UFC 285 Preview: Jones vs Gane

Photo Credit: UFC.com

At UFC 285 former Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones will make his long-awaited return to challenge for the vacant Heavyweight title against dangerous striker Ciryl Gane. Jones has been away from the sport for almost three years now trying to transform his body for a potential move to Heavyweight. Gane recently competed for the UFC Heavyweight Championship against former champion Francis Ngannou, narrowly losing a decision. After that performance, Gane rebounded with an impressive stoppage win over Tai Tuivasa in September. In the Co-main Event long reigning Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko will defend her title against well-rounded Mexican-born fighter Alexa Grasso.

Geoff Neal will face Shavkat Rakhmonov in a compelling matchup of top-ten-ranked Welterweights. Neal has put together impressive victories in back-to-back fights over Santiago Ponzinibbio and Vincente Luque. Rakhmonov is one of the most talented prospects in the sport today, finishing every one of his 16 professional fights. Also on the card, United States wrestling standout Bo Nickal will make his UFC debut against veteran Jamie Pickett at UFC 285.

Jon Jones (26-1) vs #1 Ciryl Gane (11-1)

In UFC 285’s Main Event, a new Heavyweight Champion will be crowned. Former title holder Francis Ngannou left the sport after a contract dispute with the promotion vacating his World Heavyweight Championship shortly after his victory over Ciryl Gane. This opened up an opportunity for Jones to do something only seven men have been able to do in Mixed Martial Arts History, become a two-division world champion.

Jones desperately wants to be remembered as the greatest fighter that has ever lived and with a win this weekend it would be hard to argue against it. Jones has one of the most impressive resumes of all time and holds nine professional victories over MMA world champions on his record including stoppage wins over Daniel Cormier, Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida.

Gane is a former Muay Thai champion and is 8-1 in his UFC career. In his lone loss, Gane was outwrestled by Ngannou, showing vulnerable areas in his grappling. Gane out-struck the former champion Ngannou but was unable to successfully defend takedowns at times. If Gane wants to win this fight he must avoid the ground game of Jones. Currently, Jones is a slight favorite at online sportsbooks (-170).

Some look at this contest as a striker vs grappler matchup, with a former kickboxing champion Gane facing a former collegiate wrestler in Jones. Jones has proven to be a devastating striker over his career but may not want to take chances on the feet with Gane. Jones has been away from the sport since February 2020, and it will be interesting to see if ring rust plays a factor in his performance. This is a monumental fight with historical significance and legacy-defining implications.


This is an extremely competitive matchup between two truly elite fighters. Gane is the most impressive striker in the Heavyweight division at the moment. Jones is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters in martial arts history. With a victory, Jones could come back and reclaim his position as the number one pound-for-pound fighter on earth and the face of the sport. Outside of the cage Jones has made questionable decisions although I’m very excited about his return in such a high-pressure situation. I have to go with Jones in this contest due to stylistic advantages on the ground and the significance of the fight to him personally.

Every time Jones is tested under the bright lights in his career, he has succeeded in spectacular fashion captivating the audience’s imagination. Jones’s rematch with Daniel Cormier is one of the most high-profile fights in UFC history. Jones put on the best performance of his career knocking out the former two-division world champion with a head kick and elbows on the ground. When Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history he ran through former Pride and UFC champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Jones is a fighter that has proven to rise to the occasion which is why I have to side with him in this matchup despite his three-year departure from competition.

(C) Valentina Shevchenko (23-3) vs #6 Alexa Grasso (15-3)

In the Co-main Event of UFC 285, longtime women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina “The Bullet” Shevchenko will defend her title for the eighth time against the well-rounded Alexa Grasso. Shevchenko narrowly defeated Talia Santos by split decision in her last championship fight and will return for the first time since June of last year. Grasso has won four in a row at 125 pounds defeating contenders like Maycee Barber and Joanne Wood. Grasso has shown impressive boxing at times but also is well-equipped as a grappler when she needs to be. In this matchup, Grasso will want to take the former professional kickboxer Shevchenko to the ground.

Shevchenko is an impressive striker who has some of the best takedown defense in her division. Grasso is a massive underdog at (+550) online sportsbooks. Some may think that the champion is slowing down after her last performance. Shevchenko looked vulnerable against Santos for the first time during her championship run. It seems to me Shevchenko is extremely focused and will come back and have a dominant performance in this contest.

#7 Geoff Neal (15-4) vs #9 Shavkat Rakhmonov (16-0)

The third fight on the card is a ranked Welterweight matchup between rising title contenders. Geoff Neal is a powerful striker who holds nine knockouts on his professional record. Neal recently defeated top ten contender Vincente Luque by knockout and will crack the top five rankings with a victory this weekend. Rakhmonov is one of the most talented prospects I’ve seen in my eleven years of avidly watching the sport. His ability to end fights standing or on the ground separate him from other up-and-coming fighters. Rakhmanov can dominate a fight on the ground or land creative and devastating knockouts while standing, with eight knockouts and eight submissions on his record.

Rakhmanov is currently a massive betting favorite at (-550) online sportsbooks. Neal has faced world-class competition before, however, holding a victory over top five ranked fighter Belal Muhammed. Neal has never been finished in the UFC but has lost recently to veterans Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny. This will be the first real test in the career of Rakhmonov, who many believe will be a future champion at 170 pounds. In my opinion, Rakhmonov will win this fight, but it may be closer than some think. Neal will hold a power advantage on the feet and has been improving on the ground. I think Rakhmonov may go to the judges for the first time in his career.

#7 Mateusz Gamrot (21-2) vs #10 Jalin Turner (13-5)

In a potential fan-friendly matchup of top-ten-ranked Lightweights, Mateusz Gamrot will face Jalin Turner. Poland’s Gamrot is a European submission wrestling champion and a former two-division champion in KSW. Gamrot is (4-2) in the UFC having recently lost to No.4 Beneil Dariush in October. In that contest, Gamrot was unable to take down the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Dariush. When Gamrot was unable to get the fight to the ground he struggled with the boxing of the southpaw Dariush as well. Turner is the tallest fighter in the 155-pound rankings at 6’3 and fights well at distance. Turner is an extremely fast and explosive southpaw striker who will have a seven-and-a-half-inch reach advantage over Gamrot.

Coming into this matchup Turner has won five fights in a row all by stoppage. Over this stretch, he has beaten fighters such as Jamie Mularkey and Brad Riddell. Right now, Turner is a live underdog in my opinion at (+180) online sportsbooks. Gamrot will need to take Turner down, but the length and physical frame of his opponent may cause him problems. Turner has improved tremendously on the ground and has won three of his last four fights by submission. This will be an extremely high-paced fight that I do not see going the distance.

UFC 285 prelims:

The UFC 285 prelims are loaded with compelling fights and interesting future contenders. American wrestling standout Bo Nickal (3-0) will make his UFC debut in a Middleweight fight against Jamie Pickett (13-8). Nickal is a three-time D1 national champion from Penn State University who is coming off Dana White’s Contender Series. Rarely does a fighter with only three professional fights garner the attention of the public like Nickal has. Pickett will try to play spoiler in this matchup but is 2-4 in his UFC career. Currently, Nickal is a (-1600) favorite at online sportsbooks.

Also on the UFC 285 prelims, ranked middleweights will collide when Derek Brunson (23-8) fights Dricus Du Plessis (18-2). Brunson recently lost to Jared Cannonier and will look to rebound here. Du Plessis is a surging prospect who holds stoppage wins over Trevin Giles and Darren Till. Du Plessis is a tremendous athlete that possesses power in his hands and is very technical. Brunson will be the first exceptional wrestler that Du Plessis has faced, so it will be interesting to see if his takedown defense holds up. Although Brunson has 16 more fights inside the promotion, he is currently an underdog (+190) at online sportsbooks.

The UFC 285 Prelims can be seen on ESPN+. The early Prelims start at 4:30 p.m. CST with Ian Garry opening the card. The five-fight PPV main card will begin at 9 p.m. CST. This is one of the most anticipated UFC cards in promotion history and a can’t-miss event for fight fans.

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