Jones returns to crush Gane and win UFC heavyweight crown
Mixed martial arts legend Jon Jones scored a stunning first-round victory over France's Ciryl Gane to claim the vacant UFC heavyweight crown on Saturday.
Former light heavyweight champion Jones, making his return to the Octagon after more than a three-year absence, forced Gane into a submission after just 2min 4sec of the opening round to seal the win.
The 35-year-old American, who is widely considered to be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, used all his skill and experience to outfox his 32-year-old French opponent.
Jones had talked boldly before the fight of scoring a quick victory against Gane, who hinted at nervousness in the opening seconds by aiming a kick at the American's groin which required an official timeout.
Jones proved to be as good as his word, easily ducking under a wild left hand from Gane and wrestling the off-balance Frenchman to the floor with ease.
He quickly had Gane in trouble and the Parisian submitted after being trapped in a guillotine chokehold by Jones.
"I've been working for this for a long time," a delighted Jones said after his victory.
"You know a lot of people thought I was never coming back. I'd read that all the time 'This dude's never coming back' – but I've been faithful to my goal, faithful to my mission."
Jones said while he was wary of Gane's prowess on his feet -- the Frenchman is a former kick-boxing champion -- he had always been confident of winning if the bout ended up on the canvas.
"I really had the strong conviction that if I could get him down to the ground the fight would be in my area," Jones said.
"I've been wrestling since I was 12 years old and I feel stronger and more comfortable, especially on the ground.
- Gane 'angry' -
"With kickboxers you never know -– he zigs, I zag. And I actually felt a little goofy on my feet -– it's been a while.
"But once I got my hands on him I knew that's where I was most comfortable and I could take control."
Gane was left frustrated, saying he had failed to do himself justice.
"Disappointed of course," Gane said. "But the biggest thing is I'm angry about myself. Really angry.
"Because, yes, we accepted this fight (at short notice), but we worked a lot and spent a lot of time with sparring partners. I'm really angry about myself.
"This is the first real loss I've had... I'm going to go straight back to the gym and work on my ground game."
The one-sided victory after such an extensive layoff strengthens Jones's right to be regarded as the greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all time.
The veteran had walked away from the sport in August 2020, relinquishing his light heavyweight crown vowing to bulk up for an eventual assault on the heavyweight division.
He arrived for Saturday's contest as the owner of a slew of UFC records including the longest unbeaten streak (18 wins), most wins in title fights (14) and most successful title defenses (11).
After his victory, Jones immediately called out former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic -- with a fight between the two men a near certainty to take place in July.
"Stipe Miocic is quite the competitor," Jones told ESPN after Saturday's win.
"He has a wrestling background and is a very strong boxer and he knows how to win a fight. Me and my team take him very, very seriously.
"But he's going to need every ounce of himself to get through this one -- and he's not going to get through it. He has my undivided attention."