People have long discounted Francis Ngannou as more of a brawler with supernatural strength than a true mixed martial artist. After blitzing reigning division champion Stipe Miocic in a clinical rematch to seize the heavyweight title at UFC 260, however, Ngannou isn’t just a problem… he’s a problem.
The Cameroon pugilist showcased a more intelligent brand of striking, managing distance more effectively, and patiently testing the waters with leg kicks; as opposed to the frenzy of low-percentage/high-impact swings which earned him a spectacular twenty-second finish against Jairzinho Rozenstruik during UFC 249.
Much to everyone’s surprise, while he didn’t exactly become a grappling specialist overnight, Ngannou actually demonstrated some major improvements in his ground game. More specifically, major improvements in his takedown defence. Successfully quelling a single-leg attempt from Miocic during the first round, he transitioned from a sprawl to the back, completing the sequence with some scarily effective ground-and-pound.
When you’re facing someone of Ngannou’s stature with insane forward pressure and a world record for punching power – just ask Alistair Overeem – there’s simply no room for error. And at around thirty seconds of the second round, Stipe Miocic offered enough of an opening to be capitalised upon.
The UFC 260 championship fight was punctuated by a perfectly timed jab-cross combo from Ngannou, earning the challenger a knockdown. To Miocic’s credit, he persevered, only to be greeted by a peppering of shots as he retreated. Before long, Stipe Miocic found himself lying on the canvas once again, admitted into the Valhalla club for the price of a few extremely heavy-handed hammer fists.
Jon Jones is probably sweating it out right about now – which is just as well if he wants to cut some weight and stay at a safe distance with the other 205-pounders.