Francis Ngannou wants a shot at the UFC heavyweight championship. On Saturday night, he made a compelling case for one.
Ngannou, the No. 2-ranked contender, scored a technical knockout of No. 3 Junior Dos Santos, a former champion, only 1 minute, 11 seconds into the first round during UFC Fight Night at Target Center.
Ngannou, a Cameroon native fighting out of Paris, is hopeful that he’ll face either champion Daniel Cormier or Stipe Miocic after those two meet Aug. 17.
“I feel very good,” said Ngannou, who improved to 14-3. “I’m very happy, and I hope the UFC realizes that I deserve the title shot and the winner of DC and Stipe. I need some respect.”
He got that respect from Dos Santos and the announced crowd of 10,123 with his quick, dominant work.
In the decisive moment, Dos Santos threw a lunging right toward Ngannou, leaving himself off-balance and exposed. Ngannou caught Dos Santos with three shots to the head before the Brazilian fell. Six more punches to Dos Santos’ head prompted referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
“That power. He connected, and it’s done,” Dos Santos said. “One more victim of him.”
‘Crochet Boss’ by TKO
With the crowd roaring as he entered the ring and chanting “Maur-ice! Maur-ice!” as he rained down blows on his opponent, the Crochet Boss delivered for Minnesota.
St. Cloud heavyweight Maurice Greene scored a first-round technical knockout over Brazil’s Junior Albini in the opening preliminary bout. Greene, known for his appearance on “The Ultimate Fighter” and for his hobby of crocheting hats, stopped Albini 3:38 into the first round.
Greene, 32, improved to 8-3 overall and 3-0 as a UFC fighter, while dropping Albini to 14-6.
Winning in Minnesota was special for Greene, who grew up in upstate New York but has lived in St. Cloud for nearly six years.
“A week I felt kind of weird. I was super relaxed, super calm,” Greene said. Discussions with his coaches, Brock Larson in St. Cloud and Marc Montoya in Englewood, Colo., gave him a sense that he was ready for a strong performance. “They pretty much told me the same thing. ‘It’s called being prepared, Maurice, being prepared.’ ”
Greene and Albini traded leg kicks early in the fight, and each landed a couple of punches. Albini had Greene pinned to the fence, but the Crochet Boss managed to free himself.
“It was, keep the distance and keep him at bay and every once in a while be a sniper,” Greene said of his strategy. “When I could strike and hit him, I hit him. As you can see, those paid dividends.”
Greene, who has won seven of his past eight fights, knocked Albini down twice, the second coming on a big right hook to Albini’s head.
“Pitch perfect, as far as I’m concerned,” Larson said of Greene’s performance.
If Greene has his way, his next opponent will be Andrei Arlovski, a 40-year-old former heavyweight champion. Greene used to live in Chicago, where Arlovski is based. “I think we should go ahead and set something up, big homey,” Greene said.
Martin, Moret lose
Welterweight Anthony Rocco Martin, who fights out of St. Cloud and has Larson as one of his coaches, lost a unanimous decision to Brazil’s Demian Maia on the main card. Martin had a strong third round as Maia tired, but all three judges scored it 29-28, much to the chagrin of the Minnesota crowd. “Rocco was pretty tough,” Maia said.
Dan Moret of Mankato lost a unanimous decision to Jared Gordon of New York City in a preliminary lightweight bout.
In the co-main event, No. 2- ranked flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez of Sacramento scored a TKO over No. 1 Jussier Forminga of Brazil at 4:42 of the second round. Benavidez’s kick to Forminga’s head started the flurry that ended the match.