Francis Ngannou was taken to school the first time he fought longtime champ Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title.
He clearly learned the lesson.
The Las Vegas resident knocked out Miocic in the rematch at the Apex in the main event of UFC 260 on Saturday night to win the belt.
“I don’t know if I can find the words in my vocabulary to express how this feels,” he said. “It feels so amazing.”
Ngannou, arguably the most devastating striker in the sport, was taken down repeatedly and bullied against the cage by Miocic in the first matchup in 2018 before losing a unanimous decision.
Miocic attempted just one takedown on Saturday night and paid the price. Ngannou sprawled to stuff it, then threw Miocic to the ground and landed a series of right hands before getting back to his feet.
Ngannou dropped Miocic early in the second round with a left. He got back to his feet and landed a solid right hand, but Ngannou delivered another left as Miocic charged in to double him over with his knee bent underneath him. Ngannou followed with a crushing right hand on the ground to officially end the reign of the most decorated heavyweight champion in UFC history.
Ngannou credited the loss he took in the first fight for showing him the improvements he needed to make in his game.
“January 20, 2018 was the biggest night of my life,” Ngannou said, recalling the date of his loss to Miocic. “It might sound weird to say this, but I knew I didn’t lose that fight (because) I gained experience and learned about mixed martial arts and how to manage a fight. I had a great outcome from that fight. It was a great benefit from that fight and I believe that benefit pushed me higher.”
Former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley suffered his fourth straight loss when he was choked out by Vicente Luque in the co-main event.
It was the first submission loss of Woodley’s career.
Luque has now won three straight and nine of his past 10 to move into contention.
Woodley, who has been criticized for starting slow, came out aggressively and landed several good shots before he was staggered by a punch at close range. The former champion stumbled to the corner and held himself up against the cage as he launched one more big right hand. Luque and Woodley both went to the ground, where Luque locked in a D’Arce choke.
Bantamweight star Sean O’Malley bounced back from his first career loss by knocking out Thomas Almeida late in the third round.
O’Malley believed he ended the fight twice.
After a head kick and a big punch that dropped Almeida in the first round, O’Malley walked away from the action and celebrated only to notice the referee had never called a stop to the action.
He then dropped Almeida again in the third and gave a quick glance to the referee before dropping a devastating right hand to a downed Almeida that ended all doubts.
Women’s flyweight prospect Miranda Maverick improved to 2-0 in the UFC with a unanimous-decision victory over Gillian Robertson.
The 23-year-old, who is currently working on a PhD in Industrial Psychology at Old Dominion, survived a couple submission attempts in the second round and controlled the rest of the fight.
Also on the main card, lightweight Jamie Mullarkey needed just 46 seconds to knock out Khama Worthy.
Alonzo Menifield highlighted the preliminary card with a Von Flue choke submission of Fabio Cherant 1:11 into the first round to snap a two-fight losing streak in a fight contested at a catchweight after Cherant missed the light heavyweight limit by a half-pound.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov, a cousin and training partner of retired former lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, bounced back from a loss in his UFC debut to earn a unanimous decision over Jared Gooden.