For whatever reason, the UFC has seen a real run on sudden, violent first-minute finishes in high-profile fights. Amanda Nunes led us into 2019 by ending Cris Cyborg’s 20-fight win streak in 51 seconds and, one month later, Henry Cejudo upended sweaty weirdo Dana White’s plan to kill the flyweight division by demolishing T.J. Dillashaw in 32 seconds. If you were offered the whole UFC roster and asked to pick the next most likely candidate to crumple their opponent within a minute, you would have picked or at least considered heavyweight Francis Ngannou, who either rips opponents’ heads off or loses hilariously futile decisions.
He added another name to his list of victims last weekend, ending Cain Velasquez’s comeback in 26 sad seconds. Ngannou stuffed a takedown, then hit Velasquez a few times. Velasquez ate canvas as his knee crumpled, and the fight ended right there as Ngannou got in a few clean shots.
Velasquez either lost because his knee exploded at the worst possible time, or he lost because Ngannou beheaded him at close range despite not even getting to load up on his shots. Each participant in the fight has their own story. To Velasquez, he felt a pop in his knee and he was unable to defend himself. He called it a “freak accident,” saying Ngannou didn’t even hit him. “It was just the knee, he didn’t even, like, touch me, you know?” Velasquez said. “It was just the knee, as soon as I felt the knee just buckle, it was like I couldn’t believe that happened. And then that was it.”
Ngannou, meanwhile, claims that his little right-handed uppercut at close range actually blanched Velasquez. “No, because the knee buckled after an uppercut on his chin,” he said “You can look at the video about it, so you can find out and you will see the uppercut. That might be why his knee buckled, because he got disconnected.”
If you examine said video, Ngannou actually does clip Velasquez’s chin right before Velasquez’s knee slides out from under him. He doesn’t put much of his weight behind the punch, but Ngannou is a famously hard puncher mashing a dude who had a 30-month layoff.
And with this knockout, he’ll probably slide back up to the very top of the contender’s list for Daniel Cormier’s championship belt. Ngannou is nobody’s idea of a well-rounded fighter, but the heavyweight division is so shallow that he’ll probably be able to keep doing this against all but one or two fighters above him.