Heavyweight contenders Curtis Blaydes (#3) and Francis Ngannou (#4) squared off for the second time today (Saturday, November 24, 2018) from inside Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China, broadcast only on the UFC’s digital network, Fight Pass. Blaydes was riding six fights undefeated since their last encounter, while Ngannou was coming off the back of two straight losses. He came out guns blazing in a title shot, and after a rollercoaster of a first round, was ground into exhaustion by then-champion Stipe Miocic. Then, at UFC 226, he then didn’t do anything at all against Derrick Lewis, dropping a snoozer of a decision. Instead of a step back in competition, the UFC fed him to the streaking Blaydes, who was coming off wins over Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem. A win would put Ngannou right back into title contention, or cement Blaydes’ place at the front of the line, though champion Daniel Cormier seems more interested in a retirement fight with Brock Lesnar than facing down another earned contender.
They touched gloves. Ngannou opened with a lightning leg kick, then fended off an abortive takedown attempt from Blaydes. He knocked Blaydes down! Blaydes went down on his face and Ngannou seemed to wait a moment for the referee to step in. When he didn’t, Ngannou looked to finish as Blaydes struggled back to his feet. Ngannou was teeing off when the referee had seen enough and stepped between them. What a finish!
“Listen, man. I’m back!” Ngannou told Dan Hardy afterwards. “2018 was a hard year for me... I had to grow as a fighter. By the end of the year, I have learned more than my whole career.” He said he set his mind to throw, especially after his last fight with Lewis, in which he was incredibly hesitant. He said he had promised a show to the Chinese fans. He said Junior Dos Santos or Alexander Volkov would make sense for his next fight, but he really wants to avenge his loss to Stipe Miocic, saying he didn’t approach that fight correctly the first time and would love to ‘fix it’. If he keeps on winning like this, no doubt he will get the chance to fix it.
Official result: Francis Ngannou def. Curtis Blaydes via TKO at :44 seconds of Round 1
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