Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

UFC Beijing results: Francis Ngannou beats Curtis Blaydes by TKO in 45 seconds and roars ‘I’m back’

  • ‘The Predator’ snaps two-fight losing streak with quick win
  • China’s Song Yadong, Li Jingliang and Zhang Weili shine
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2018, 9:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2018, 7:10pm

It had always felt like the UFC’s debut in Beijing would need an exclamation point, a final flourish to announce the world’s leading MMA fight promotion had finally come to town.

Cue Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (12-3) and a 45-second destruction of American Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (10-2, one no contest) that places the Cameroonian-Frenchman front and centre in terms of world heavyweight title contention.

“I’m f****** back,” Ngannou could be overheard saying on the broadcast as he pounded his chest. And so UFC Fight Night 141 came to a stunning and complete finish.

It was a swinging right that did the damage, putting Blaydes on his knees and then the follow-ups ended the affair.

“It feels really good,” Ngannou said in the Octagon. “I have come up from the bottom of the world to be here.”

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Ngannou had come to the Chinese capital with the shadow of two losses hanging over his head, and the word – among his rivals at least – that his brain space wasn’t quite where it should be.

Against Stipe Miocic (18-3) he was outfought and then against Derek “The Black Beast” Lewis (21-6, one no contest), Ngannou looked borderline disinterested. Not any more.

UFC Beijing results: Zhang Weili submits Jessica Aguilar at Fight Night 141 to announce herself as title threat

“I have learned more in this past year than in my whole life,” Ngannou said.

Blaydes is a fighter who brings an “X” factor of his own, with a punching ground game and the ability to throw the world’s largest MMA fighters around like rag dolls. He never got a chance to move.

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At the post-fight press conference, Ngannou admitted he had been caught up in that loss to Miocic and forgotten why he started as an MMA fighter – to have fun.

“I feel great,” Ngannou said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had my hand raised inside the Octagon. I didn’t think it would be that quick, I wanted to take it slowly and let what happens, happen. Next, I’m ready for some ass to kick.”

The UFC had obviously wanted to impress the locals on the Las Vegas-based organisation’s debut in Beijing, given the market potential and the fact they had last Tuesday announced an investment of an estimated US$13 million in a new performance institute in Shanghai.

The Chinese fighters the UFC has on its books kept their part of the bargain, for the most part, going a combined 6-3 across the night.

Rising strawweight Zhang “Magnum” Weili (17-1) was the star of the preliminaries, making light work of Mexican-American Jessica “Jag” Aguilar (20-7) and immediately throwing herself into the title mix.

A relative newcomer in 20-year-old Song “The Monkey King” Yadong (13-3, two no contests) and an old stager in Li “The Leech” Jingliang (16-5) then warmed the crowd up for the main events.

The veteran heavyweight Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (44-17, one no contest) wasn’t going to let Ngannou hog all the limelight. The 38-year-old destroyed UFC newcomer Sergei Pavlovich (12-1), planting the Russian on his back and then pounding hammer blows until the ref dove in to end it at 4.21 of the first.

“The Reem is back,” he said afterwards and it’s a wide open heavyweight division these days so hope – like Overeem’s fountain of youth – springs eternal.

There’s been a lot of attention thrown Song’s way, since he burst on the scene with a win at UFC Shanghai last November. Song is now 3-0 across 12 months and while he didn’t get the finish he had predicted against a late call-up in American Vince “Vandetta” Morales (8-3), he showed flashes of what all the excitement is about.

The decision was unanimous and Song believed he “missed a lot of chances to finish him off.”

“I think I’m a little happy,” he said. “My opponent was very tenacious. I am very grateful to my family, team and fans for supporting me. I don’t have much time to spend with my family, but in my heart I’m very grateful to them. Next, I will take a good rest and continue on training, prepare for the next battle.”

“The Leech” was earlier up to his old tricks.

The veteran welterweight – and crowd pleaser – was dropped early by David “Sagat” Zawada (17-4) but he picked himself up, and started to pick the German apart the longer their bout went on.

Around 4.07 in the last, and when it counts the most, Li unleashed a brutal butter-up belly kicked that sunk Zawada sideways. A few blows to follow up and the letters they wrote spelt TKO. Fair play for the German for stepping in at late notice but the feeling was that the hometown hero was never going to let his faithful down.

“I am a legend. I am Leech,” he screamed into the microphone inside the cage afterwards, almost blowing announcer Dan Hardy away with his enthusiasm. And it wasn’t like anyone in the arena was going to doubt him.

“This is mixed martial arts and anything can happen inside the Octagon. Every fighter in the UFC is a superman.”

At 30 years old now and with a record of 8-3 in the UFC, it is high time Li faced someone ranked high in the stacked welterweight division.