Ngannou relies on grappling to beat Gane, retain UFC heavyweight title
Francis Ngannou is still the baddest man on the planet.
Ngannou defeated Ciryl Gane via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) in the UFC 270 main event to remain the heavyweight champion Saturday night in Anaheim.
This was Ngannou's first professional victory by decision, the fourth time he went the distance, and the second he went five rounds.
Gane - who held the interim title heading into the bout - had a strong start to the fight, using his elite footwork and distance management to pick apart Ngannou with strikes throughout the opening two rounds.
However, Ngannou began to grapple Gane - a rare sight for the knockout artist - in the third round, and that proved to be the difference-maker in the fight. Ngannou hit Gane with a few shots up against the fence in the fourth, but he mostly focused on maintaining control of the top position.
Gane took Ngannou down early in the fifth round, but he went for a heel hook and that led to Ngannou getting on top. Ngannou and Gane engaged in scrambles on the mat as Gane went for another submission, but Ngannou's defense held up. The champion ended the fight on top and prevailed victorious.
Ngannou revealed afterward that he fully tore his MCL and also hurt his ACL three weeks ago.
"It's been a very tough training camp, very tough 10 months," Ngannou said in his postfight interview, according to MMA Fighting. "A lot of shit (happened)."
"The Predator" secured his first title defense with the victory over Gane and has now won six straight fights. He won the belt with a second-round knockout of Stipe Miocic last March. Ngannou hasn't lost since a fight with Derrick Lewis in 2018.
Gane fell short for the first time in his professional MMA career. He rose to contention in 2021 with three wins over Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Alexander Volkov, and Lewis, the latter of which earned him the interim heavyweight title last August.
Gane fell to 10-1 as a pro and 7-1 in the UFC. The 31-year-old made his Octagon debut in 2019.
The Gane-Lewis interim title fight was set up after the UFC and Ngannou failed to agree on a date for his first title defense, which was expected to be against Lewis.
Ngannou, 35, entered Saturday's title unification bout with Gane with one fight left on his current UFC contract. His management team has been at odds with the UFC in recent months. Had Ngannou lost, he would have become a free agent following a 90-day exclusivity period. However, it appears Ngannou will now remain under contract with the promotion because of the champion's clause.