UFC fans have erupted after president Dana White opted to blatantly snub the heavyweight champion in awkward scenes.
Francis Ngannou has retained his UFC heavyweight belt with an impressive display in his title fight with Ciryl Gane.
The Cameroonian was in control for the majority of the bout and was the aggressor, with Gane far too nonchalant to seriously challenge Ngannou.
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The fight started slowly with both men content to conserve energy and attack using leg kicks.
But Ngannou upped the ante, taking down Gane several times throughout the fight and showing his versatility by maintaining the advantage while grappling, which has not traditionally been one of his strong suits.
Gane didn’t throw enough shots to challenge for the title, with the judges handing Ngannou the victory via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).
It is the first time in in his career Ngannou has won a fight via decision and not with a finish.
The win was crucial for the 35-year-old as his UFC contract future would have expired had he lost.
Ngannou wanted a more secure contract before the fight and has even expressed a desire to pursue a boxing career, which didn’t sit too well with UFC boss Dana White.
There was a huge elephant in the room in California’s Honda Arena when White chose not to enter the Octagon and wrap the championship belt around Ngannou’s waist — leaving that duty to his underling, UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard.
He also didn’t appear at the post-fight press conference, which he usually attends.
The snub didn’t go unnoticed by UFC fans, who were scathing of White’s treatment of Ngannou.
MMA writer Elias Cepeda tweeted: “Dana White’s salty b*tch a** kept himself out the cage afterwards. Good. He doesn’t deserve to wrap the belt around the champion. The UFC doesn’t deserve NGannou.”
Jay Pettry added: “It did not go unnoticed that #UFC President Dana White was not in the cage to wrap the belt around the heavyweight champion’s waist.”
Before the fight, Ngannou suggested he was considering walking away from the UFC and target a bigger paycheck elsewhere.
“I feel I should not be needing to borrow money for my training camp,” he told MMA Hour.
“At some point, I’m gonna go after the money.
“I’m going to boxing for sure.
“I’m not challenging the system, I’m just saying my right.”
Earlier this month, boxing royalty Tyson Fury tweeted that he was interested in fighting Ngannou, and the UFC champion’s manager Marquel Martin claimed that he hits harder than Fury’s most recent opponent Deontay Wilder.
“I acknowledge it’s very difficult to hit Tyson,” Martin told Sky Sports.
“However, if Francis was to put together six to 12 months on strictly boxing, I’m confident Francis can learn the mechanics and timing he’d need to land some power shots.”
Round 1: Ngannou was on the offensive but Gane deflected a couple of slight knocks to the head as both fighters sized each other up. The round ended with the pair entangled in a standing grapple.
Round 2: A tame round with a very casual Gane landing serveral body kicks as well as an impressive roundhouse kick, which grazed Ngannou. The champ is conserving his energy and landed a nice front kick and hard jab.
Round 3: A gruelling round dominated by Ngannou. He power-slammed Gane to the ground and they grappled for most of the round, before Gane managed to get to his feet, only to get taken down by the champ again.
Round 4: A dominant round for Ngannou, who took Gane down another two times and landed several solid jabs to the head as well as a knee to the chest.
Round 5: Gane threw a left-right combination and took down Ngannou but the Frenchman attempted a leg lock, which allowed Ngannou to wiggle free. The champion then took Gane down and was on top of him for the rest of the fight.
Figueriedo reclaims flyweight belt in epic title fight
There are already calls for Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno to fight for a fourth time after Figueiredo reclaimed the UFC flyweight belt in an epic title fight in the co-main event.
Both fighters had their moments in an extremely close fight that could have easily been judged a draw.
Moreno held his own but Figueredo was scrappy and packed a serious punch with his lethal leg kicks.
Ultimately, the judges scored the bout in favour of the Brazilian via unanimous decision (29-28).
Figueiredo became the first two-time champion in men’s flyweight history, picking up his 10th career UFC flyweight win, the third-most in the history of the division.
No two fighters have gone head-to-head four times in UFC history.
‘Special’ Aussie stuns Joe Rogan on UFC debut
Remember the name Jack Della Maddalena.
The Australian made his UFC debut on the card for the Ngannou-Gane fight and he made an impression in his welterweight fight with Pete Rodriguez.
Della Maddalena had been due to fight Warlley Alves, but the Brazilian withdrew due to an undisclosed injury.
But the 25-year-old from Perth looked right at home in his first UFC bout, defeating Rodriguez via TKO inside the first round.
Della Maddalena was a class above and ended the fight with a brutal left hand to Rodriguez’s head, sending him falling to the floor and forcing the referee to stop the fight after just three minutes.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan was extremely impressed with the Aussie’s ability to transition smoothly between fighting stances.
“Oh my goodness that was smooth,” Rogan said.
“Della Maddalena is something special, he really is good and he’s only 25 years old, this kid has a huge future ahead of him.
“Throughout the entire round you saw such smooth, technical striking, such amazing IQ in terms of octagon intelligence. So good, this kid’s good.”
Della Maddalena has now won his last 11 fights in a row and said he didn’t feel nervous making his UFC debut.
“To be honest, I was waiting for the jitters and they never came, so same as usual you know,” he said after the fight.
Rogan heaped praise on Della Maddalena and said it will only be a matter of time before he is in the octagon again.
“It was stellar,” he said.
“You looked so smooth and your ability to slide just out of range of his shots and land the counters of your own was incredibly impressive.
“Jack, you’re 25 years old. You have an amazing future ahead of you and I can’t wait to see you inside the octagon again.”
Clearly happy with his performance, a pumped-up Della Maddalena thought he might be a contender for the US$50,000 bonus for the best knockout of the night.
“That’s what I like to call ‘the 50-G spot’ baby,” he said.
Della Maddalena was congratulated on his win by fellow Aussie and UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski.
Pundits were also impressed by his performance and predicted a bright future in th esport for the young Aussie.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto tweeted: “Pretty clean UFC debut for Jack Della Maddalena. Plenty of weight behind those punches.
“Dangerous guy. He was originally supposed to fight Warlley Alves in his debut. That could be a fun one to rebook.”
MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin said: “Jack Della Maddalena is the real deal, folks. That jab was nasty and then he just blasted him with that left hand.”
MMA writer Adam Martin added: “Absolutely phenomenal performance by Jack Della Maddelena. This guy needs to fight a veteran in his next fight. He’s ready. Amazing hands.”
Francis Ngannou defeated Ciryl Gane via unanimous decision
Deiveson Figueiredo defeated Brandon Moreno via unanimous decision
Michel Pereira defeated Andre Fialho via unanimous decision
Cody Stamann vs Said Nurmagomedov defeated Cody Stamann via submission (R1)
Michael Morales defeated Trevin Giles via TKO (R1)
Victor Henry defeated Raoni Barcelos via unanimous decision
Jack Della Maddalena defeated Pete Rodriguez via TKO (R1, 2.59)
Tony Gravely defeated Saimon Oliveira via unanimous decision
Matt Frevola defeated Genaro Valdez via TKO (R1, 3.15)
Vanessa Demopoulos defeated Silvana Juarez via submission (R1, 2.25)
Jasmine Jasudavicious defeated Kay Hansen via unanimous decision