Francis Ngannou might have just regained his title as the scariest man in all of mixed marital arts.
After losing a lopsided decision to Stipe Miocic last year in his only shot at UFC gold followed by a puzzling performance against Derrick Lewis seven months later, Ngannou looked like a prospect gone bust.
It turns out those losses were just lessons learned for the ferocious fighter from Cameroon after Ngannou destroyed Curtis Blaydes in his last fight and then needed just 26 seconds to finish former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez on Sunday night.
Ngannou bouncing back in his last bout seemed to stave off many of the criticisms he had after two losses in a row but facing Velasquez as the ultimate proving ground to see if he was ready to contend for a title again one day soon.
Ngannou answered those questions emphatically after a rapid fire exchange with Velasquez that brought a swift end to the former champion’s night.
As the action got started, Velasquez was quick to get in Ngannou’s face and show no fear of his opponent’s power. That strategy backfired in a hurry when Ngannou started swinging the sledgehammers he calls arms at Velasquez in devastating fashion.
That forced Velasquez to rush forward looking for a takedown but he got bombarded by shots from Ngannou as he dove to get inside. Velasquez managed to get the action pressed against the cage but that’s when Ngannou connected with a short right hand that twisted the former heavyweight champion’s head around on a swivel.
A split second later, Velasquez was falling to the mat with his knee buckling underneath him as he shouted out in pain. Ngannou followed up with a few more shots but the fight was already over as the referee rushed into stop the contest.
— UFC (@ufc) February 18, 2019
The end came just 26 seconds into the first round.
“I promise you guys, I’m back,” Ngannou said following his knockout win. “You’re going to see me around again. I told you yesterday, I had some surprises for you. I hope you liked it.”
It was a nasty finish and a quick ending to the first ever UFC card on ESPN as Ngannou gets the biggest win of his career against a fighter routinely called the greatest talent the heavyweight division has ever seen.
Because Velasquez is teammates with current heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, it would be easy to sell a fight with Ngannou considering the result on Sunday night but for now he’s just going to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
“I’ve been waiting for this fight since two years ago because I have to face the adversity of a fighter like Cain to prove myself. I’m honored to be here. I’m happy also to have the win,” Ngannou said.
As for Velasquez, he made no excuses for his defeat and raised Ngannou’s hand in victory after the fight was over. While he obviously has to get his knee checked out after this fight, Velasquez sounds determined to compete again in the near future assuming he can stay healthy.
“I stayed a little too close, a little too early. That’s what happened,” Velasquez said about the loss. “What are you going to do? I felt super ready for this fight. This is why this sport is so great. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m truly sorry for this.”