Ngannou (17-3) is known for his hellacious knockout power and had never before won on points, but the French-Cameroonian scored multiple takedowns as he handed former teammate Gane (10-1) his first defeat as a professional mixed martial artist.
Ngannou’s 16 previous pro wins had all come via stoppage, 12 of them via KO/TKO and most of them early in his fights. Against a much quicker and seemingly more technical opponent, the least likely path to victory for Ngannou seemed to be a decision, but the 35-year-old defied expectations in Anaheim’s Honda Center to beat Gane 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 on the judges’ scorecards.
Gane was the first to initiate a grappling exchange in the main event, shooting for a double-leg takedown early in the first round. Ngannou defended the attempt and soon found himself holding the interim champion against the fence.
What followed was a more predictable period from Ngannou, who responded to an elbow from Gane with a harsh hook to the body and a driving uppercut to the 31-year-old’s head. Ngannou managed to land more effective punches in close, though Gane was seemingly unfazed by the power coming at him.
The heavyweights soon grappled again in the centre of the Octagon, with Ngannou using his strength to drive Gane to the cage wall, only for “Bon Gamin” to reverse the position.
Ngannou was breathing heavily as the first round came to an end, and Gane dictated the tempo in the second round by peppering the “Predator” with leg kicks – below bands that Ngannou was notably wearing around each knee.
The crowd grew restless as Gane utilised more kicks to likely claim the round, and the pattern of the fight continued into Round 3 until Ngannou capitalised on a missed kick by Gane, slamming the Frenchman to the mat.
Ngannou worked from side control and looked to move into mount, but Gane was able to stand against the fence. Despite looking tired once more and plodding towards Gane, Ngannou was able to secure another takedown, smartly shooting for a double-leg after connecting with a left hook to the body.
Gane at once looked for a Kimura lock but failed to establish the correct positioning as the third round ended.