A heavyweight title unification bout headlines the UFC 270: Ngannou vs. Gane pay-per-view at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday. Champion Francis Ngannou put his title on the line for the first time against undefeated interim titleholder Ciryl Gane.
Ngannou captured the heavyweight championship by knocking out former titleholder Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 last March. In the 11 months of his title reign, the fight promotion crowned an interim champion. Gane stopped Derrick Lewis at UFC 265 in August to win the interim belt leading to a showdown with Ngannou, his former teammate.
In the opening round, Gane moved on the outside and delivered leg kicks and kicks to the body. Ngannou pressed forward but Gane stayed just out of range.
In the second frame, Gane continued to target the body of Ngannou with kicks. He partially connected with a wheel kick that bounced of Ngannou’s shoulder and grazed his head.
After the first two rounds, it looked as if Gane was going to be able outpoint the champion, but Ngannou changed everything in the third round. Ngannou catch a kick and slammed Gane to the canvas. Gane worked his way back to his feet but was taken down a second time later in the stanza.
Ngannou continued to show off his takedown ability and grappling game in the fourth frame. He secured a takedown and kept Gane grounded. In the final round, Gane decided to take Ngannou down. Ngannou quickly reversed Gane and gained top control. Gane isolated a leg but Ngannou escaped and maintained top control.
For the first time in his career, Ngannou won a fight by decision. All three judges scored the fight for “The Predator.”
“I knew that he was going to be a tough opponent. No doubt. I know him,” Ngannou said following the win. “It’s been an incredible journey. It was a tough training camp. A very tough 10 months.”
Ngannou revealed that he entered the fight on Saturday with an injured knee.
“Three weeks ago I hurt my knee, tore my MCL completely, and hurt my ACL and all this stuff,” Ngannou said. “I wanted to pull out of the fight, but I couldn’t see myself retreat from this fight because it was a moment for me to make a statement and to remind people that I’m the champ.”
It was Gane’s first career loss. While disappoint with the result, Gane said that he’s just getting started.
“Congratulations to Francis. He did very well. I’m disappointed. I’m a little bit sad, but it’s a good experience,” Gane said following the loss. “I think I’m just arriving at this game. The future is in front of me.”