• Andrew Starc

5 best Francis Ngannou knockouts

The story of Francis Ngannou reads like that of an African superhero.

He's a man who seemed destined to rise from poverty and fulfil his God-given purpose – to knock the bejesus out of everyone in the UFC's heavyweight division.

'The Predator' is today one of the UFC's biggest draws, famous for serving giant knuckle sandwiches to anyone brave enough to step into the octagon with him. But he started in the humblest of humble beginnings.

Born in a tiny, impoverished village in Cameroon, at twelve years old Ngannou began toiling in a sand mine to help his family make ends meet.

Through hard, manual labour, Francis acquired the chiseled physique, strength, and work ethic that would see him become the scariest knock-out artist in UFC history.

“When we were working in the quarry, he could replace 2 or 3 workers all alone,” said one of Ngannou's fellow sand miners.

Immigrating to Europe with nothing but a dream

The son of a famed street-fighter, Ngannou began boxing at 22, with dreams of becoming a world-famous prize fighter.

“When I said I wanted to become a boxer they said ‘you are crazy, calm down, find a job, stop dreaming’. But I wanted to try," said Ngannou in an interview with The Sun.

“My village is small, no one ever believed that someone from there could become an international fighter, they said it was crazy."

However his big dreams were stifled in Cameroon.

“I was trapped. I was surrounded by nothing but rocks and trucks and starving people,” said Ngannou in an article for The Player's Tribune.

With just the clothes on his back and his dream of becoming a professional boxer, the Cameroonian set off for Europe.

He spent a year in Morocco, making several attempts to cross into Spain via sea. He eventually made it in 2013, before being sent to prison for two months for illegally crossing the border.

Once released from prison, Ngannou made his way to Paris, where he worked odd jobs and lived on the streets.

"For three months, I was homeless. I trained at any gym I could get into during the day, and spent the night alone on the streets," recalled Ngannou.

It was at this Paris gym that Francis transitioned from boxing to MMA, after being convinced to try it.

“To tell the truth, MMA wasn’t interesting to me. But I needed the money in it,” said Francis.

He soon made a name for himself on the French MMA circuit, before making his UFC debut in 2015. It's amazing to think that Ngannou only started training MMA at 26. By 31, he was fighting Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title.

Francis Ngannou's best knockouts

While falling short of capturing the title against Miocic, many believe Francis will soon become champ.

It was a career slump that saw him lose his subsequent fight against Derek Lewis. But since then, Ngannou has recreated himself as the scariest dude on the roster.

In his last four fights since the Lewis loss, he's spent only 2 minutes and 42 seconds in the Octagon. It's a testament to his punching power, which has been much touted by Dana White.

“Francis Ngannou holds the world record for the most powerful punch," said White at the Miocic vs Ngannou pre-fight press conference in 2018.

"His punch is the equivalent of 96 horsepower, which is the equivalent of being hit by Ford Escort at top speed. It’s also the equivalent of being hit by a sledgehammer being swung full force from overhead. Holy shit!”

So let's take a look at Ngannou's impressive, brain-rattling body of work. Here are his top 5 knockouts in the UFC.

5. Francis Ngannou knockout of Junior Dos Santos

Former UFC heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos, while not the force he once was, came into his bout with Ngannou on an impressive three-fight win streak.

Just three months prior, the Brazilian had TKO'd noted knockout artist Derek Lewis, and seemed a game opponent for Ngannou. Some thought the experience of Dos Santos could see him avoid the fate of an early knockout.

The bout opened with the duo exchanging vicious leg kicks, before the usually measured Dos Santos leapt in with a winging right at Francis. That's all the opening Ngannou needed to crack the Brazilian on the temple and end the fight.

It took just over a minute for Francis to dispense of Dos Santos – one of his longer bouts in recent times.

4. Francis Ngannou knockout of Cain Velasquez

It was supposed be former UFC heavyweight champ Cain Veslasquez's glorious return to the Octagon. It ended up being his retirement fight – all 26 seconds of it.

It was almost three years since Velasquez's last fight, and only his fourth fight in just over five. Persistent injury and father time had turned Cain into a mere shadow of the fighter he once was – widely considered the best heavyweight ever.

Velasquez opened proceedings with some ineffectual kicks, before attempting a takedown on Ngannou. Taking Ngannou to the ground is a wise strategy, but not without its perils.

Cain was clipped by a giant Ngannou knuckle-sandwich and collapsed to the ground, before Francis finished off the job.

A few months later, Velasquez was cut by the UFC.

3. Francis Ngannou knockout of Luis Henrique

It was Ngannou's UFC debut, and the Cameroonian definitely made his mark. This was long before Francis was a household name, famous for his one-punch-fight-ending power.

The fight was also Brazilian Henrique's first fight in the UFC. You have to question your luck when your entry into the big leagues means fighting a monster like Ngannou.

To Henrique's credit, he did make it into the second round, before Francis landed a vicious uppercut that saw the Brazilian collapse in pieces to the ground. Ngannou landed a brutal hammer fist for good measure, on a man so already concussed that he probably thought he was back in Rio De Janeiro lying on a beach.

2. Francis Ngannou knockout of Jairzinho Rozenstruik

A battle between the two most devastating knockout artists in the heavyweight division was never going to last long. And it didn't.

But for 20 seconds, fight fans were on tenterhooks to see who would land the first blow.

Rozenstruik came into the fight with impressive knockout pedigree – 9 out of his 10 fights had ended with 'Bigi Boy' knocking out his opponent. He was coming off 4 wins in the UFC, including a knockout of Allen Crowder in nine seconds.

So Bigi Boy's knockout credentials were definteily there. And he was undefeated. Which made Ngannou's 20 second destruction of him even more impressive.

In the fight, Francis did his best impression of an African windmill, lunging in at Jairzinho with a flurry of winging punches. Bigi Boy caught one on the chin, and that was that.

1. Francis Ngannou knockout of Alistair Overeem

It's perhaps the most iconic knockout in UFC history. Fight fans had never seen Overeem's head jerk back so violently. Nor his body stiffen and toes curl so disturbingly whilst on the octagon floor.

The fight was Ngannou's sixth in the UFC, with the Cameroonian coming off three first-round victories, including a brutal TKO of Andrei Arlovski. Overeem was coming off a two-fight win streak.

Leading into the fight, Overeem had branded tales of Ngannou's power as "fake news." He humbly corrected this oversight post fight, characterizing his knockout blow from Francis as an "uppercut from hell."

The knockout earned Ngannou MMA Fighting's 2017 Knockout of the Year award.

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