Francis Ngannou Defeats Ciryl Gane by Decision, Retains UFC Heavyweight Title

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2022

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 22: (R-L) Francis Ngannou of Cameroon punches Ciryl Gane of France in their UFC heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 270 event at Honda Center on January 22, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Chris Unger/Getty Images

Francis Ngannou remained the UFC's heavyweight champion with a unanimous decision win over Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 270.

Gane's fight IQ was on display early in the bout. He stifled Ngannou's power punching with a clinch-heavy game plan that saw him tie up the champion anytime he got within boxing range. 

Bon Gamin started to look more comfortable by the second frame. He continued to kick Ngannou's legs and body, keeping The Predator off balance and opening the lead on the scorecards. 

Ngannou threw a curveball in the third round. Without much success in the first two rounds on the feet he took Gane down for the first time in his career. Ultimately he wasn't able to do much damage despite having him in side control and taking his back briefly. 

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The ground just shook in California 🤯 #UFC270 https://t.co/OueahAip4o

However, he took the fight to the ground a second time and showed signs of life for the first time. 

He went back to his newly discovered skill set in the championship rounds. He took Gane down and remained on top of Gane for the majority of the fourth round, slowly compiling damage and wearing down his competitor. 

With the fight potentially on the line in the fifth round, Gane went to his own grappling. He took down Ngannou as the hyped matchup of strikers suddenly became a full-blown wrestling match. However, Ngannou was able to sweep him to regain top position and once again smothered Gane. 

It was a strong finish for an unorthodox title defense from The Predator. 

After the bout, Ngannou shed some light on his health. He suffered a serious knee injury in his preparation that could have explained his lack of success in the striking. 

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

Ngannou says he tore his MCL and injured his ACL, too.

The win is a huge boost to The Predator's legacy as a UFC champion. Despite his recent run of knockout victories, the champion was actually a small underdog against Gane. 

They say you aren't a legitimate champion until you defend your belt. There's no doubt at this point that Ngannou is the man to beat in the land of the giants. Gane was the clear No. 1 contender on the strength of his perfect 10-0 record going into the fight. 

Despite having just one title defense, Ngannou already feels like a dominant champion wins over four of the top six fighters. The lone exceptions are Derrick Lewis, who just lost to Gane, and Alexander Volkov, who also lost to Gane in 2021. 

Of course, the looming megafight is a date with Jon Jones. The former light heavyweight dropped his belt to gear up for a run at heavyweight, but there's some doubt the matchup gets made. 

In an interview with Brett Okamoto of ESPN, UFC President Dana White expressed hesitancy about Jones' future plans. 

"I don't feel confident saying that Jon Jones is next," White said (h/t MMA Mania). "Not because I think he's unreliable, it's because I honestly don't know what Jon Jones wants to do next. I think Jon's going to watch this fight, and he'll decide. Maybe he doesn't fight at heavyweight. Maybe he goes back and tries to regain the light heavyweight championship."

Adding to the clouded nature of the heavyweight picture is Ngannou's contract. The 35-year-old has been noncommital about working out a new contract with the UFC. This was the final fight of his current pact.

With a win over Gane, his asking price just went up.