162 seconds. In just 162 seconds, Francis Ngannou has gone from a shot-shy, confident failed title challenger to a revived knockout machine on the eve of UFC – and sporting – stardom.
Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik have all been overthrown by The Predator. Everything combined in a time frame of 2 minutes and 42 seconds.
That string of wins has seen Ngannou battle it out for a new tilt at Stipe Miocic’s heavyweight crown. As the pair prepare to fight again at this weekend’s UFC 260, it is unbelievable that the Cameroonian was lost.
In just 162 seconds, Francis Ngannou has geared up for a shot at the UFC heavyweight title
UFC 260 won’t be the first time the 34-year-old is on the brink of UFC glory, though
You’d be forgiven for being knocked down with a case of deja vu on your way to Saturday night’s title fight at the UFC Apex.
The 6ft 4ins powerhouse rode a wave of momentum ahead of his first title win against Miocic in January 2018, after racking up six consecutive wins before meeting the Ohio firefighter in Boston.
However, Miocic decided not to follow the script, outwitting Ngannou and achieving a unanimous victory on points that kept the belt tied around his waist.
Ngannou fought for the heavyweight title three years ago when he took on Stipe Miocic
The American went against the script and secured a dominant points win in Boston
Things went from bad to worse for Ngannou from then on, with the scars of the Miocic loss fully visible as he made a preliminary appearance to record back-to-back defeats against Derrick Lewis at UFC 226.
After his dismal defeat to Lewis, UFC supremo Dana White gave a scathing assessment of the 34-year-old’s character in the post-mortem.
“I can tell you his ego definitely ran away with him,” White told reporters after his loss on points.
The moment you come across in the fighting game, you start to fall apart. I had some face-to-face meetings with him, like other people in the organization, and this man’s ego had gotten so out of hand.
Later that year, UFC President Dana White lashed out at Ngannou, criticizing his ‘ego’
“Ego is what hurt Francis Ngannou,” White concluded from the Cameroonian’s successive defeats.
Since that reprimand, Ngannou has gotten his mojo back, and White and the top UFC players will be happy to find his way back.
For the UFC, Ngannou offers the organization the opportunity to have their biggest heavyweight star since Brock Lesnar.
The Predator is a true tale of rags to riches, raised in poverty and forced to work in a sand quarry at the age of 10.
Since then, Ngannou has got his mojo back, enjoying a run of four wins in the bounce
He has seen Cain Velasquez, Curtis Blaydes, Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik
He escaped his life in Cameroon at the age of 26 and moved to Europe to pursue a career as a professional boxer, but spent two months in prison in Spain for illegally crossing the border.
After his imprisonment, he moved to Paris in search of a boxing gym and lived on the streets until finally admitted, thus embarking on his eight-year journey to the abyss of UFC greatness.
On reflection, Ngannou believes he was not ready to become UFC champion the first time against Miocic, with his astronomical rise, coupled with the seriousness of what winning the heavyweight title would mean for an entire continent, and not sinking before impact. in Boston.
“I hadn’t found my place in life at the time,” he told ESPN. “I was in the air, but I didn’t know where to land.”
Ngannou has the potential to become the UFC’s biggest heavyweight star in nearly a decade
The 34-year-old’s story is one of rags-to-riches, escaping poverty in Cameroon to be on the brink of UFC gold
Three years later, Ngannou has found where to land, and will have no illusions about the task facing him at UFC Apex.
Without a doubt, Miocic is the most accomplished UFC heavyweight champion of all time.
The 38-year-old has won some of the biggest names in the division, including Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Daniel Cormier (twice) and Ngannou.
But while Ngannou won four different rivals with highlights, Miocic has delved into a fight with just one opponent for the past three years.
The American lost his heavyweight title to Cormier in the summer of 2018, taking back UFC gold from the former light-heavyweight champion before completing the trilogy with a unanimous decision win in 2020.
But Miocic will try to stop the explosive Ngannou in his tracks, as he did in 2018
The 38-year-old has fought three times since that fight, all against Daniel Cormier in a trilogy
Miocic is the most accomplished heavyweight in UFC history and will be hard to beat
At the time, it’s fair to say the division has stagnated somewhat, with the remaining heavyweight contenders jostling for position to land the title shot against Miocic.
And Ngannou will present a completely different puzzle for Miocic than Cormier in three fights. Cormier’s struggling background is the opposite of Ngannou’s style, with the dangerous Cameroonian at the top with powerful punches.
Miocic will, of course, be well aware of that, having suppressed The Predator during their last meeting. The 38-year-old drove through the Ngannou storm on the first lap and managed to grab onto his rival as he grew tired, wrestling him against the mat and controlling him. That strategy may also be the best way to go this time.
Obvious rewards aside, the war booty from this weekend’s matchup could be the UFC’s biggest fight since Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Conor McGregor in 2018.
Both heavyweights know what’s in store for victory, with a mega-money superfight at stake
That’s because Jon Jones has planned his entry into the UFC heavyweights. The light-heavyweight champion, who has cleared two generations of fighters in his division, has turned his attention to the big boys and, if we are to believe the reports, he will be making his heavyweight debut against the winner of Saturday’s title fight.
For UFC fans, the more exciting fight would be Ngannou v Jones, with the thought of the nearly unbeatable American’s Cameroonian carpeting a tempting prospect.
But, just like three years ago, Miocic will try to spoil the heavyweight party and reel in the money fight that justifies his illustrious career.
Jon Jones is expected to take on the victor after moving up from the light heavyweights
The hope of an entire continent rests on Ngannou’s shoulders, he’s one KO shot of glory
And what does White think of Ngannou’s revival? It seems the UFC supremo has come full circle after those disparaging comments following Lewis’s defeat.
“He had a shot at the title and he lost,” said White. ‘You always have to work back to the title, because there is always someone next in line who deserves it.
If you think about the last time he lost to Stipe, that was 2018, and it took him all the way to now, 2021, to get it back – but he did it. He’s the man. He is the man who should be given this opportunity. ‘
Three years may be a long time, but 162 seconds is not. Francis Ngannou could become heavyweight champion in a flash on Saturday evening.