At UFC 270, former interim UFC heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane came up just short in his bid for the UFC heavyweight title against current champ Francis Ngannou. It was the first loss of Gane’s relatively young professional MMA career.
Going into the fifth round of that bout, two judges had scored the fight even at two rounds apiece. After Gane had found bits of success on the feet early in the fight, Ngannou — known for his knockout power — leaned on his wrestling and grappling to control the later rounds. In the fifth round, Gane attempted what seemed to be an ill-advised heel hook, allowing Ngannou to escape and gain top position.
For some fans and media watching, the decision to attempt the heel hook at that moment of the fight was a major strategic blunder.
In a recent appearance on the MMA Hour, Gane spoke about his decision to attempt the heel hook.
“When it’s too tight like that, it’s not a good plan,” Gane said about trying to finish the fight in the final round. “So that’s why with my coach, we just need to finish the fight before the end. That’s why I did this takedown, I did very well, and after I did this choice to go to the ankle, unfortunately I did some mistakes in my technique.”
Heel hooks and leg locks of any kind are relatively rare in MMA. They are even more rare in heavyweight MMA, particularly in the highest levels of the sport. But as risky as Gane’s heel hook attempt seemed, it’s a move in which he has a great deal of confidence.
“You see, this technique for me, I can do that on everybody that I have in my gym. High-level wrestling, high-level BJJ, and I can do it. I’m really comfortable on this technique, so that’s why I decided to do that, because I know the position was really good for me to go on this technique. I was really good. I was sure to finish the fight, in my mind.
“That’s why no regrets. Just I was a little bit tired, so that’s why I don’t do exactly the good thing.”
To his credit, Gane has finished a fight in the UFC by way of heel hook — his 2019 win over Don’Tale Mayes.