UFC 285 pre-event facts, storylines ahead of Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 3: Jon Jones weighs in for their UFC 285 bout at the ceremonial weigh-ins on March 2, 2023, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 3: Jon Jones weighs in for their UFC 285 bout at the ceremonial weigh-ins on March 2, 2023, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire) /

Here is a look behind some of the key matchups and fighters heading into UFC 285.

The hours continue to tick down until a noteworthy UFC 285 card that featues the return of one of the sport’s best athletes in Jon Jones. After three years away from the Octagon, Jones returns, looking for gold in a second weight class, as he takes on Ciryl Gane for the vacant UFC heavyweight championship.

The co-main event will see Valentina Shevchenko look to continue her dominant run at 125 pounds, as she defends the UFC women’s flyweight title against Alexa Grasso.

UFC 285 will also feature appearances from several rising contenders, including Shavkat Rakhmonov and Dricus du Plessis, as well as the UFC debut of three-time NCAA wrestling champion Bo Nickal.

Here’s a rundown of the storylines, facts, and background behind some of the key fights for UFC 285.

Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane: Does Jones remain one of the sport’s GOATs after a three-year layoff?

This will be Jon Jones’s first fight in just over three years. He last fought in February 2020, successfully retaining the UFC light heavyweight championship against Dominick Reyes. That marked Jones’s 11th overall title defense across his two UFC light heavweight title reigns, tying him with Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson for the most successful overall title defenses in UFC history.

Jones comes into this fight on an 18-fight win streak, the longest unbeaten streak in UFC history. His controversial December 2009 loss to Matt Hamill still marks as the only loss in his professional MMA career.

While this is Jones’s first official fight at heavyweight, his professional MMA debut came at a catchweight of 210 pounds in April 2008.

In his three-and-a-half years in the Octagon thus far, Cyril Gane is 8-1 in the UFC. Like Jones, Gane’s sole loss in the UFC is his only MMA loss. Gane, a Muay Thai specialist, became interim UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 265 with a finish of Derrick Lewis. Gane then dropped a decision to Francis Ngannou in their undisputed title fight at UFC 270 — which proved to be Ngannou’s last UFC fight before parting ways with the promotion as champion.

Gane most recently competed at UFC Paris in September, knocking out Tai Tuivasa in three rounds.

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Alexa Grasso: Can Shevchenko rebound from controversial Talia Santos fight?

Valentina Shevchenko has won nine straight fights entering this title defense. She is unbeaten since dropping to flyweight at the start of 2018. She defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 to win the then-vacant championship.

Shevchenko most recently fought at UFC 275 this past June, scoring a controversial split decision win over Talia Santos. It was the first time the normally dominant Shevchenko had been in a close fight — and one arguably she should have lost — since her rematch with Amanda Nunes for the UFC women’s bantamweight title at UFC 215.

Shevchenko’s active seven-fight title defense streak is the most title defenses by a woman in UFC history. Her overall nine-fight win streak at 125 pounds is the current record for most consecutive wins in the division — and ties her with Katlyn Chookagian for most wins overall in the division.

Alexa Grasso initially struggled in the UFC after making the jump from Invicta, going 3-3 at strawweight. Since jumping up to flyweight in 2020, however, Grasso has won four straight. She most recently fought at UFC Vegas 62, scoring a unanimous decision win over Viviane Araujo in the main event.

Grasso’s UFC 238 victory over Karolina Kowalkiewicz saw her throw 369 strikes, the third-most strikes thrown in a three-round fight in UFC history.

Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov: A huge opportunity for Rakhmonov

Geoff Neal comes into this matchup ranked No. 7 in the UFC at welterweight. He’s 2-2 in his last four but currently holds a two-fight win steak, scoring a split decision over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC 269 and a highlight knockout of Vicente Luque at UFC Vegas 59 back in August.

Neal is 7-2 in the Octagon since coming into the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series.

Ranked No. 9 in the division, this fight is the biggest opportunity in the career of Shavkat Rakhmonov thus far. Undefeated in MMA through 16 fights, Rakhmanov is 4-0 in the UFC. The former M-1 welterweight champion is coming off back-to-back wins with performance bonuses, knocking out Carlston Harris at UFC Vegas 47 last year and submitting Neil Magny at UFC Vegas 57 in June.

Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jalin Turner: Who’s ready for the step up at 155?

Mateusz Gamrot came into the UFC in 2020 as an undefeated fighter following a stint in the KSW, where he captured both featherweight and lightweight gold. Gamrot is 4-2 in the Octagon, most recently competing at UFC 280 in a unanimous decision loss to Beneil Dariush. This snapped a four-fight win streak he picked up after dropping his promotional debut.

Four of Gamrot’s six fights have seen him earn a post-fight bonus. His most recent win — a decision victory over Arman Tsarukyan in the main event of UFC Vegas 57 — earned Fight of the Night honors.

The grappling expert holds the UFC record for the fastest kimura submission win, needing just 65 seconds to finish Jeremy Stephens at UFC Vegas 31, which ended up being Stephens’s final fight in the UFC.

After going 1-2 to start his UFC tenure, Jalin Turner has impressed with his current five-fight win streak — one that has seen him score three submissions and two TKOs. An alumnus of Dana White’s Contender Series, Turner most recently fought at UFC 276 in July, needing just 45 seconds to put away Brad Riddell with a guillotine. This win earned Turner his first post-fight bonus in the UFC.

Bo Nickal vs. Jamie Pickett: Nickal’s long-awaited UFC debut

UFC 285 will open the highly anticipated Octagon debut of highly accomplished wrestler Bo Nickal. Competing for Penn State, Nickal was a three-time national champion (competing in the finals all four years of his collegiate career) and a three-time Big Ten conference wrestling champion (plus a third-place finish).

In 2019, Nickal won both the US National Championships and U23 World Championships in freestyle wrestling at 92kg. He then was a finalist in the 2020 US Olympic Team Trials.

After a successful professional MMA debut via a 33-second knockout at Jorge Masvidal’s iKon FC 3, Nickal competed twice on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2022, submitting Zachary Borrego with a choke in 62 seconds and Donovan Beard with a triangle choke in 52 seconds.

Jamie Pickett entered the UFC from Dana White’s Contender Series himself — defeating Jhonoven Pati in his third time on the show — but his UFC tenure has not gone the way he had hoped. Pickett is just 2-4 in the promotion, dropping his first two UFC fights and entering this battle with Nickal on a two-fight skid.

Pickett most recently fought at UFC 279, suffering a second-round TKO loss to Denis Tiuliulin. His most recent win came at UFC Vegas 46 in January 2022, defeating Joseph Holmes via unanimous decision.

This fight had been scheduled for UFC 282 in December but was pushed back following an injury to Nickal.

Cody Garbrandt vs. Trevin Jones: The end of the road for Garbrandt?

There was once a time where Cody Garbandt was on top of the 135-pound world, defeating Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 to move to 11-0 and become the UFC bantamweight champion. After that moment, however, everything has seemed to crash down.

The heated rivalry with former teammate T.J. Dillashaw followed, with Dillashaw finishing Garbrandt twice. Pedro Munhoz then finished Garbrandt in the first round of their UFC 235 brawl. He’d rebound with a highlight-reel knockout of Raphael Assuncao at UFC 250 but dropped a decision to Rob Font the next year.

Garbrandt’s attempt to move to flyweight proved unsuccessful, as he was finished in just over three minutes by Kai Kara-France at UFC 269, bringing his skid to five losses in his last six fights.

Trevin Jones is by far not Garbrandt’s strongest opponent, with a 13-9 (1 NC) record in the sport and 1-3 (1 NC) record in the UFC. Jones has lost three straight, most recently dropping a decision to Raoni Barcelos at UFC Vegas 61 in October.

This fight most definitely comes off as a “Loser Leaves Town” scenario. It most certainly will be this for Jones, but if Garbrandt should somehow lose here, one would have to imagine this is the end of the line for him — at least in the prmotion, if not the sport.

Derek Brunson vs. Dricus du Plessis: Will the du Plessis hype train continue?

Derek Brunson, currently ranked No. 5 at middleweight, most recently fought at UFC 271 a year ago, getting knocked out by Jared Cannonier. This snapped a five-fight win streak Brunson was on from 2019 to 2021 and saw him seemingly rise up out of gatekeper status.

Unfortunately for Brunson, he may find himself back in this role depending upon how his UFC 285 bout with Dricus du Plessis goes.

Du Plessis has drawn a lot of attention since coming into the UFC in 2020, following time with EFC Africa — where he won its welterweight and middleweight titles — and KSW — where he was a welterweight champion.

Du Plessis’s run thus far has seen him knock out Markus Perez and Trevin Giles, score a unanimous decision over Brad Tavares and, most recently, submit Darren Till at UFC 282.

Brunson’s 14 wins in the UFC middleweight division ties him with Anderson Silva and Brad Tavares, while his nine finishes in UFC middleweight matchups has him at third-most alongside Chris Leben and Nate Marquardt.

UFC 285: Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane takes place on Saturday, March 4, 2023, live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your live results and highlights throughout fight week.