Ciryl Gane of France stunned the home crowd by knocking out Tai Tuivasa in their heavyweight match at UFC Paris.
Gane, 32, overcame heavy shots from Tuivasa, 29, of Australia, to stop him with a flurry of punches in the third round.
The event was the UFC’s first in France since MMA was legalized there two years ago.
“I want that belt now, that’s all I want,” said Gane following the hard-fought victory.
“Tai hit me so hard he knocked me out, put the lights out, but I’m a warrior. I had to come back and that’s what I did.”
The fight was billed as a clash between Gane’s ‘Bon Gamin’ strike-and-move style and Tuivasa’s brawling, one-punch knockout power, and that’s largely how it played out.
Gane’s first fight since losing to heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in January, while Tuivasa entered the octagon on a five-fight knockout streak.
Gane, the former heavyweight interim champion and France’s first and only UFC champion, dominated the first round, landing jabs on Tuivasa before using his footwork to avoid danger. Although the fight came to life in the second round.
Tuivasa, who had struggled to hit Gane up until that point, landed a huge right hand that dropped the Frenchman, before Gane recovered to hit a series of crushing body kicks and knees, leaving Tuivasa wincing in pain.
As the round came to a close, with both fighters on the verge of victory, the audience applauded.
Tuivasa rocked Gane again in the third round, but after a series of front kicks to the body and a flurry of punches to the head from Gane, the referee jumped in to stop the fight after the Australian collapsed to the canvas.
Gane’s victory puts him in line for a rematch with Ngannou, who has been out since March after undergoing surgery on an injured knee.