HOUSTON (AP) — Ciryl Gane stopped Derrick Lewis with a flurry of ground-and-pound strikes in the third round at UFC 265 on Saturday night, winning an interim UFC heavyweight title and the next shot at champion Francis Ngannou.
Just over three years after Gane (10-0) made his mixed martial arts debut, the Frenchman dominated the championship bout at the Toyota Center in Lewis’ hometown.
Gane was booed vociferously from the moment he stepped onto the arena floor, but he largely avoided every strike thrown by the slower, more deliberate Lewis before hurting the veteran and finishing him on the ground.
Gane is all but guaranteed to be the next opponent for Ngannou, who won the actual UFC heavyweight title only four months ago by beating Stipe Miocic. The UFC’s decision to award an interim belt was met with derision around MMA, but Gane’s victory sets up the title matchup that probably would have happened anyway.
The popular Lewis (25-8) had won four straight fights over the past two years, revitalizing his hopes of winning his first UFC title. But he lost to Daniel Cormier in his only previous title shot three years ago, and he appeared to be overmatched against Gane.
Gane got a title shot in just his seventh UFC bout, capping his meteoric rise from an impressive muay thai career to the pinnacle of MMA. Gane even accepted this fight while his wife was due to give birth in less than two weeks.
Lewis couldn’t get a hand on Gane in the opening two rounds, improbably landing just two significant strikes. Gane was far more athletic and elusive than the 36-year-old Lewis, whose success has always been built on landing power shots to make up for his athletic deficiencies.
Gane picked apart Lewis in the first two rounds, and he hurt the veteran with an uppercut and a knee early in the third.
On the undercard, former featherweight champ José Aldo beat fellow Brazilian Pedro Munhoz by unanimous decision for his first back-to-back victories in 2 1/2 years. Welterweight Vicente Luque won a back-and-forth grappling match with Michael Chiesa in the first round, landing a D’Arce choke moments after nearly being submitted himself.
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