Regardless of what happens at UFC 241 in August, Francis Ngannou (14-3) is going to be waiting on the other side, likely for a heavyweight title shot.
That opportunity to fight for the title should come after Ngannou needed just one minute and 11 seconds to end former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos’s (21-7) night with a heavy-handed knockout at UFC on ESPN 3 Saturday night in Minneapolis.
Ngannou opened the bout with two blistering leg kicks before dos Santos dropped him with a snapping leg kick of his own. Ngannou popped back up and overwhelmed dos Santos with a flurry of punches, dropping the former champ and forcing a referee stoppage.
A year and a half ago, it was fair to question if Ngannou could recover from what looked like a career-defining loss. Seen as one of the fastest rising stars in the UFC, he was dominated and embarrassed by Stipe Miocic in his lone title opportunity. Ngannou didn’t look himself seven months later in a decision loss to Derrick Lewis.
But the rising contender has recovered remarkably since those back-to-back losses in 2018, knocking out Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and dos Santos all in less than three minutes. After the fight, he used his mic time to plead to UFC president Dana White for a title shot, no matter if its Daniel Cormier or Miocic who comes out of UFC 241 on top. We’ll have to see if White will oblige his request, but if the Nagannou who has shown up the last three fights would step into the octagon against either opponent, he’d be a serious threat to win his first title in the promotion.
For dos Santos, the loss snaps a three-win streak and sets the 35 year old back in his chase in a return to glory.