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Junior dos Santos says matchup next with Francis Ngannou would be ‘great’

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Wichita-Lewis vs Dos Santos Kelly Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Junior dos Santos is once again knocking on the door of a heavyweight title shot.

The former UFC heavyweight champion has now won three in a row after a second-round TKO victory over Derrick Lewis in the main event of UFC Wichita on Saturday night in Kansas. The last two of those were stoppages.

That can only mean that next up for dos Santos is a No. 1 contender-type of fight or something close in a top-heavy (no pun intended) division. It could also mean a highly anticipated matchup with Francis Ngannou, who is coming off a first-round TKO of former champ Cain Velasquez last month.

“I think that would be great,” dos Santos said on the UFC Wichita post-fight show on ESPN+. “It should have happened in the past, but something weird happened. Maybe now, it can happen.”

Dos Santos (21-5) was scheduled to fight Ngannou at UFC 215 in September 2017, but he tested positive for a prohibited substance in a USADA drug test and was pulled from that bout. Dos Santos ended up getting cleared of taking a performance-enhancing drug intentionally, with proof after an investigation that the ingestion came from a tainted supplement. The Brazilian slugger was suspended six months and returned last July, beating Blagoy Ivanov to begin this winning streak.

Lewis (21-7, 1 NC) last fought against Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title back at UFC 230 last November. He landed a big shot on dos Santos in the first round and was doing well until dos Santos connected on a spinning back kick to the body. Lewis hunched over in pain afterward, though he let loose with a massive overhand as dos Santos got close.

Dos Santos, 35, said his team warned him that Lewis could play possum.

“We were studying this before,” dos Santos said. “My coach told me if he feels the punch or kick or anything, don’t go too crazy. Don’t try to finish the fight right away. Because he can be pretending.”

Lewis likely wasn’t pretending. But he was still dangerous. On the post-fight show, analyst and former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping asked dos Santos why he didn’t go for a takedown on Lewis, who has shown vulnerability on the ground. Dos Santos responded that he likes to stick with his bread and butter — striking.

“I see the takedowns, I see the opportunities to take people down or even try to submit them or something like that,” dos Santos said. “But man, I prefer to stay on my feet. That way I’m confident. I really believe I can knock anyone out in this world. And I have the power for that. So I stick on this. On the knockout.”

That statement alone would draw anyone into a potential fight with Ngannou, who is known for his uncanny punching power.

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