FRANCIS NGANNOU is still the UFC’s heavyweight champion following a brutal knockout of former team-mate Ciryl Gane.
The Predator saw off the challenge of the fleet-footed Gane early on Sunday morning in the main event of UFC 270 in Anaheim, California.
Ngannou, 34, notched his first title defence with a unanimous decision victory and kept his hopes of a crossover bout with WBC heavyweight champ Tyson Fury alive.
In his post-fight interview, he told UFC commentator Joe Rogan: “As I always say, boxing is always in the back of my pocket.
It’s something that I must do before the end of my career!
“And right now, I’m really looking towards any opportunity to get that because it’s not like I had a lifetime here.
“So I better start thinking about it.”
Challenger Gane was is light on his feet in the early stages and shocked the crowd at the Honda Center by shooting for a takedown.
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Ngannou got the better of the ensuing clinch, landing a nice knee before they separated.
Bon Gamin followed up with a nice body kick but was quickly clinched by the champion, although he did land a nice elbow as they separated from the clinch.
Gane’s evasiveness and kicks were the stories of the first stanza and he landed a nice spinning back kick before following up with a knee to the body a few moments later.
Ngannou struggled to find a home for his power punches and missed big power shots on a number of occasions.
Gane was more than happy to continue operating on the outside as Ngannou plodded forward looking to land bombs.
Ngannou landed a good right hand after a series of peppering kicks from Gane, although the Frenchman asserted his dominance with a good right hand after landing a body kick.
Then came the strike of the night: a beautiful spinning heel kick for Gane that drew a huge pop from the crowd.
The fleet-footed Gane then continued to play with his old team-mate at range. Ngannou’s only meaningful strike of the round was a left body kick from the southpaw stance.
Aware he was down by two rounds, an injured Ngannou looked to utilise his wrestling to claw back the stanzas.
And he landed a huge takedown after catching a body kick from Fernand Lopez’s new star pupil.
Gane eventually managed to get back to his feet but was then momentarily grounded with a hip toss.
After shaking off the champ, Gane landed a nice elbow on the break and followed up with a left high kick a few moments later.
But Ngannou responded with yet another big takedown and avoided Gane’s kimura attempt until the horn.
After eating a body kick and having his lead leg chipped away at, Cameroonian clubber Ngannou utilised his wrestling again to ground the fight.
Gane back to his feet after the first attempt but was grounded until the buzzer by the second, which allowed Ngannou to land a well-placed knee to the body.
Gane opened up more with his strikes early in the fifth and backed up his former team-mate with a good combination.
And he then secured what looked like a potentially fight-winning takedown before foolishly going for a heel hook.
That failed submission attempt, which he desperately held on to, saw him lose position to Ngannou – who then transitioned to the mount.
With a minute and a half left, Ngannou opted to utilise his crushing top pressure to keep Gane on his back until the final horn.
And the look on Gane’s face as soon as he rose to his feet showed that he’d live to regret that risky submission attempt for years to come.
UFC 270 results
Francis Ngannou def. Ciryl Gane via unanimous decision – 48-47, 48-47, 48-46
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) – Round 1 0:47
Michael Morales def. Trevin Giles via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:05
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 Demopolous def. Silviana Gomez Suarez via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 2:25
Jasmine Jasudavicius def. Kay Hansen via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Source: The Sun