Francis Ngannou will try to right the ship Saturday in Beijing. (Photo: Josh Hedges/Getty Images)
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Francis Ngannou returns to the Octagon Saturday for the first time since his embarrassing fight with Derrick Lewis and is looking to reclaim his status as one of the scariest heavyweights on the planet with a win over Curtis Blaydes. The two fought each other early on in their careers and now they face off again, but this time in the main event of UFC Fight Night 141 in Beijing, China.
Ngannou was heralded as the next big thing in mixed martial arts, but his one-sided loss to Stipe Miocic and arguably the worst fight of all time with Lewis put his hype train to an immediate halt. He looked completely lost in grappling exchanges with Miocic and then stayed alarmingly patient against Lewis to lose two in a row. Despite the setbacks and lack of technique, Ngannou still has unworldly power in both hands and always has the chance to land that one kill shot.
Ngannou is far from the most skilled fighter in the division, but he gets by on his power, aggression and video game like physical abilities. Ngannou will often spend fights patiently waiting for openings before blitzing forward with a sloppy combo and once opponents feel the power in his hands they tend to play it safe. His go-to leading combo is a simple jab to overhand right, but he also has a nice rear uppercut that he uses on the lead and as a counter. He often overextends on his strikes and puts himself out of position to defend, but thus far nobody has been able to effectively counter him.
Opponents are rarely foolish enough to run in on Ngannou, but when they do he has proven to have decent countering ability. In the first fight with Blaydes, Ngannou switched his stance to southpaw and routinely landed a counter left straight as Blaydes advanced. It was interesting to see him switch to southpaw for this fight and have so much success with the left hand. He hasn’t fought southpaw since so he most likely did it to defend takedowns. Be on the lookout for some stance-switching in the rematch.
Ngannou was one of the most hyped-up fighters to enter the UFC in recent memory, but as time went on and he fought increasingly tougher opponents, his weaknesses became apparent and opponents now know how to exploit them. He went into his fight with Miocic as the favorite but the champ’s superior wrestling allowed him to dominate the fight with ease and showcased to the world exactly how to beat Ngannou.
Ngannou possesses the natural physical abilities that every fighter dreams of, but if we are being honest he’s just not that good of a fighter. His traits are enough to score highlight knockouts against lower-level opponents and aging vets, but when it comes to the upper echelon of the division, Ngannou just can’t hang technique-wise due to his lack of experience.