From working in poverty-stricken sand quarries in a little town in Africa as a kid to becoming one of the most devastating knockout artists in MMA, UFC's #1 heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou has come a long way.
Francis Ngannou is truly gifted. The work ethic and strength the heavyweight fighter is known for has come from slogging it out in a quarry in a town in Cameroon as a 12-year-old kid, trying to make ends meet.
Ngannou escaped poverty, got imprisoned in Spain for illegal immigration and slept on the sidewalks in Paris before making his UFC debut in 2015. If that was not enough, he had started training for MMA only when he was 26.
Six years later, Francis Ngannou will now have the opportunity to become a UFC champion when he takes on Stipe Miocic in a rematch for the heavyweight title at UFC 260 on March 27, 2021.
Nicknamed 'The Predator', Francis Ngannou (16-3-0) has 12 victories by knockout and four by submission, and the three fights he has lost have all been unanimous decisions.
Following a slump that saw him lose his title bout against Stipe Miocic and a subsequent fight against Derrick Lewis, Francis Ngannou has spent less than three cumulative octagon minutes (2 minutes and 42 seconds) in his last four wins.
Known for knocking out most of his opponents in the first round, Francis Ngannou has the strongest punch of them all in UFC. On that note, let's take a look at five of the deadliest knockout wins of Francis Ngannou in his UFC career.
#5 Francis Ngannou vs Cain Velasquez
After staying away for almost three years, the former two-time heavyweight UFC champion Cain Velasquez made his comeback against Francis Ngannou in February 2019.
Although previously considered the best heavyweight fighter, Cain Velasquez didn't have a lot of money bet on him for this fight. That was because of the American martial artist's time out of the octagon due to persistent injuries and personal reasons.
Cain Velasquez started off by staying at a safe distance from Ngannou and dealing a few ineffective kicks before trying to mix things up with a takedown. It wasn't an unwise strategy, for sure, but one that was fraught with risk, especially against someone like Francis Ngannou.
As soon as Velazquez entered inside Ngannou's range, he was rattled by a powerful knuckle combo that sent him straight to the ground before 'The Predator' finished him off.
What was supposed to be a glorious comeback to the octagon for Cain Velasquez ended up being his retirement fight. Any guesses for how long the fight lasted? 26 seconds...
#4 Francis Ngannou vs Junior Dos Santos
Coming off of a three-win streak, the former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos was expected to provide a tough challenge for Francis Ngannou in the UFC event in 2019.
Although he was past his prime, as believed by some UFC analysts, the Brazillian had recently TKO'd renowned knockout specialist Derrick Lewis and was thought capable of doing the same to Francis Ngannou.
Considering his superior experience, it was believed that Junior Dos Santos could avoid an early knockout against the relentless Francis Ngannou and take the fight to the later rounds.
However, that did not happen. The event started with both fighters dealing lethal leg kicks to each other. Dos Santos soon barged in with a swinging right, offering his back to Francis Ngannou in his follow-up. And that was all the room the Cameroonian needed.
It took just 71 seconds for Francis Ngannou to punch Dos Santos on his temple from behind before knocking him off. It should be noted that this was one of Francis Ngannou's relatively longer fights in recent years.
#3 Francis Ngannou vs Luis Henrique
His fight against Luis Henrique came long before Francis Ngannou became a fan-favourite. However, on his UFC debut in 2015, Ngannou did announce himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, it was also a UFC debut for Luis Henrique too. In hindsight, the Brazilian couldn't have drawn a worse opponent for his first UFC fight.
Luis Henrique deserved applause for extending the fight to the second round. But Francis Ngannou soon knocked out the Brazillian with a deadly upper-cut before ensuring with a hammer fist that Henrique was indeed out.
That move from Francis Ngannou on his UFC debut was named the 'Knockout of the Week' by UFC.
2 Francis Ngannou vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik
This fight lasted only 20 seconds, perhaps rightly so, as it was a bout between two of the deadliest knockout specialists in the UFC heavyweight division. The result could have gone either way, considering how well Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik matched up in size and knockout power.
In fact, Jairzinho Rozenstruik was coming off an impressive knockout spree, having put to sleep nine of his previous ten MMA opponents. Four of them had come on the trot in the UFC, a sequence which included a nine-second knockout of Allen Crowder.
However, all of that hardly mattered for Francis 'The Predator' Ngannou, who knocked out Rozenstruik in 20 seconds following a barrage of swinging knuckles. What made the win more impressive and the knockout more brutal was the fact that Rozenstruik was undefeated till then.
The sheer monstrosity of the Rozenstruik knockout made even the boxing legend Mike Tyson take to Twitter in awe as he tweeted: "Resounding ... vicious .... future champ. #FrancesNyngonu 20-second knockout 2nite #UFC249"
#1 Francis Ngannou vs Alistair Overeem
This win can be termed the deadliest knockout ever dealt by Francis Ngannou, not just in his UFC career but probably in the heavyweight division history as well.
Alistair Overeem was considered an absolute beast. But for him to get knocked out so brutally - his head swinging back in a whiplash, legs stiffening and toes curling - was an unforgettable sight.
While Francis Ngannou was coming off a three-fight win streak, Alistair Overeem had won his last two. Neither fighter was considered a favourite for this bout. In fact, Overseem had dismissed reports of Francis Ngannou's immense knockout power as 'fake news'.
However, Alistair Overeem's perceptions about that changed after the fight. He lauded The Predator's power, as he termed his own knockout the result of an 'uppercut from hell'.
Francis Ngannou's deadly knockout blow against Alistair Overeem earned him MMA Fighting's 2017 Knockout of the Year award.