Anaheim, CA – To hear Ciryl Gane tell it, he and Francis Ngannou were never friends, but simply teammates at the MMA Factory in France.
To hear Ngannou tell it, they weren’t event that, merely bodies training in the same gym for a brief, overlapping period a few years back, which involved a handful of sparring sessions.
Ahead of UFC 270 on Saturday, the promotion pushed a friend-turned-foe narrative that was more manufactured than reality. A rather unnecessary approach in a fight far more compelling for its stylistic match-up: the sheer power of Ngannou versus the smart, tactical fighting of Gane.
Round 1 Gane came out very patient and doing what everyone knew he would. Lot of lateral movements but what worked the best was clinching with Ngannou and landing knees. Gane would not stay at range so Ngannou could land he would come in close and land on Francis. Ngannou did land some uppercuts but none of either man’s shots landed clean.
Round 2 was lot of Gane touching Ngannou with kicks and frustrating him by making him miss. He was clearly quicker and in better shape than Ngannou and he used it. Ngannou meanwhile showed signs of fatigue and was very slow compared to Gane.
Round 3 Ngannou did what nobody thought he could or would do to Gane by taking him down three times. Gane seemed shocked but not panicked. The round was mostly grappling from both men.
Round 4 Ngannou continued to take Gane down seemingly at will and this time landed some damage from top position. Gane wasn’t able to get Ngannou off him on the ground or standing. Not much striking in the fourth round but Ngannou did show that he’s improved the ground game greatly.
Round 5 Ngannou is a grappler? Who knew?! Ngannou continued to get takedowns and stayed in dominant top position for nearly the entire round. A leg lock attempt by Gane slowed him momentarily but Ngannou was never in any danger. Gane continued to try and sweep or get away but Ngannou remained on top for almost the entire round and the fight ended with the champ in dominant position.
In the end the champion retained his belt as the judges saw it for Francis Ngannou. After the fight welterweight champion Kamaru Usman said “The evolution” to which Joe Rogan alluded to in the post-fight interview. This marked the first decision win for Ngannou.
Nobody ever thought Ngannou would win a fight with grappling but he showed that he certainly is on another level and may be the UFC heavyweight champion for a long time.
Official result: Francis Ngannou defeats Ciryl Gane via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)