Weekend Warrior: Homerun Hitters Take UFC on ESPN Stage
The identity of the next No. 1 contender for the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title could soon be revealed. Francis Ngannou will lock horns with former champion Junior dos Santos on Saturday in the UFC on ESPN 3 headliner at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The winner may move on to face either Daniel Cormier or Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight crown later this year. Meanwhile, Joseph Benavidez rematches one-time Shooto Americas titleholder Jussier Formiga in the flyweight co-main event.
Ngannou, 32, revived his career by snapping a two-fight losing streak with back-to-back sub-minute knockouts of Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez. All 13 of the monstrous 6-foot-4, 260-pound Frenchman’s professional victories have come by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Ngannou has compiled an 8-2 record since joining the UFC roster in 2015.
Cover Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC / Contributor (Getty Images)
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Francis Ngannou punches Cain Velasquez. Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)
The resurgent dos Santos finds himself on a three-fight winning streak after beating Derrick Lewis, Tai Tuivasa, and Blagoy Ivanov in succession. The 35-year-old Brazilian has delivered 15 of his 21 career wins by knockout or technical knockout. As one of the UFC’s premier heavyweights for much of the past decade, his resume includes victories over the aforementioned Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Filipovic, Frank Mir, and Mark Hunt.
UFC on ESPN 3—which airs live on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT—also features a welterweight clash matching Demian Maia with Anthony Rocco Martin, a light heavyweight encounter pitting Alonzo Menifield against Paul Craig and a pair of lightweight tilts, as Roosevelt Roberts meets Vinc Pichel and Drew Dober faces Marco Polo Reyes. ESPN will also provide coverage of the entire seven-fight undercard at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. ET.
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Junior dos Santos punches Blagoy Ivanov. Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)
On the regional scene, the Titan Fighting Championship organization on Friday returns to Xtreme Action Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Juan Puerta will defend his flyweight title against Claudio Ledesma in the Titan 35 headliner, which streams to UFC Fight Pass at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. Puerta, 31, has rattled off five consecutive victories.