Francis Ngannou returned to form against Curtis Blaydes as the Ultimate Fighting Championship landed in Beijing, China, for the first time with Saturday's UFC Fight Night 141 at the Cadillac Arena.
Ngannou had lost his last two fights coming into the bout, while Blaydes was riding high, having won five out of six bouts since losing to Ngannou two-and-a-half years ago. But Ngannou promised in the lead-up that he was feeling more confident than ever, and he quickly showed why he felt that way.
Blaydes immediately began looking for the takedown, but when he didn't get it, he started poking his jab at Ngannou, trying to create an opening. That opening never came, as Blaydes was a little lazy with the jab and Ngannou dropped an overhand right on his temple, sending him crashing to the canvas.
Blaydes attempted to recover, but Ngannou was all over him, machine-gunning left hands to his head. Blaydes turned away, but as he did, Ngannou landed one fight right hand to his face and the referee stopped the fight just 45 seconds into the opening frame.
It was a pivotal victory for Ngannou as relief washed over him.
“It feels really good man. It’s been a hard time, but listen, I’m back. I’m back,” he said after the fight.
“2018 was a very hard year for me. I found myself. I had to settle what wasn’t settled yet. I had to grow as a fighter. I have learned more in this year than in my whole career.”
Ngannou is now looking for a fight that will put him back in a UFC heavyweight title, mentioning the likes of Junior dos Santos, Alexander Volkov, or a rematch with Stipe Miocic for his next bout.
Two decades into his career, Alistair Overeem is still showing new wrinkles in his game. Undefeated UFC newcomer Sergey Pavlovich was in control early, but that may have been due in part to Overeem's much more reserved approach.
Pavlovich started with some strong boxing combinations, while Overeem was content to wait for the counter. Biding his time, Overeem found the perfect opening late in the round, staggering Pavolich with a solid right hand. He followed with a takedown, and dropped down into the Russian's guard.
Once there, Overeem found another opening, cracking Pavlovich with a brutal right hand. Seeing his opponent was hurt, Overeem was relentless, following with several more punches until the referee called a stop to the fight.
It was an important victory for the veteran, who, like Ngannou, had lost his last two fights, as Overeem declared, "I told you guys, the Rheem is back!"
Rounding out a night of strong performances by most of the Chinese fighters on the Beijing card, Song Yadong looked confident as he controlled his fight with Vince Morales from start to finish. Yadong outstruck Morales throughout, though he couldn't find a way to finish the fight. Yadong earned a unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the bout 30-27 in his favor.
Chinese fighter Li Jingliang opened the main card with a strong finish after being knocked down in the first round. He stormed back to take out David Zawada late in the third round to excite his home country fans.
UFC Fight Night 141: Blaydes vs. Ngannou 2 Full Results
Curtis Blaydes def. Francis Ngannou via TKO (punches) at 0:45, R1
Alistair Overeem def. Sergey Pavlovich via TKO (punches) at 4:21, R1
Song Yadong def. Vince Morales via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Li Jingliang def. David Zawada via TKO (body kick and punches) at 4:07, R3
Preliminary Card (Click Here for Prelim Fight Highlights)
Alex Morono def. Kenan Song via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Wu Yanan def. Lauren Mueller via submission (armbar) at 4:00, R1
Rashad Coulter def. Hu Yaozong via unanimous decision (29-28. 29-28, 30-27)
Weili Zhang def. Jessica Aguilar via submission (armbar) at 3:41, R1
Pingyuan Liu def. Martin Day via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Yan Xiaonan def. Syuri Kondo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Kevin Holland def. John Phillips via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:05, R3
Louis Smolka def. Su Mudaerji via submission (armbar) at 2:07, R2