Francis Ngannou took a huge step toward proving he's the future of the heavyweight division with a first-round knockout victory over Alistair Overeem in the co-main event of UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
The Reem came out trying to clinch with Ngannou—a good idea given the incredible power Ngannou possesses. However, the hulking heavyweight was able to flip position and trap Overeem against the cage.
After some stalling against the cage, referee Dan Miragliotta decided to separate the two. That was bad news for Overeem. Ngannou unleashed a massive left hook that instantly turned out the lights and announced himself as one of the most dangerous men in the division.
Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports immediately compared it to a legendary heavyweight knockout:
Kevin Iole @KevinI
Unbelievable. Counter left hook from Ngannou and Reem was out instantly. It was like George Foreman battering Joe Frazier in 1973. Yowza.2017-12-3 04:55:57
After the fight, Joe Rogan told Ngannou he would be fighting Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight championship. The Cameroon native didn't shy away from that challenge:
Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani
Ngannou on fighting for the belt next: “I’m ready for that. I’m ready than ever.”2017-12-3 04:59:28
It certainly is an interesting fight after this result. ESPN's Brett Okamoto summed up how most are probably feeling about that potential matchup:
Brett Okamoto @bokamotoESPN
Stipe vs. Francis is a freaking dream matchup after that. Show me that. Please.2017-12-3 04:59:29
The win sets up even bigger and better things for the 31-year-old. Ngannou has experienced a meteoric rise since joining the UFC in December 2015. He's now 6-0 in the Octagon, and a title shot could be in his future sooner rather than later.
Of course, White's word doesn't always necessarily mean it's going to happen, but Ngannou already started campaigning for his title shot before taking on Overeem.
"Stipe took the belt from (Fabricio) Werdum, and that was not a long time ago," Ngannou said, per Simon Samano and Ken Hathaway of MMAjunkie. "Yes, Werdum deserves, but right now I deserve it more. I win this fight, I will be the legit challenger."
Ngannou's rise to the top is one of the best stories in the UFC right now. The Cameroon native has risen from homelessness to UFC prominence thanks to a unique blend of size, athleticism and pure punching power.
He already holds the world record for highest recorded punching power:
Francis NGannou @francis_ngannou
I currently hold the world records of punching power #thepredator #UFC218 https://t.co/eZ1WLGaylU2017-11-24 21:24:26
Given his look, skills and knack for ending fights, it's no surprise he's getting a big push from the promotion. The heavyweight division has been short on new talent for a long time. The top 10 of the division is still marked with names like Werdum, Overeem, Cain Velasquez and Mark Hunt.
Ngannou's breaking into that tier of heavyweight contenders is exactly what the division needs.
Now all that's left to see is whether he's ready to be the champion after just six fights in the UFC. Miocic has become one of just five heavyweight champions to defend the belt twice consecutively. No one has defended it a third time.
Ngannou is hoping he can now become the main to keep that streak alive.