HOUSTON — Ciryl Gane is a living, breathing representation of the evolution of mixed martial arts. He’s a poised, smooth and tactical heavyweight who moves like a man two to three weight classes below him. He was born in France, a place that just legalized the sport of MMA last year.
Gane has only been training for three years. But Saturday night he won UFC gold, stopping Derrick Lewis via TKO at 4 minutes, 11 seconds of the third round to win the UFC interim heavyweight title.
Gane will likely fight heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou next to unify the title. Gane and Ngannou are former training partners at MMA Factory in Paris.
“This is not just for me,” Gane said in his postfight interview. “This is for my coach from MMA Factory, for my friends, for my family. For my country. I’m very happy.”
ESPN had Lewis and Gane ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in the world at heavyweight coming in. Gane is the first French-born fighter to ever win a UFC title.
“The fight will happen,” Gane said of a battle between him and Ngannou. “Let’s go. Just let’s go.”
The finish came when Gane had Lewis trapped against the cage. He landed a leg kick, a kick to the body and punching combination that hurt Lewis badly. Lewis covered up, survived the onslaught and fired back. But then Gane let loose with another big combination, landing with diverse techniques, and Lewis could not escape. He covered up, went to his knees and turtled up. Referee Dan Miragliotta had no choice but to call the bout.
The athletic, 6-foot-4 Gane was dominant throughout. He kept Lewis at bay, using his length and superior kicking game. Lewis seemingly could never get close enough to land a big shot, his specialty. Gane mixed it up well offensively and kept Lewis guessing. The fight — and the finish — left the crowd disappointed. Lewis is a Houston resident and the card was built around him as a star here.
Gane outlanded Lewis 98-16 in significant strikes and 112-16 in total strikes.
Gane (10-0) is one of the most promising up-and-coming fighters in all of the UFC. Gane, 31, now sports a 7-0 record in the UFC. “Bon Gamin” most recently beat Alexander Volkov via unanimous decision in what was a one-sided performance in June. Gane is the sixth UFC heavyweight to win a title while undefeated.
Lewis (25-8, 1 NC) has the most KO/TKO victories in UFC heavyweight history (12). That mark also puts him in a three-way tie for the most knockouts in any division in the UFC ever, along with Vitor Belfort and Matt Brown. Lewis, 36, was coming off a second-round knockout win over Curtis Blaydes in February.