It’s always special whenever two big heavyweights step inside the Octagon, especially when they are two of the most talented fighters in the world.
Francis Ngannou (11-2) of France, originally from Cameroon, captured the UFC Heavyweight Championship last Saturday night, March 27, in the main event of UFC 260, behind a spectacular performance, knocking out longtime titleholder, Stipe Miocic (21-3) inside of two rounds.
Ngannou was dominant in the first round, showcasing all the improved skills and lessons he learned in the three years since he last met Miocic at the center of the Octagon. Ngannou was explosive early, but tactical to a degree, intelligently picking his spots.
In just under a minute into the second, Ngannou hurt Miocic and had him reeling from very powerful combinations.
A former aspiring boxer, Ngannou sent the American crashing to the canvas twice. Miocic recovered well from the first knockdown, even coming back and staggering Ngannou with a strong right hand. But The Predator just wasn’t going to be denied this evening, and came back with a thudding left hook that sealed the deal at the 52-second mark.
With his eyes glossed over, and Ngannou beating on him from the top, it was clear Miocic was not getting up, and the title would inevitably change hands.
The historic victory, which crowned Ngannou the first African-born UFC Heavyweight Champion, comes three years following their epic first encounter, when Miocic took home a five-round unanimous decision against the young phenom in 2018.
In that fight, Miocic effectively neutralized Ngannou’s vaunted power, winning every round. But it was evident that Ngannou had much room to grow, and continued to develop at a rapid pace after that loss.
In the highly-anticipated rematch, Ngannou overwhelmed Miocic, proving just too much for the 38-year-old and arguably the greatest UFC heavyweight of all time.
Ngannou was born and raised in the village of Batie, Cameroon. He grew up in extreme poverty, having little to no formal education. He eventually pursued boxing as a sport at the age of 22, and moved to France in hopes of turning professional. However, he spent two months in prison for illegally crossing the European border, after which he found himself homeless on the streets of Paris.
Not long after, Ngannou discovered MMA and dedicated himself fully to the sport. He made his UFC debut in December 2015. Years later, he is now a world champion.
The loss for Miocic emphatically ended his nearly six-year reign as the division’s best (with the exception of his lone loss to Daniel Cormier in 2018), and ushered in a new era for the feared Ngannou.
Speaking to the media, Ngannou referenced a more relaxed and calculated approach as being the difference-maker in this fight.
“The game plan was to be relaxed, not to rush at all. Calm down. My team knows that that’s the moment I have the best of myself. When I’m relaxed and not rushing,” Ngannou said at the post-fight press conference.
“When the journey is longer, the reward is always more appreciated. I’m sure I would have been happy three years ago, but I think now I have a different perspective about it, being happy with my improvement and my fighting IQ.”
Dana White also spoke highly of Ngannou, as he fielded questions, particularly about The Predator’s immediate future. The UFC President said veteran Derrick Lewis is on the horizon, as well as a super fight with Jon “Bones” Jones, although a rematch with Miocic himself was not out of the question.
“The guy we saw tonight is scarier than the guy we were afraid of yesterday. The guy is a physical freak. He’s a problem, he’s a scary dude,” White said at the press conference.
“If I’m Jon Jones and I’m home watching this fight, I start moving (back) to 185.”
Ngannou seemed to be up for the challenge.
“In my opinion, Jon Jones is the greatest of all time in mixed martial arts,” Ngannou said. “Him moving up is going to be a challenge I will take. It’ll be a very good challenge. … But this time I am the champ, he is coming up and looking for me. I am ready any time soon.”
Here are some of the best reactions to the main event of UFC 260:
Wow that was dominant.
What an incredible #goat run @stipemiocic had.
Nothing but respect for that guy.
A huge congrats to my brother @francis_ngannou.
The era of the Predator begins. #WarriorMana #UFC260
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) March 28, 2021
Congratulations Africa . Now you have 3 @ufc champions
— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) March 28, 2021
— Jeremy Stephens (@LiLHeathenMMA) March 28, 2021
Pure violence from Ngannou, destroyer of skulls.
— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) March 28, 2021
KING KONG!! KING KONG!! KING KONG!!
— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) March 28, 2021
Im in for Jones vs Francis ASAP.
— Funky (@Benaskren) March 28, 2021
Dare I say Ngonnou looks to be the more technical fighter ????
— Vinc Pichel (@FromHellPichel) March 28, 2021