Cameroon’s Francis Ngannou showcased his devastating punch power as he knocked out Stipe Miocic in the second round to capture the undisputed UFC heavyweight title in Las Vegas at UFC 260.
The bout was a rematch of their 2018 meeting at UFC 220, where American Miocic dominated Ngannou over five rounds for a landslide unanimous decision victory in Boston.
On Saturday, Ngannou, 34, showed the improvements made since their first meeting as he exhibited composure and patience before eventually knocking out Miocic, 38, with a short left hook 52 seconds into round two to defeat the man widely considered to be the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history.
The win also marked the completion of a lifelong quest for Ngannou, who left Cameroon as a refugee and lived on the streets of Paris before eventually finding a gym with hopes of becoming a champion boxer.
He was convinced by former coach Fernand Lopez to switch focus to mixed martial arts and eventually earned his chance in the UFC, where his thunderous punch-power marked him out as a dangerous contender.
After six straight stoppage victories, his first title shot against Miocic in 2018 fell short as his relative lack of MMA experience counted against him. But, in the rematch, Ngannou came of age as he flattened Miocic to become only the third Africa-born champion in UFC history, joining welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who was in Ngannou’s corner on fight night, and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
After his victory, Ngannou said he was willing to face the man considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Jon Jones, who is expected to move up to heavyweight to challenge for the title later this year.
“For my opinion, Jon Jones is the greatest of all time in mixed martial arts. Him moving up is going to be a good thing,” he said.
“He’s a challenge I will take and it will be a very good thing on the resume. But this time he is the challenger. I am the champ. He’s coming up, looking for me.
“So I’m ready any time soon. Even summer, I will be here, ready to fight in July or August. Whenever they are ready, I’m ready. He said something, ‘Show me the money’. Show the money and we’ll go, baby. I’m here.”
Following the defeat by Miocic in their first fight, Ngannou split from his long-time coach Lopez and focused his training exclusively at Las Vegas gym Xtreme Couture under Eric Nicksick.
After a drab decision loss to Derrick Lewis at UFC 226, Ngannou regained his form and reeled off four straight knockout victories with wins over former heavyweight champions Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, plus top contenders Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, in a combined time of just two minutes and 42 seconds to position himself for a championship rematch with Miocic.
Luque finishes former champion
In the night’s co-main event, Brazilian contender Vicente Luque claimed the biggest win of his career as he weathered an early storm before finishing former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley via a first-round submission.
Woodley charged across the cage to put the pressure on Luque in the opening seconds, and later connected with big punches as he attempted to overwhelm him in the early exchanges. But the 29-year-old from Brasilia battled back and rocked Woodley with punches before eventually forcing the submission with a D’Arce choke to claim the 20th win of his career.
O’Malley bounces back
Earlier in the night, rising bantamweight star Sean O’Malley bounced back into the win column with an eye-catching third-round knockout of Brazilian Thomas Almeida.
O’Malley, 26, fell to a shock defeat by Marlon Vera at UFC 252 last year as he lost his undefeated record. But the American bounced back in style as he picked Almeida apart through two rounds before eventually finishing his man midway through the third to improve his record to 13 wins and one loss.
There was also a notable victory for welterweight Abubakar Nurmagomedov. The cousin of recently retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov delivered a dominant performance to win all three rounds on all three scorecards and defeat American Jared Gooden to pick up the 16th MMA win of his career, and his first in the UFC.