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Gane thrills Paris crowd, KO’s Tuivasa in slugfest

6: 42 PM ET

  • Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer

PARIS — The town of love converted into the town of fisticuffs Saturday, and native son Ciryl Gane put an exclamation point on a historic event.

Gane, the former UFC interim heavyweight champion, knocked out Tai Tuivasa at 4: 23 of the 3rd round in the epic main event of UFC Paris, the promotion’s first card in France. MMA was banned in the united kingdom until early 2020. Fighters representing France went 5-0 at Accor Arena before a loud, raucous sell-out crowd.

Once the main event started, the fans chanted and sang the French national anthem. Tuivasa dropped Gane in the next round. When Gane finished Tuivasa a round later, the crowd went ballistic, jumping and dancing and yelling near the top of their lungs.

“Nobody on earth expected this from the fans of France,” Gane said in his postfight interview. “But, bro, understand this. I’m so happy.”

To arrive, ESPN had Gane ranked No. 2 on earth and Tuivasa No. 5 at heavyweight. Gane was coming off a loss earlier this season in a title unification fight with former teammate Francis Ngannou.

“I’d like the belt,” Gane said. “That’s all I’d like. I’d like that belt.”

Gane began the fight likely to Tuivasa’s body and legs with kicks in order to sap the massive power in Tuivasa’s hands. That strategy was working well until Tuivasa caught Gane with the right hook in the next round, dropping him to the canvas. Gane was clearly hurt, and Tuivasa went set for the final, but Gane survived.

Seconds later, Gane could fire back with crushing kicks to your body that hurt Tuivasa. Gane followed with punches, but Tuivasa ate them without heading down. Gane landed a knee to your body, a jab and a step-in knee to the gut. Then, a head kick close to the end of the round.

The crowd gave Gane and Tuivasa a standing ovation in the beginning of the third round following the wild second. The 3rd didn’t disappoint, either. Gane landed several hard jabs, a body kick and a head kick. He followed with a front kick to the top, and Tuivasa, who was simply bleeding from several facial cuts, again weathered the storm. Gane hit two hard front kicks to your body and rocked Tuivasa to arrive with a counter right hand. A Gane left put Tuivasa down once and for all because the crowd came unglued.

“He knocked me out,” Gane said. “He put the lights out. I had to become a warrior, and that is what I did so. I returned even stronger and got the win.”

Gane (11-1) fell to Ngannou within an emotional title fight at UFC 270 back January. A native of La Roche-sur-Yon, France, he could be 8-1 in the UFC with five finishes. Gane, 32, is a great athlete who includes a background in Muay Thai. Many feel just like he represents another generation of athletic MMA heavyweights.

Tuivasa (14-4) had a five-fight winning streak snapped. The Australia-born slugger have not attended decision in virtually any of his past seven fights. Tuivasa, 29, lost three straight between 2018 and 2019 and appeared like he’d be cut by the UFC, but he’s got made major improvements to his game and is currently the best top-five heavyweight.

“It wasn’t my day, but I arrived at fight,” Tuivasa said. “[Gane] is really a warrior. Good on ya, brother.”

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