Francis Ngannou Needs Just 45 Seconds to Finish Curtis Blaydes in UFC China Main Event
Francis Ngannou is back in a big way.
The ferocious heavyweight stormed back from a two fight losing streak and put an exclamation point on his rematch against Curtis Blaydes with a stunning 45-second TKO to cap off the UFC’s latest trip to China on Saturday.
There’s no doubt that the pressure was mounting on Ngannou after back-to-back defeats when it appeared he was poised to be the next big thing in the UFC when 2018 began. Unfortunately, Ngannou lost a lopsided decision to former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in January and then put on a truly bizarre performance against Derrick Lewis in July to mark his second straight loss.
When he got matched up against Blaydes in the main event from China, many believed that Ngannou was being fed to the sharks so a new heavyweight title contender could emerge. Ngannou had defeated Blaydes two years earlier and this seemed like a set up for revenge rather than redemption for the Cameroon native.
The narrative for the fight changed in a hurry after Ngannou uncorked a clubbing right hand that blasted Blaydes behind the ear during one of the initial exchanges on the feet.
The force of the punch not only hurt Blaydes but it sent him careening head first into the canvas. Ngannou was quick to follow up as referee Marc Goddard kept a close eye on the action to make sure the fight should be allowed to continue.
Blaydes found a way back to his feet but it was short lived success as he soon got caught by another wrecking ball disguised as Ngannou’s fist that sent him back down to the mat again. Ngannou continued the assault but Goddard had already seen enough as he quickly stepped in between the fighters to stop the carnage before it got any worse.
Blaydes attempted to protest the stoppage but with blood streaming down the side of his face and his legs still wobbled beneath him it was clear Goddard did his job.
The official stoppage came at 45 seconds into the opening round as Ngannou earned the TKO victory.
“I feel great, it’s been a while since I’ve had my hand raised inside the Octagon,” Ngannou said following the shutout victory. “I didn’t think it would be that quick, I wanted to take it slowly and let what happens, happen. Next, I’m ready for some ass to kick.”
After the fight was finished, Ngannou wasted no time turning his attention to a trio of potential opponents. Of course, Ngannou would like the chance to avenge his loss to Miocic while also mentioning Junior dos Santos and Alexander Volkov as fighters he’d like to face when he returns to action in 2019.
The win answered a lot of questions about Ngannou’s standing in the division, especially after Blaydes had gone undefeated for his past six straight fights and looked like a future title contender himself. Now Ngannou is back in the winner’s circle and ready to begin his climb up the rankings until he has returned to title contention.
The co-main event also served as a return to form for Alistair Overeem as he staved off a third straight loss by smashing Russian newcomer Sergei Pavlovich with a first round TKO of his own.
Overeem had suffered back-to-back defeats to the two fighters competing in the main event and while there’s certainly no shame in falling to a pair of top five ranked heavyweights, the former Strikeforce and K-1 champion had no desire to fall to 0-3 in his past three fights.
With a new team behind him after joining Team Elevation in Colorado, Overeem showcased a patient striking attack until he got Pavlovich down on the ground late in the opening round.
That’s where Overeem dropped a right hand that absolutely exploded on Pavlovich’s jaw and he was immediately forced to cover up before absorbing any more damage. Overeem smelled blood in the water and began unleashing a series of brutal punches that forced the referee to swoop into save the Russian.
Overeem returned to the win column while Pavlovich suffered the first defeat of his career in his UFC debut.
“I feel great obviously, we’re back on the winning streak,” Overeem said. “It’s never nice to lose, every fight is a test and we came back again. Sergei is physically very strong, he’s still young he’s got a beautiful future ahead of him – but not over my dead body. I’ll be back again, I’m motivated and fired up. I had a great connection with Team Elevation so we’re now going to be continuing the road to the top.”
Here are the rest of the results from UFC Fight Night in Beijing, China
MAIN EVENT: Francis Ngannou def. Curtis Blaydes by TKO (strikes) at 45 seconds, R1
Alistair Overeem def. Sergey Pavlovich by TKO (strikes) at 4:21, R1
Song Yadong def. Vince Morales by unanimous decision (30-27 on all scorecards)
Li Jingliang def. David Zawada by TKO (strikes) at 4:07, R3
Alex Morono def. Kenan Song by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Wu Yanan def. Lauren Mueller by submission (armbar) at 4:00, R1
Rashad Coulter def. Hu Yaozong by unanimous decision (29-28. 29-28, 30-27)
Weili Zhang def. Jessica Aguilar by submission (armbar) at 3:41, R1
Pingyuan Liu def. Martin Day by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Yan Xiaonan def. Syuri Kondo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Kevin Holland def. John Phillips by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:05, R3
Louis Smolka def. Su Mudaerji by submission (armbar) at 2:07, R2