The thrilling matchup headlined Saturday's UFC Fight Night 209 event from Paris' Accor Arena.
Tuivasa took the center of the cage to start the fight, while Gane looked to stay outside and use his reach advantage to attack from range. The crowd provided an electric atmosphere, chanting the French national anthem at a volume that drew acknowledgment from both athletes, even as they patiently looked to implement their preferred tactics – Tuivasa loading up on heavy punches, and Gane looking to slip and counter while firing kicks first to the legs and then occasionally sneaking one upstairs.
Tuivasa continued to press forward in the second, though Gane was light on the feet and looked to avoid the powerful punches coming his way. Gane briefly looked for a takedown, though Tuivasa defended well before uncorking a huge right hand that sent Gane crashing to the canvas. Tuivasa rushed forward to finish with punches, but Gane was able to crawl back to his feet, where he quickly unleashed a big kick to the body and a big knees, as well.
For the final minute of the wild frame, the two traded huge punches in the pocket. Tuivasa had blood streaming down his face as Gane popped his head back with jabs to close out the back-and-forth frame.
The energy remained high to start the third, with Gane capitalizng with a precise jab and often adding kicks behind it, though he was forced to respect the massive right hands that were comign back his way. Gane's bodywork was clearly slowing Tuivasa, and blood continued to streamed down the Australian's face, as well.
As the round wound to a close, Gane scored a few front kicks to the body before landing a big right hand that clearly wobbled his opponent. Gane seized the moment, rattling off an additional flurry of punhces on the feet and sending Tuivasa crashing to the floor. A few hammerfists on the ground sealed the deal, with referee Marc Goddard waving off the contest at the 4:23 mark of the third.
When asked about the thrill of capturing such a thrilling victory at a historic event in his hometown, Gane simply allowed the roaring crowd to speak for him.
"No words," Gane said. "Just listen to that. Nobody on the planet expected this from the fans of France, but look at this. I'm so happy about that."
Afterward, "Bon Gamin" admitted he was in real trouble in the second round before he was able to rally for the win.
"Honestly, Tai hit me so hard, he knocked me out," Gane said. "He put the lights out. I fell down, but I had to be a warrior. I got up, and I came back even stronger, and I got the win."
With the result, Gane (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) rebounds from a failed bid for the undisputed heavyweight title in January and said his focus is now on getting another shot.
"I want the belt," Gane said. "That's all I want. I want the belt."
Meanwhile, Tuivasa (15-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) sees a five-fight win streak snapped with the result.
Complete UFC Fight Night 209 results include:
MAIN CARD (ESPN+)
- Ciryl Gane def. Tai Tuivasa via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 4:23
- Robert Whittaker def. Marvin Vettori via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Nassourdine Imavov def. Joaquin Buckley via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Roman Kopylov def. Alessio Di Chirico via knockout (punches) – Round 3, 1:09
- William Gomis def. Jarno Errens via majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-29)
- Nathaniel Wood def. Charles Jourdain via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Abus Magomedov def. Dustin Stoltzfus via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:19
- Nasrat Haqparast def. John Makdessi via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Fares Ziam def. Michal Figlak via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Benoit Saint-Denis def. Gabriel Miranda via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 0:16
- Christian Quinonez def. Khalid Taha via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:15
- Stephanie Egger def. Ailin Perez via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:54
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.