The upcoming UFC Minneapolis card, scheduled for June 29, will now be topped by an Octagon-shaking heavyweight showdown between former title challenger Francis Ngannou and former champion Junior dos Santos.
The card was originally expected to be headlined by a rematch between former welterweight champions Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley, but this plan was nixed when the former sustained a hand injury and was forced out of the matchup.
Dos Santos and Ngannou have been linked for some time. The pair were originally expected to meet in 2017, but this booking fell through when dos Santos was notified of a potential USADA violation. The pair were ultimately rescheduled to fight at UFC 239, this July 6 during International Fight Week, but have now been reallocated to this UFC Minneapolis card pending updated bout agreements, per ESPN.
Francis Ngannou has recently rebounded from a pair of career destabilizing losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis with back-to-back blitzkriegs of Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez. He’s an impressive 13-3.
Junior dos Santos, on the other hand, is currently riding a three-fight streak, having recently beaten Blagoy Ivanov by decision and Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis by TKO. Prior to this streak, the former champion was widely counted out, having alternated wins and losses over the course of 6 bouts. He’s 21-5 overall.
The winner of Francis Ngannou and dos Junior dos Santos’ UFC Minneapolis showdown will more than likely receive the next crack at the UFC heavyweight title. The belt will next be on the line at UFC 241, when Daniel Cormier defends it against the man he won it from, Stipe Miocic.
At this stage, it’s not clear what the UFC plans to do with Robbie Lawler. It was previously suggested that the promotion would attempt to find him a replacement opponent for the card, but according to ESPN’s report, he will hang tight and wait for a new booking.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 5/21/2019.