Fabricio Werdum thinks the UFC will soon have a new undisputed heavyweight champion.
Werdum, a former UFC heavyweight champ himself, believes Ciryl Gane will defeat Francis Ngannou in their championship bout on Jan. 22 in their UFC 270 headliner.
Gane currently holds the interim title, which he won in August by stopping Derrick Lewis. Meanwhile, Ngannou is set to make his first title defense as he looks to compete for the first time since knocking out then-champion Stipe Miocic in March.
It’s a clash that pits two former teammates for the ultimate prize.
“It’s a very good matchup because both used to train together before,” Werdum told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “There was that one video that had came out of their sparring, and the Frenchman looked better. The champion Francis Ngannou is very good, obviously. He’s very strong, and he’s very impressive. I don’t find him to be a very complete fighter, but he’s the champion, so it’s hard to criticize him. I do believe he lacks on the ground. But maybe the Frenchman also lacks on the ground. We haven’t seen him, so it could be a fight on the feet.
“I think Gane can surprise Ngannou because they used to train together and Gane is very conscious, fights well and calm. Ngannou is calm, but he can be a bit emotional. He’s going to have to watch out. It’s going to be a very good fight, but I put my money on the Frenchman. I think so. He’s intelligent, calm, controls the fight, manages distance well. I don’t think he’ll knock out Ngannou, but I see him winning on points.”
Werdum has been in a similar position to Gane’s.
He won the UFC interim heavyweight title in 2014 by knocking out Mark Hunt at UFC 180 in Mexico. He then got the chance to unify the belt against Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 the following year. Werdum submitted Velasquez with a guillotine choke to become the undisputed champion.
Recently, a video surfaced from backstage at UFC 268, which appeared to show Ngannou walk past and ignore Gane, who seemed surprised by the situation. Ngannou later came out and said he was ignoring his former coach and manager Fernand Lopez.
Either way, Werdum thinks it’s a good attitude to have by the undisputed champion. He doesn’t think fighters should be too friendly in the build-up to their bouts because it can cost them.
“I think Ngannou did good in not being too (friendly),” Werdum explained. “They used to train together and here in Brazil we call it ‘sweet blood.’ You can’t have that. You can’t be too friendly.
“After you can be friends and grab a drink, but before you can’t because it’s for the UFC title – it’s an important fight. I think Ngannou did well, like, ‘Hey, I don’t know you, I’m just going to walk past you.’ You can’t be buddies. That doesn’t help. I’ve had those experiences, and I’ve lost because of that. You have to be careful.”