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UFC 270: Francis Ngannou defeats Ciryl Gane to retain UFC heavyweight title

The result of the much-anticipated showdown between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 was, of course, what we all had expected: Ngannou laying and praying his way to a unanimous decision victory.

It wasn’t flashy or explosive – and, in fact, it was Ngannou’s first ever decision victory – but it was exactly what the Cameroonian champion needed in order to overcome the monumental challenge presented by Gane, and proves that the 35-year-old is still refining his skills and improving as a fighter.

The fight started slow. Ngannou seemed to be the aggressor early on, but Gane managed to evade the lion’s share of Ngannou’s power punches and landed leg kicks with consistency. While Round 1 was close, and perhaps a toss-up in terms of scoring, it was the champion who seemed a bit flustered at the bell.

Gane built upon his momentum, and established a bit of a rhythm in round 2, once again scoring points with a high volume of leg kicks. Ngannou, meanwhile seemed content to lower his output and simply wait for an opportunity to land that one big punch.

Through two rounds, it seemed that this fight was shaping up to be like Gane’s interim title fight against Derrick Lewis at UFC 265, where Lewis seemed completely at a loss as to how to find his target against the light-footed, evasive Frenchman. However, Ngannou then switched to a more wrestling-heavy gameplan, slamming Gane to the mat early in round 3, directly into side control. The champion managed to take the back of Gane, landing some stirkes and threatening a choke before Gane escaped.

Ngannou took Gane down once again, in the final minute of the round; this time with a double leg.

Ngannou managed yet another takedown in the middle of round 4, and took Gane’s back once again. Gane did a good job of controlling Ngannou’s wrist to avoid absorbing major damage from this position. However, Ngannou would go on to control Gane for the remainder of this round.

The decisive fifth round started strong for the challenger: Gane managed to take Ngannou down early. However, it was the scramble that ensued which ultimately led Ngannou to win the fight and retain his title. Gane, instead of playing the position game, attempted a leg lock. Ngannou, however, managed to escape the submission, gain top position, and even ended up mounting Gane. The champion would remain on top until the final bell.

It was ugly. It was grueling. But it was exactly the type of performance that all great champions have at some point in their careers, and an important milestone for a fighter once viewed as one-dimensional.