There has never been a puncher quite like Francis Ngannou in the history of mixed martial arts. He doesn’t not have to connect clearly, and put his entire body behind a punch, to knock someone out.
Trainers talk about fighters being in balance and having great timing and accuracy, but Ngannou doesn’t need those traits to knock an opponent out.
He just needs to connect to the head and the end is coming quickly.
He proved that yet again by crushing former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, stopping him in 71 seconds Saturday at the Target Center in Minneapolis in what was touted as a matchup of the UFC’s best heavyweight boxers.
It was, though, no contest. Dos Santos overcommitted and attempted to move away from Ngannou to reset. But though it’s a normal move that happens frequently in a fight, it’s a dangerous error against Ngannou.
Ngannou threw a right hand from behind Dos Santos that landed on the chin. He fired a couple of other shots that felled the ex-champion and sent him to the canvas on all fours.
A quick and powerful athlete at 6-foot-4 and more than 250 pounds, Ngannou did what he needed to do to earn a shot at the heavyweight title.
Champion Daniel Cormier will defend the belt on Aug. 17 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, at UFC 241 against former champion Stipe Miocic. Miocic defeated Ngannou by a wide unanimous decision at UFC 220 in Boston last year to retain the championship.
This, though, is a different Ngannou, who has needed a combined 2:22 to win his last three fights over Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Dos Santos.
Whether Ngannou gets a title shot next is up for debate and will likely depend upon who wins the Cormier-Miocic rematch. If Cormier wins, the UFC will try to book a fight with Cormier’s archrival Jon Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion. Jones hasn’t been interested in going to heavyweight, but the UFC could make him an offer he couldn’t say no to, because it would be a huge match.
If Miocic defeats Cormier, Ngannou would probably get his rematch, unless Cormier chooses to fight once more before retiring and the UFC makes a rubber match.
“The only thing left is the winner of Stipe and DC,” Ngannou said. “I need some respect. I deserve it.”
Ngannou came out kicking early, and said the goal was to limit Dos Santos’ movement and force him to stand and trade.
That’s not a good option for anyone fighting Ngannou. Miocic used his wrestling to take him down and maul Ngannou, and tire him out, but Miocic, who was a Golden Gloves state champion boxer, wanted no part of slugging it out with Ngannou.
He seems to have straightened out whatever it was that pushed him off track in his back-to-back losses in 2018, when he lost to Miocic and then was abysmal in a unanimous decision loss to Derrick Lewis.
Since then, he blew out Blaydes in 45 seconds, needed only 26 seconds to stop Velasquez and then went just 1:11 with Dos Santos.
He’s the most intimidating fighter in MMA, and the scary thing for any potential future opponents is that he’s only getting better.
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