UFC Paris card. Egger put the submission setback behind her when scored a submission win over Ailin Perez in the evening’s opener.
Sure, the above approach can backfire and put a competitor on a quick two-fight losing skid, but that didn’t happen in this case, did it?
French MMA fans: The fans showed up early for this event and more than once the UFC commentary team noted the exuberance they displayed during the octagon action. With the showing the French fighters at UFC Paris, it would be hard to imagine the UFC not returning to France sometime in the not too distant future.
Marvin Vettori: Marvin Vettori showed — once again — that he can take heavy shots. However, at some point in most combat sport careers, that ability fails. Plus, having a hard head is not something to rely on for a long and fruitful career.
Joaquin Buckley: Joaquin Buckley was a game fighter, but the size differential in his fight opposite the taller Nassourdine Imavov really hurt him. His only recourse was to charge in and throw flurries of strikes, which opened him to counters and put him in danger of getting taken down.
Buckley deserves credit for his aggression and effort, but his inability to close distance effectively was the big story of this contest for him.
Michal Figlak: Former Cage Warriors fighter, Michal Figlak made his UFC debut in Paris. The 26-yea-old was aggressive in the opening moments of the fight, but it didn’t take his opponent, Fares Ziam, long to figure out his timing and movement.
I would have liked to see Figlak and his team adjust his attacks after the first round, but that did not happen. Figlak and his team should go over the tape of this fight in detail and see where they could have changed things up during the action.
The positive for Figlak was that he never quit or gave up. While the fight looked like it was going to go to Ziam by the late stages of the third round, Figlak kept pushing and looking for ways to at least win the round. This was not a bad first UFC fight from the young lightweight
Gabriel Miranda: Gabriel Miranda’s takedowns and set-ups for those takedowns were noteworthy. He went one for three in that department opposite Benoit Saint-Denis, but he did not seem thrilled when he got hit and he was a bit uncomfortable in throwing his own strikes.
If anything, this fight was a good test for Miranda and an excellent learning experience.
Khalid Taha: Khalid Taha came back from more than a year away from the octagon only to get knocked out in the first round by replacement opponent, Cristian Quinonez. The loss dropped Taha to 0-3-0-1 since late 2019.
Ailin Perez: Ailin Perez found out there’s a big jump in levels from the local scene to the big show. She also hopefully discovered that Fight IQ is an important thing to develop.
Perez had a moment of success in the first round when she landed some big strikes, but then elected to tangle with Egger against the cage, where Egger had the advantage.
Nassourdine Imavov: Nassourdine Imavov did a superb job in using his height in striking from distance, but I was more impressed with his ground action in the second round of his middleweight fight opposite Joaquin Buckley. He did an excellent job in tying up the hands of his opponent and using a body lock to force Buckley to defend strikes and chokes on the mat.
Had this fight been a two-round affair, Imavov would have been a clear winner. However, he faded in the third stanza and spent a fair amount of time backing up.
Imavov entered this fight as the No. 12 ranked fighter in the division. His gas tank could be something future foes look to exploit, as well as his willingness to get emotionally invested in a fight. There were points during this affair that he seemed to let his distaste for Buckley get the best of him.
William Gomis: William Gomis entered UFC Paris with a fair amount of hype, but following his first fight with the UFC, I would say the jury needs to remain out on the upside of Gomis defeated the also UFC debuting Jarno Errens by decision.