The otherworldly punching power for which Francis
Ngannou has always been revered finally carried him to the
pinnacle of his profession.
“The Predator” cleared his final hurdle with room to spare, as he
took care of Stipe
Miocic with second-round punches and captured the undisputed
Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown in the
UFC 260 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Ngannou nailed the figurative coffin shut 52 seconds into Round 2,
drawing rave reviews for the strides he made since falling short in
the first meeting between the two titans in 2018.
Miocic shot for a takedown in the first round, only to crash and
burn. Ngannou pancaked him with a sprawl and unleashed a torrent of
destructive ground-and-pound that put the champion in a state of
mental and physical retreat. The one-minute respite between rounds
did Miocic no good. Ngannou staggered him with a short but
devastating left hook early in the second, withstood some return
fire and then uncorked a second left hook that folded the Euclid,
Ohio, where he stood. One final hammerfist from the Cameroon-born
Frenchman sealed the deal.
In the aftermath of UFC 260 “Miocic vs. Ngannou 2,” here are four
matches that ought to be made:
Ngannou vs. Jon
Jones: Ngannou has turned away five consecutive
opponents, none of whom survived to see a seventh minute against
him. The 34-year-old Xtreme Couture representative completed his
climb to the top of the heavyweight mountain with a performance
that left no doubt about his superiority, as he needed a little
more than a full round to wreck Miocic, an all-time great who had
lost just once in his previous nine appearances. While the UFC
could conceivably rematch Ngannou with Derrick
Lewis—the last man to defeat him—the smart money remains on
Jones. The polarizing pound-for-pound great relinquished his light
heavyweight crown following a controversial title defense against
Reyes in 2020 and announced his plan to move up in weight in a
bid to become a two-division champion. Ngannou-Jones could smash
Luque vs. Michael
Chiesa: An often-overlooked piece of the UFC’s
welterweight puzzle, Luque became the first man to submit Tyron
Woodley in the co-headliner, as he tapped the former champion
with a first-round brabo choke. Woodley conceded defeat 3:56 into
Round 1. Luque weathered some surprising aggression from the
Ferguson, Missouri, native and remained lucid despite wobbling on
the end of an overhand right. “The Silent Assassin” turned the
tables on Woodley with a counter right of his own, followed him to
the fence and drove him to the canvas, at which point he locked in
the choke and forced the tapout. Luque has rattled off three
straight victories since a November 2019 decision loss to Stephen
Thompson. Chiesa last appeared at UFC on ESPN 20, where he took
a unanimous decision from Neil Magny in
their Jan. 20 main event.
O’Malley vs. Merab
Stamann winner: O’Malley kept his detractors at bay
and rebounded from a Aug. 15 defeat to Marlon Vera,
as he punched out Thomas
Almeida in the third round of their bantamweight showcase.
Almeida bowed out 3:52 into Round 3. The talented but oft-injured
O’Malley has compiled a 5-1 record since joining the UFC roster in
2017 and remains a key player in the promotion’s plans moving
forward, provided he can stay healthy and active. For now, the
MMA Lab standout can continue to grow his skills on the fringes
of the Top 15 at 135 pounds. Dvalishvili and Stamann will lock
horns at UFC on ESPN 23 on May 1.
Maverick vs. Antonina
winner: It has not taken Maverick long to become a person
of interest in the women’s flyweight division. The Mackens
Semerzier protégé extended her current winning streak to five
fights and improved to 2-0 in the UFC with a unanimous decision
over Gillian Anderson in a three-round feature at 125 pounds.
Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Maverick. Just 23 years of
age, the 5-foot-3 powerhouse has ample time to develop into a
contender. Shevchenko and Lee have been booked opposite one another
at UFC 262 on May 15.