France’s Ciryl Gane (11-1-0), a former interim heavyweight champion, stopped Australian Tai Tuivasa (15-4-0) in the third round of a main event slugfest on a UFC Fight Night card Saturday in Paris.
Tuivasa almost knocked Gane out in the second round but the French fighter somehow survived to punish Tuivasa with a string of body shots. Gane, a chiselled 247 pounds, repeatedly targeted the 266-pound Tuivasa’s soft midriff before felling him with a string of punches at four minutes 23 seconds of the round.
The show at Accor Arena was the UFC’s first in France, which adopted regulations allowing MMA in January 2020. Former welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre of Montreal was cageside for the event.
“This is destiny!”<br><br>[ <a href=”https://twitter.com/ciryl_gane?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Ciryl_Gane</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFCParis?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#UFCParis</a> ] <a href=”https://t.co/leaI5pbN7j”>pic.twitter.com/leaI5pbN7j</a>
Gane is ranked No. 1 among heavyweight contenders compared to No. 3 for the hard-hitting Tuivasa, who came into the fight with 11 first-round finishes.
In the co-main event, former middleweight champion Robert (The Reaper) Whittaker (24-6-0) won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) decision over Marvin (The Italian Dream) Vettori. The New Zealand-born Australian is ranked No. 1 among 185-pound contenders while Italy’s Vettori (18-6-1) is No. 2.
Jourdain bested by Wood
Canadian featherweight Charles (Air) Jourdain lost a unanimous decision to England’s Nathaniel (The Prospect) Wood earlier in the event.
The judges scored it for 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 for London’s Wood after a tight fight contested in close quarters with both landing shots.
At five foot nine, Jourdain had a three-inch height advantage in the opening bout of the main card. But Wood had power in his hands and repeatedly managed to send the Canadian to the ground with trips.
Wood (15-8-0) beat Charles (Boston Strong) Rosa last time in July in his first outing at 145 pounds after campaigning as a bantamweight (135 pounds).
“I feel incredible at this weight class,” Wood, who improved to 6-2-0 in the UFC, said after the win. “I’ve had two years off for injuries. There’s a new boy in town at 145 [pounds].”
Wood acknowledged he suffers from anxiety and felt it before this bout.
“I trained for Charles like I was fighting, I don’t know, an absolute monster which he is. Hats off to Charles, he’s one hell of a fighter,” he added.
Jourdain (13-6-1) was coming off a majority-decision loss to (Hurricane) Shane Burgos in July after a late rally fell short. The 26-year-old from Beloeil, Que., had won two straight before that. His UFC record dropped to 4-5-1.
Jourdain then went to work striking, only to be wobbled by a blow to the temple from Wood. The two touched gloves as a sign of respect after a busy first round. While Jourdain was busier, Wood’s power was evident.
The Canadian ended on the ground again in the second round but got up quickly. Jourdain went to the body but ended back on the mat after a Wood trip. Referee Rich Mitchell stood the fighters up as the action stalled on the ground.
The two continued the fight at close quarters, both scoring with strikes in gruelling action. They exchanged brief takedowns before the round ended.
Jourdain had a mouse under his right eye after two close rounds. Wood scored with elbows and got Jourdain down to the ground two more times.
Makdessi suffers loss against former teammate
Earlier, veteran Canadian lightweight John Makdessi lost a unanimous decision to German-born Moroccan Nasrat Haqparast in a battle of former teammates from Montreal’s renowned Tristar Gym.
The judges scored it 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 for Haqparast after a bout contested almost entirely on the feet. Makdessi, awarded the first round by one of the judges, nodded and applauded as the decision was announced.
Makdessi and Haqparast, who had been scheduled to meet on two previous occasions but the bout never came off, exchanged words at Friday’s ceremonial faceoff with Haqparast repeating “Let’s go.”
But Haqparast was gracious in victory, praising Makdessi, was giving up 10 years and two inches in height and four in reach to his five-foot-10 opponent.
Makdessi’s face began to show damage as the fight wore on with blood leaking from around his eye. The Canadian asked for a stop two minutes into the second round for an eye-poke but Goddard told him to keep fighting.
Haqparast (14-5-0) dropped Makdessi with a right hook with 90 seconds remaining in the round but the Canadian survived.
“We’ve got to go hard this round,” Makdessi’s corner told him ahead of the third round.
The 37-year-old Makdessi kept coming forward in the third but at a cost, absorbing Haqparast strikes. And he was taken down twice in the dying seconds as he looked to press the action.
Makdessi, whose UFC career dates back to UFC 124 in December 2010, had won four of his previous five fights. His record in the promotion stands at 11-8-0.
Haqparast, who is 6-4-0 in the UFC, was coming off back-to back losses to Bobby (King) Green and Dan (The Hangman) Hooker.