There’s no doubt heading into 2018 Francis Ngannou was the most hyped up fighter in the UFC’s heavyweight division. He started his UFC career, with 6 consecutive finishes. If you’re a UFC fan you’d probably agree that one of the most scary knockouts in UFC history came at UFC 218 when Ngannou fought Overeem. Ngannou landed an uppercut that knocked Overeem out cold. After that brutal KO Ngannou fought in his first title fight at UFC 220. A lot of the fights promotion was focused around Ngannou. The UFC was almost certain this was their next big superstar. The champion at the time Stipe Miocic showed Ngannou there are levels to the fight game. Stipe took advantage of Ngannou’s weak ground game, and his lack of cardio. Stipe ended up winning a lop sided decision. It was clear that it was too much too soon for Ngannou. So the UFC matched him up against another heavy handed heavyweight in Derrick Lewis. This fight was promoted as guaranteed chaos, but what we got was one of the worst fights in UFC heavyweight history. Only 31 strikes were thrown the whole fight, and neither man was in danger at any point in the fight. Lewis won via decision. After the fight UFC president Dana White voiced his displeasure with Francis Ngannou.
It almost seemed like the UFC was setting Ngannou up to fail in his next fight when they matched him up against Curtis Blaydes. The first time these two fought Ngannou won via doctor’s stoppage. This time it seemed like a lot of the hype was behind Curtis Blaydes. Blaydes was seen as a terrible stylistic matchup for Ngannou. Blaydes is one of the best grapplers in the heavyweight division. He came into this fight on a 5 fight win streak after losing his first matchup against Ngannou. It almost seemed certain that Blaydes was going to dominate Ngannou all five rounds with his grappling, and many people predicted it that way. If Blaydes won this fight he was pretty much guaranteed a title fight in the near future. Ngannou silenced all the doubters and got back to his terrifying ways when he dropped Blaydes 45 seconds into the very first round. Once Blaydes tried to get back up to his feet Ngannou dropped him again forcing the referee to stop it. Ngannou won via TKO, and it looked like he was back to his original form. Even though we didn’t get a chance to see how his ground game improved, it was still a good reminder of how powerful Ngannou is.
Ngannou is still at the top of the heavyweight division, and when asked who he wants to fight next he brought up a potential matchup against Junior Dos Santos. He said he also wants to avenge his loss against Stipe Miocic. This is probably the last time Ngannou will fight in 2018, but could 2019 be the year Ngannou captures his first UFC championship?
Stephen Caloggero (@steveo_calo)
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