UFC Beijing: Ngannou finishes Blaydes with early KO

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Francis Ngannou ends a mixed 2018 with a blistering 45-second knockout in Beijing. Photo: Zuffa LLC / Getty Images.

Hulking Cameroon-born Frenchman Francis Ngannou had a tough year in 2018, but he ended it in spectacular style with a blistering 45-second finish of fellow contender Curtis Blaydes in the main event of UFC Fight Night 141 in Beijing, China.

Ngannou had blazed a trail to a title shot, with his highlight-reel knockout of Alistair Overeem prompting many to label him the heavyweight champion-elect. But Stipe Miocic schooled him over five rounds in an embarrassingly one-sided title fight, then Ngannou lost one of the worst fights in heavyweight history with Derrick Lewis as his UFC stock crashed over the course of two fights.

But his heavy-handed demolition of Blaydes in their heavyweight rematch has propelled him right back into the upper echelons of the division once again, and he said he’s targeting the likes of Alexander Volkov and Junior dos Santos for a future bout as he looks to build his way back to another title shot.

And with renewed determination to make it to the top, plus scary punch power like that, he’s going to be a terrifying proposition for anyone he faces in 2019.

Return of “The Reem”

It proved to be a baptism of fire for Russian heavyweight newcomer Sergey Pavlovich, who lost his UFC debut – and his undefeated record – against Dutch legend Alistair Overeem in the night’s co-main event.

Overeem used the clinch to eventually drag Pavlovich to the mat where, trapped on his back and up against the fence, there was no way out. ‘The Reem’ then unloaded a barrage of heavy-handed ground and pound that finished Pavlovich with 39 seconds of the first round to spare. It was a dominant performance from Overeem, who isn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet.

Song Rolls On

Chinese bantamweight Song Yadong was expected to deliver the goods against late replacement Vince Morales and he never looked in any real trouble as he claimed a shutout unanimous decision on the scorecards.

Song’s performance earned scores of 30-27 from all three judges as he claimed his third straight win since joining the UFC. He’s now riding a six-fight win streak and should get a more experienced name in his next fight. Perhaps a rebooked match with the man he was originally set to fight in Beijing – Frankie Saenz – would be worth a look.

Song Yadong claims a UD victory in Beijing. Photo: Photo: Zuffa LLC / Getty Images.

“The Leech” Battles Through

It wasn’t plain sailing for Li Jingliang, but the Chinese fan favourite bounced back from a shock early knockdown to stop Germany’s David Zawada in their welterweight bout.

Zawada, stepping in for his second short-notice fight since joining the UFC, put up another admirable showing and put the local hero on his backside in the early exchanges with a solid punch.

But Li recovered well, settled into his rhythm and went on to win the bout late in the final round.

A powerful side kick to the body folded up Zawada, and a couple of well-placed punches forced the referee to step in as the Chinese welterweight star earned the 16th win of his MMA career.

With back-to-back wins to his name, and a run of 6-1 in his last seven outings inside the octagon, expect ‘The Leech’ to be moved up the rankings for his next bout.

The Leech rises and defeats David Zawada. Photo: Zuffa LLC / Getty Images.

China Delivers the Goods

It was a great night for Chinese MMA overall, with Chinese fighters winning six of the 12 bouts on the card. In addition to Song and Li’s main card victories, the Beijing crowd showed their appreciation for a quartet of home-grown wins on the preliminary card.

Wu Yanan claimed a first-round armbar finish of American Lauren Mueller, Xiaonan Yan defeated Japan’s Syuri Kondo by unanimous decision and Liu Pingyuan edged out Martin Day via split decision.

But arguably the most impressive Chinese win of the night came from 29-year-old strawweight Zhang Weili, who needed just three minutes 41 seconds to armbar Brazilian veteran Jessica Aguilar. That win will have made the UFC’s matchmakers sit up and take notice, as will her remarkable career record. Since losing her professional debut, Zhang has won 18 fights in a row, finishing 16 of them.

She’s definitely one to keep an eye on as the UFC looks to grow their presence in this part of the world.

The 29-year-old strawweight Zhang Weili needed just three minutes 41 seconds to armbar Brazilian veteran Jessica Aguilar. Photo: Matt Eaton.

UFC Beijing: Official Results

Heavyweight bout
Francis Ngannou defeats Curtis Blaydes
TKO (punches) at 0:45 of R1

Heavyweight bout
Alistair Overeem defeats Sergey Pavlovich
TKO (ground and pound) at 4:21 of R1

Bantamweight bout
Song Yadong defeats Vince Morales
Unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Welterweight bout
Li Jingliang defeats David Zawada
TKO (body kick and punches) at 4:07 of R3

Preliminary Card

Welterweight bout
Alex Morono defeats Kenan Song
Unanimous decision (30-27, 3027, 30-27)

Women’s Flyweight bout
Wu Yanan defeats Lauren Mueller
Submission (armbar) at 4:00 of R1

Catchweight bout
Rashad Coulter defeats Hu Yaozong
Unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Women’s Strawweight bout
Zhang Weili defeats Jessica Aguilar
Submission (armbar) at 3:41 of R1

Bantamweight bout
Liu Pingyuan defeats Martin Day
Split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Women’s Strawweight bout
Xiaonan Yan defeats Syuri Kondo
Unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Middleweight bout
Kevin Holland defeats John Phillips
Submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:05 of R3

Bantamweight bout
Louis Smolka defeats Su Mudaerji
Submission (armbar) at 2:07 of R2

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