It was far from easy, but Francis Ngannou’s reign atop the heavyweight division continues.
Ngannou (17–3) won by unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 270, becoming the first fighter to defeat Ciryl Gane. And he did it in a surprising manner, leaning on superior wrestling and grappling instead of a knockout blow.
It appeared that Gane (10–1) had the fight exactly where he wanted. He did secure a takedown in the fifth round, but instead of maintaining top position, Gane went for an ankle lock. That backfired, ultimately allowing Ngannou to re-establish control on the mat.
It was shocking to see Ngannou win without landing any significant strikes. The next big question is what becomes of Ngannou’s future. After repeatedly stating he wants a new contract, Ngannou certainly has leverage by retaining the belt. UFC President Dana White typically places the belt around the waist of the champion at the end of the fight, but in this case, it was UFC Vice President of Talent Relations Mick Maynard putting the belt around the waist of Ngannou. So the future of Ngannou is uncertain, there is no doubt over who is the reigning champ.
In the fight of the night, a new flyweight champion was crowned. The decision was devastating to the Brandon Moreno-crazed crowd, but Deiveson Figueiredo defeated Moreno to regain the belt, beginning his second reign as flyweight champ.
After an extremely competitive five rounds, it was unexpected to hear judges award a unanimous decision. Figueiredo (21–2–1) and Moreno (19–6–2) are now poised to meet each other for a fourth time, which is the best-case scenario for a flyweight division short of top contenders.
The beginning of the card exceeded expectations. Michael Morales won his UFC debut in the opening bout, defeating Trevin Giles (14–4). The 22-year-old Morales (13–0) continued his undefeated streak, ending this bout by TKO with just under a minute remaining in the opening round.
Said Nurmagomedov then dominated Cody Stamann, producing the third-fastest submission in the history of the UFC’s bantamweight division. Staking a claim to a top-15 ranking, Nurmagomedov (15–2) landed shots early. That allowed him to bring Stamann (19–5–1) to the mat, where he quickly locked in the guillotine choke, ending the fight in only 47 seconds.
Michel Pereira also defeated André Fialho by unanimous decision in a back-and-forth bout. Pereira (27–11, 2 NC) adjusted after taking some stiff shots in the first round from Fialho (14–4). Pereira’s front kicks to the body helped change the direction of the bout, which he controlled over the final 10 minutes.
UFC 270 was built around two title bouts, and both delivered. Figueiredo regained control of the future of the flyweight division, setting up a rubber match against Moreno. And 270 also represented a proving ground for Ngannou, who silenced every doubter over the course of five rounds against Gane.
The heavyweight division belongs to Ngannou, as does the leverage in his pursuit of a new UFC contract.
HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: FRANCIS NGANNOU (c) VS. CIRYL GANE (ic) — 12:34 AM ET
Francis Ngannou had never won a fight by decision. And he never needed to win a fight with fluid transitions. Yet that is what we saw in the main event of UFC 270, as Ngannou (17–3) defeated Ciryl Gane by unanimous decision to retain his heavyweight title.
Gane (10–1) appeared to tire Ngannou in those first five minutes. The body kicks continued to add up for Gane in round two, and he was largely elusive every time Ngannou attempted to attack.
But the fight took a turn in the third round, when Ngannou took control with a powerful takedown slam. This was the first time in eight fights that Gane was down on his back, and we were treated to some jiu-jitsu from Ngannou on the mat. Ngannou did not land enough big shots to end the fight. Both men looked tired as the round went into its final moments, but Ngannou capitalized by securing another takedown in the closing moments.
Ngannou secured a third and fourth takedown in the fourth round. Gane opened the fifth round with a combination that backed Ngannou down, then he secured a takedown. Gane tried desperately from the top position to end the fight with an ankle lock, but that allowed Ngannou to reverse positions.
Leaning on his wrestling and grappling to maintain that top position, Ngannou controlled the key moments of the fifth round. The final two minutes were monumental for Ngannou, and he completely wore down Gane as he successfully delivered his first-ever title defense.
FLYWEIGHT TITLE BOUT: BRANDON MORENO (c) VS. DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO — 11:39 PM ET
Deiveson Figueiredo is back on top of the flyweight division.
After five captivating rounds, Figueiredo (21–2–1) defeated Brandon Moreno by unanimous decision. The crowd in Anaheim, California was strongly behind Moreno (19–6–2), and there was a chorus of boos when ring announcer Bruce Buffer announced that there was a new champion.
These two are destined to meet for a fourth fight, but it was a real surprise that this was judged a unanimous decision.
The first two rounds were extremely close with a slight edge to Moreno. Figueiredo landed 14 leg kicks in the first six minutes, but Moreno held the power advantage and hit some clean shots, including a left hand over the top. The first real scramble occurred in the second round, with Moreno quickly appearing to have an advantage, but it didn’t last and both men were quickly back on their feet.
Moreno absorbed damage in the third round. The outside leg kicks appeared to compromise his movement, but he still had the powerful left hand. Figueiredo hurt Moreno in the final seconds of the third round, dropping him with a right hand. Had there been more time in the round, that likely would have been the end of the night for Moreno.
A key to Figueiredo’s attack were his vicious array of outside leg kicks, which is what he hit Moreno with to open the fourth round.
Moreno opened the fifth round with a takedown, but Figueiredo almost immediately escaped. They traded shots around the two-minute mark, and Figueiredo dropped Moreno again with another big shot. There was an exchange of shots, but clearly, Figueiredo had done enough to impress the judges.
WELTERWEIGHT BOUT: MICHEL PEREIRA VS. ANDRÉ FIALHO — 10:59 PM ET
Michel Pereira defeated André Fialho by unanimous decision.
Pereira and Fialho went the full 15 minutes, and the bout was closer than the decision indicated. Fialho controlled the opening round, but Pereira was too explosive, especially with his body shots, in the final two rounds.
Pereira (27–11, 2 NC) now has a four-fight win streak. After Fialho (14–4) took control in the latter moments of the first round, especially with his jab, Pereira adjusted extremely well. His front kicks to the body were instrumental in seizing momentum over the final 10 minutes.
Despite a strong outing from Fialho, the judges scored this correctly.
BANTAMWEIGHT BOUT: CODY STAMANN VS. SAID NURMAGOMEDOV — 10:40 PM ET
Cody Stamann started off aggressively.
It didn’t last.
Said Nurmagomedov rattled Stamann (19-5-1) with a spinning back fist, then took control of the bout with a body kick. That allowed Nurmagomedov (15-2) to bring the fight to the mat and wrestle. He locked in his guillotine choke, and Stamann quickly tapped.
At 47 seconds, this was the third-fastest submission in the history of the UFC bantamweight division.
WELTERWEIGHT BOUT: TREVIN GILES VS. MICHAEL MORALES — 10:21 PM ET
Michael Morales made his UFC debut one to remember.
The 22-year-old Morales (13–0) defeated Trevin Giles in the first round by TKO.
Giles (14–4) had the early advantage, landing a straight right hand. Surprisingly, he then went to the clinch, appearing to miss a significant opportunity to knock out Morales. That missed opportunity will be a moment that sticks with him.
With just over a minute left in the opening round, Morales hurt Giles with a counter right hand on the temple. There was an uppercut that followed, and as soon as Giles hit the mat, Morales attacked, leading to the TKO.
On a card that, outside of the title bouts, is lacking sizzle, that was a great way to open 270.
Francis Ngannou makes his first defense of the heavyweight title at UFC 270.
Nagnnou’s opponent is interim champion Ciryl Gane, who seeks to continue his undefeated streak in the biggest fight of his life. This is also a career-defining bout for Ngannou, who has stated that this will be his final fight in the Octagon until he receives a new contract.
The heavyweights dominate a thin 270 card, but there is another title bout worth watching. Flyweight champion Brandon Moreno looks to continue his remarkable journey, and he has the chance to finally put away former champ Deiveson Figueiredo. This is their third fight against one another, with the first ending in a draw and the second ending with the underdog Moreno overcoming Figueiredo. Now Figueiredo is coming for his receipt, and a win puts him back on top of the division.
The immediate future of the heavyweight and flyweight divisions is on display tonight at a night of champions at 270.
More MMA Coverage:
• Four Burning Questions UFC 270 Will Answer
• The Weekly Takedown: Ngannou’s Future Fuels Intrigue Entering UFC 270
• Brandon Moreno Aims to Avoid One-and-Done Title Run at UFC 270
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.