Francis Ngannou outgrapples Ciryl Gane, retains title

    Advertised as a fight between two of the sport’s heaviest hitters, Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane turned out to be quite the grappling affair.

    After five rounds of technical striking, double-leg takedowns, and jiu-jitsu, Ngannou (17-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) defeated his former teammate Gane (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).

    The heavyweight title unification bout was the UFC 270 pay-per-view main event at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The build-up to Saturday’s main event centered around the past training relationship between Ngannou and Gane as the two shared similar MMA upbringings. Fernand Lopez served as mentor, coach, and manager of Ngannou throughout the regional scene and into the UFC. At UFC 270, however, Lopez was in the corner of Gane, who he’s served in a similar capacity in recent years.

    In the opening seconds, Gane grabbed hold of Ngannou and pressured him against the cage. This would be a theme for Gane, tie up the champion and clinch. Ngannou, meanwhile, tried his signature explosive bursts. Despite the frantic nature of the attack he fended off, Gane remained cool and avoided most of the power shots. More clinching closed out Round 1 and Ngannou looked tired as he walked back to the stool.

    In Round 2, Gane bounced circles around Ngannou as he landed technical strikes at all levels on his former teammate. Gane connected on a spinning wheel kick midway through the round, but Ngannou continued his slow plod forward. Ngannou’s movement and gas tank seemed to wane, as Gane continued his technical striking until the bell.

    Things took a turn in Round 3, when Ngannou caught a Gane kick and thunderously power-slammed his opponent to the mat. Ngannou showed some glimpses of jiu-jitsu prowess with submission attempts and position changes, but Gane returned to the feet. Ngannou also landed a nice judo throw. Late in Round 3, Ngannou shot for a double-leg and dumped Gane to the canvas before the bell.

    Round 4 contained more wrestling from Ngannou, who took Gane down two more times. While he wasn’t able to do much with his takedowns, Ngannou controlled a large majority of the round, until the horn.

    Quite possibly tied at 2-2 as it entered Round 5, more grappling exchanges transpired. After Gane secured a takedown, Ngannou swept him and ended up on top. Gane attempted kneebars and heel hooks from the bottom as the two behemoths engaged in a 50-50 leg lock battle. Unable to secure a submission, Ngannou ended out the fight on top position.

    Ngannou’s victory marks his first title defense since he defeated multi-time champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 in March 2021. It extends his winning streak to six, which also includes stoppage victories over former UFC heavyweight champions Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez.

    The fight signified the final fight on Ngannou’s contract. With his successful title defense, the promotion can utilize a champion’s clause that will extend Ngannou under the UFC banner. Regardless, Ngannou’s contract terminates in January 2023, so he could enter free agency if he waited 12 more months.

    The heavyweight champion and his boss, UFC president Dana White, did not see eye-to-eye in recent negotiations with comments spilling over into the public.

    During the post-fight interview, Ngannou revealed he dealt with multiple knee issues during his camp, including a torn MCL and ACL troubles, which explained why he wore two kneepads for the fight.

    As for Gane, the loss is his first as a professional. His pro MMA journey began in August 2018, approximately three-and-a-half years ago. During his short time in MMA, Gane shot up the ranks with victories over the likes of Derrick Lewis, Alexander Volkov, and others.

    Up-to-the-minute UFC 270 results include:

    • Francis Ngannou def. Ciryl Gane via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
    • Deiveson Figueiredo def. Brandon Moreno via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47
    • Michel Pereira def. Andre Fialho via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Said Nurmagomedov def. Cody Stamann via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 0:47
    • Michael Morales def. Trevin Giles via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:06
    • Victor Henry def. Raoni Barcelos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    • Jack Della Maddalena def. Pete Rodriguez via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:59
    • Tony Gravely def. Saimon Oliveira via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    • Matt Frevola def. Genaro Valdez via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:15
    • Vanessa Demopoulos def. Silvana Gomez Juarez via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 2:25
    • Jasmine Jasudavicius def. Kay Hansen via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

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