Ngannou dethrones Miocic with devastating KO

LAS VEGAS — From most feared to undisputed best, the Francis Ngannou era has begun.

Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic to win the UFC heavyweight title Saturday night at the UFC Apex. The finish came at 52 seconds of the second round.

Ngannou dropped Miocic with a left hand, and, after Miocic seemed to recover, he landed a combination and big punch on the ground to put Miocic out. Miocic had not been knocked out since 2012.

With this title win, Ngannou is now expected to fight UFC all-time great Jon Jones, who is moving up to heavyweight after dominating the light heavyweight division for the last decade.

“In my opinion, Jon Jones is the greatest of all time in mixed martial arts,” Ngannou said in his post-fight interview. “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.”

UFC president Dana White said Derrick Lewis is the fight to make next for Ngannou, but said the ball is in Jon Jones’ court. White said if Jones really wants to fight Ngannou for the title, the bout is his.

Jones, for his part, tweeted immediately after Ngannou’s win, “Show me the money.”

“If I’m Jon Jones and I’m home watching this fight, I start thinking of moving to [middleweight],” White said when told of Jones’ tweet. “What’s ‘show me the money’ mean? You can say you want to fight somebody — but do you really want to?”

Saturday’s main event was a rematch of a bout that Miocic won in fairly one-sided fashion over an unanimous decision at UFC 220 on Jan. 20, 2018.

Coming in, Miocic was atop ESPN’s heavyweight rankings with Ngannou at No. 2. ESPN had Miocic ranked No. 3 in the world pound-for-pound. Ngannou won the title by finishing a man who many, including UFC president Dana White, feel is the best heavyweight fighter in MMA history.

UFC 260 took place with COVID-19 protocols in effect at the UFC Apex, a facility across from the promotion’s corporate campus. The card could be the last UFC pay-per-view event to take place at the Apex without fans with the promotion going back to full arenas beginning with UFC 261 on April 24.

Ngannou (12-3) is perhaps the most dangerous knockout artist in UFC history. The Cameroon native, who lives and trains in Las Vegas, has won five in a row, all by first-round KO/TKO. In those last four bouts coming into Saturday, the 34-year-old Ngannou had stopped his opponents in 72 seconds or less. He has eight first-round finishes in 10 UFC wins.

Ngannou has 12 career knockout finishes overall. His 10 UFC knockouts are tied for the second-most in UFC heavyweight history behind Derrick Lewis (12). Ngannou is now the third African-born UFC champion, along with Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya. Usman was in Ngannou’s corner at UFC 260.

Miocic (20-4) is considered by many the best heavyweight champion in UFC history. The Ohio native, who still works part-time as a firefighter and EMT, has the most successful UFC heavyweight title defenses (4) ever, which is double the next men in that category.

Miocic, 38, was coming off a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Cormier in a trilogy bout at UFC 242 last August. He owns wins over former UFC heavyweight champs Cormier (twice), Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum and Andrei Arlovski. The only defeat he has not avenged in his career came against Stefan Struve in 2012, the lone knockout defeat of his career until Saturday night.

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