(Reuters) - Champion Stipe Miocic dominated challenger Francis Ngannou in a five-round war of attrition at the TD Garden in Boston to score a unanimous decision victory and set a new UFC record of three successful heavyweight title defenses.
From the beginning, Miocic sought to avoid the frightening power in the 31-year-old Ngannou’s fists by bobbing and weaving and closing the distance to wrestle whenever possible.
The 35-year-old American managed to take the fight to the ground midway through the first round, and Ngannou looked lost as he sought to deal with his opponent’s superior grappling skills on the mat.
Ngannou, who made his way to the octagon draped in the Cameroonian and French flags with Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)’ booming out of the speakers, slowed considerably at the start of the second as Miocic wore him down.
Despite his exhaustion, Ngannou fired a thundering right hand in the third but ultimately he had no answer to the wrestling of Miocic, who won every round on the judges’ scorecards to take the unanimous decision victory.
In the evening’s other title fight, 38-year-old Daniel Cormier cruised to a second-round TKO win over Swiss challenger Volkan Oezdemir to retain the light heavyweight championship.
American Cormier, who lost the belt to Jon Jones in July 2017 but was reinstated after Jones failed a dope test in connection with that fight, landed some heavy punches in the first round and finished it on the challenger’s back.
A former Olympic wrestler, Cormier was untroubled by his 28-year-old opponent’s superior reach and quickly took the fight to the ground again early in the second round, ending it with a flurry of right-hand strikes to force the stoppage.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; editing by Sudipto Ganguly