Francis Ngannou ditched his knockout power for his wrestling skills to outpoint Ciryl Gane and retain his heavyweight title at UFC 270.
Ngannou was defending his title for the first time since he knocked out Stipe Miocic 10 months ago. Gane won the interim title in the meantime by stopping Derek Lewis at UFC 265 last August to record his 10th successive victory in MMA.
The former Paris training partners met in California but their clash failed to ignite as Gane edged the first two rounds before Ngannou wrestled his way back into the fight.
Ngannou landed a huge bodyslam in the third round and scored a double-leg takedown as he tried to beat up Gane on the ground. ‘The Predator’ opted to wrestle again in the fourth round, maintaining top position throughout to steer the fight in his favour.
The final five-minute stanza continued to play out on the ground before Ngannou was given the nod by scores of 49-46 and 48-47 twice.
Ngannou – who wore sleeves on both knees in the bout – admitted in his post-fight interview that he considered pulling out after tearing his MCL during training.
Now out of contract with the UFC, the win means Ngannou will owe the promotion another fight but will be free to leave in December, as per Mirror UK.