It was reported last week that Francis Ngannou will meet Curtis Blaydes in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Beijing on November 24th. With his last two performances in the octagon being anything but impressive, Ngannou will need to bounce back in a huge way against Blaydes. These two fought previously at UFC Fight Night 86, where Ngannou won by TKO via doctor’s stoppage.
Rollercoaster Career of Francis Ngannou
“The Predator” has had a UFC career that has been full of ups and downs to this point. He saw a huge rise to the top thanks to devastating knockouts. Dana White and the UFC were promoting him like crazy. Then, after a failed title challenge, he has seemingly taken a huge fall from grace.
Rise To The Top
Francis Ngannou made his UFC debut in December of 2015. Right away, he made his presence known, as he knocked out Luis Henrique with a brutal uppercut. His next fight in the octagon was the previously mentioned bout with Blaydes, where Blaydes sustained his first and only loss to this point.
Ngannou would then finish Bojan Mihaljovic via TKO just 1:33 in the first round. After that, his career really took off. His first non-knockout victory in the UFC came in his next bout when he submitted Anthony Hamilton via kimura in two minutes. In his next fight, he brutally finished former champ Andrei Arlovski, earning The Predator his second straight performance of the night bonus.
Ngannou was scheduled to face Junior Dos Santos at UFC 215 in what definitely would have been his toughest fight to that point in his career. Instead, though, he would end up facing Alistair Overeem at UFC 218, due to a doping violation by Dos Santos. The late opponent change might have been a blessing in disguise for Ngannou. In his fight with Overeem, he would land this now famous uppercut, scoring himself a huge victory and the 2017 Knockout of the Year. It was clear that a title shot was next in line for Ngannou.
Failed Title Challenge
After that brutal knockout, it was announced that Ngannou would be the next challenger to then heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. Leading up to the fight, the UFC strongly promoted Ngannou. To Miocic, it came across like the company wanted Ngannou to win the fight. He felt disrespected. So, like any champion would do, he went out and dominated the fight from bell to bell. There was never really any moment in the fight where it seemed like Miocic would lose. His superior cardio, wrestling, and technique were way too much for Ngannou to handle. Miocic won the contest via unanimous decision (50-44 3x).
Normally there wouldn’t be too much thought put into someone losing to the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. Ngannou would learn from his mistakes, improve his cardio, work on his grappling, and bounce back. That’s what everyone thought. However, after his next fight, it would be clear that Ngannou would have a lot of work to do to get back on top.
Potential Slugfest, Eventual Snoozefest with Lewis
Ngannou’s chance to bounce back from getting embarrassed by Miocic would come at UFC 226 against Derrick Lewis. The fight was a potential fight of the night candidate heading into the event. Fans were excited to watch two behemoths go at it, each with the intent of knocking the other’s head off. No wrestling, no clinches, just fists. Everyone wanted to see it.
Unfortunately for fans, the fight ended up being no wrestling, no clinches, and no fists. There was just nothing. In one of the most boring fights in UFC history, Lewis won via unanimous decision (30-27 3x). Through 15 minutes of action, there were 31 total strikes landed between the two men. Lewis had a bad back to blame, Ngannou had no one to blame but himself. He looked lost.
Two days after the fight, Ngannou went to Instagram to explain what happened at UFC 226. He essentially said that he carried over the fear from his fight with Miocic to his fight with Lewis. Dana White would be a little harsher in his post-fight press conference, saying that Ngannou’s “ego ran away with him.” He backed up that claim by revealing that Ngannou went to France before his title fight with Miocic and barely trained. All of a sudden, fans were coming to the realization that maybe there wouldn’t be a quick cardio and wrestling fix for Ngannou. It started to seem like he had issues beyond fighting.
In Desperate Need of an Impressive Finish
Through his career full of ups and downs, Ngannou has managed to have management on his side, and end up with the boss pitted against him. His UFC career might rely on his upcoming fight with Blaydes. If he goes out and performs against Blaydes like he did against Lewis, two things could happen. First, he could get taken down and ground-and-pounded into oblivion. Second, he could make Dana White so angry that it could spell disaster for his future with the company. Blaydes is a very tough matchup for Ngannou, as he has improved tremendously since the two faced off before. The Predator will need to shine through adversity, have an impressive performance, and prove to Dana White that it’s too early to give up on Francis Ngannou.
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