Is Francis Ngannou the Heavyweight We’ve All Been Waiting For?
Written by Matt Webb
UFC fight night Albany was serving as the appetizer to the main course that was
UFC 206. Headlined by fan favorite “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis and Shamil
Abdurakhimov, it was slated as a fight between streaking heavyweight contenders.
Though Lewis won by TKO in the main event it was Francis Ngannou who stole the
Since Brock Lesnar left the UFC it seems the search for a marketable, true
heavyweight has been in high demand. The term “true” should be key here. Though the UFC has found marketable fighters such as Mark Hunt, Stipe Miocic, and Cain Velasquez, there has still seemed to be a void written within these fighters. When Cain was champion he was heralded as the best heavyweight since the “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko, until the injury bug seemed to unofficially defeat Cain, and then Werdum officially did. Yet when Cain stepped into the cage the chills seized to crawl down the spine quite like when Brock Lesnar did. Stipe is now the champion and though he is popular in his native Cleveland it still pales in comparison to the popularity of Brock. When Brock Lesnar was at the height of his powers he was garnering the attention of the hardcore, casual, and semi formal casual fight fans. Though he hasn’t been champion for years, Brock's title of fan favorite is still king. The proof of this is UFC’s drastic push for him to “save” UFC 200. Though his fight with Mark Hunt wasn’t a barnburner, the presence of Brock was still worth the price of entry.
This may be an unpopular opinion but if you’re going to sell a heavyweight to the
populist he has to have two distinct qualities. One, he has to be a muscle-bound behemoth who looks absolutely terrifying. Two, he has to fight how he looks. Enter Francis Ngannou. Listed at 6’4 and every bit of 260 pounds with a staggering 83-inch reach and muscles on top of his muscles. He is what I meant by “true” heavyweight. Francis Ngannou doesn’t just pass the eye test he straight up aces it. Deservingly nicknamed “The Predator” due to the fact that he is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s familiar foe. It also refers to his fighting style. Francis Ngannou stalks his opponent, swaying his body side to side as he approaches. As the distance starts to narrow, you can see the look on his opponent's face. The same exact look Brock use to strike in his opponents. The look that says, “Holy hell, what am I suppose to do to this monster?”
In Ngannou’s UFC debut he fought Luis Henrique who I’m sure was ecstatic to
get his opportunity to become a UFC fighter, until he realized they sent him on a suicide mission. Luis Henrique, upon staring death in the face, decided to do what any sane man would do and shoot for a takedown. He actually got it too, yet Ngannou laid on his back with an expression of boredom, as if he knows Henrique is just delaying the inevitable. The second round starts, Henrique tries to clinch once more and shoot for a double leg takedown. He fails, they break from the clinch, and the look on Henrique’s face is that of a child who just saw the Boogeyman. Francis closes in, Henrique steps back, the fear is overcoming him. The predator decides the time is now. He stalks Henrique towards the cage, three left hooks in a row to get the distance, a right uppercut to set up a devastating left uppercut kill shot. Luis Henrique’s body falls to the ground, lifeless. This is what a heavyweight should be, ladies and gentlemen. I repeat, terrifying.
The UFC decides to give Ngannou two more fighters. He dispatches Curtis Blaydes (who is a bright young prospect) by way of doctor stoppage and then he
slaughters Bojan Mihajlović in the first round. At UFC Fight Night 102, Ngannou faced a much stiffer test in Anthony Hamilton. Though Hamilton is not a world-beater, he is a six-time UFC veteran and also an NCAA All-American wrestler. Hamilton tries what all previous opponents try to do to Ngannou, clinch with him and pray a takedown comes. In past fights Ngannou would look to break the clinch. Not anymore. Ngannou is against the cage, finds a double wrist lock, circles out, big boys Hamilton to the mat, and locks in the kimura. Ngannou didn’t even have it all the way wrenched before Hamilton began to tap in fear of his shoulder being separated. Ngannou’s style is listed as a boxer but now he is serving up submissions. The only thing more frightening about Ngannou than his appearance is the fact that he is getting significantly better with each fight.
We may be looking at Brock Lesnar’s heir apparent, except this beast may
actually be better. Nothing sells more to fans then a horrifying heavyweight. With an action figure physique, a chilling demeanor, and devastating knockout power included, Ngannou has the tools to break down the mainstream barriers. The only knock on Ngannou is he is a little green, but much like grass going into winter, the green is starting to fade. Now sitting with a 4-0 record all by stoppages, Ngannou is poised for a top ten UFC heavyweight. Is Francis Ngannou the heavyweight we have all been waiting for? The masses will have to wait till the Predator devours a higher ranked victim. Though if you’re asking me, I’ve seen enough. The heavyweight we’ve all been waiting for has arrived and I’m starting to think there is no one who is going to be able to stop him.
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