Francis Ngannou serves as an exception to the rule in a thinning and aging weight class all but devoid of young talent. Many view him as an heir to the heavyweight throne.
The fast-rising contender was expected to meet former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Junior dos Santos at UFC 215 on Sept. 9 in Edmonton, Alberta. However, dos Santos was flagged for a potential violation in a pre-fight drug test administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, resulting in his removal from the card and leaving Ngannou without a dance partner. Now, the MMA world awaits word on a replacement. Ngannou has compiled a 5-0 record since joining the UFC roster in December 2015, rattling off consecutive victories over Luis Henrique Barbosa de Oliveira, Curtis Blaydes, Bojan Mihalovic, Anthony Hamilton and Andrei Arlovski. The quality of his performances has only improved as the level of competition has increased -- a promising sign for a 30-year-old heavyweight who has been fighting professional for less than four years. Low mileage means room for further development.
As he moves toward the top of the division and a potential title shot in the not-too-distant future, here are five things you might not know about Ngannou:
1. He often skips the feeling-out stage.
Ngannou has finished all nine of his opponents during his current winning streak, and he has done so in a little more than 41 minutes combined. Five of the nine failed to survive the first round. Ngannou ranks second on FightMetric’s all-time list in shortest average fight time (4:35) for UFC heavyweights. Only Todd Duffee (3:18) is ahead of him.
2. Odds were stacked against him from the start.
A classic rags-to-riches success story, Ngannou was born in Batie -- one of four small communes within Cameroon’s Haute Plateau, which is home to roughly 120,000 people. He now trains out of the MMA Factory in Paris, more than 4,000 miles from his hometown.
3. Destructive offensive skills have been his calling card.
Ngannou has connected on a grand total of 104 strikes in his five UFC bouts. A whopping 86 of those strikes were landed in his first two appearances against Oliveira and Blaydes. In short, people wilt when he hits them.
4. He has built-in advantages over his opposition.
The monstrous 6-foot-4, 254-pound Ngannou wields the second-longest reach among heavyweights on the active Ultimate Fighting Championship roster. Only Stefan Struve at 84 inches surpasses him.
5. Despite the ferocity and crushing power he has displayed with his standup, he also has potent grappling skills at his disposal.
Ngannou has delivered four of his 10 career victories by submission: one by kimura, one by standing guillotine choke, one by arm-triangle choke and one by straight armbar.