Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou was crowned UFC heavyweight champion last month, and since then MMA fans everywhere have been salivating at the possibility of a superfight against pound-for-pound king Jon Jones. Of course this matchup is a no-brainer on paper, but it could still take some time to manifest into reality.
While Broadway is closed until June 2021 at the moment, Jon Jones and Dana White use the daily theater of Twitter to dramatize their financial narratives - and unfortunately we are only in the first act.
In the meantime, White is encouraging a rematch between Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. Their first encounter in 2018 was universally deemed a borefest, so you can understand why fight fans are not jumping for joy at the thought of a second bout.
Surely lightning wouldn’t strike twice? It would be hard to conceive, especially considering the progress both men have made in the last three years. Here are three reasons why UFC fans should be excited about a potential rematch.
News has been circulating that Francis Ngannou didn’t want to commit to defending his title against Derrick Lewis at UFC 263 this June, ‘The Predator’ doesn’t want to fight again so early. It is understandable that he would like some extra recovery time while basking in the glory of UFC gold.
A fight against Jon Jones would surely be Ngannou’s biggest payday, and perhaps if that was on the table this June he would find a way to fight. Losing to Jones, a man considered by many to be the best ever in the sport, wouldn’t be a huge upset. So in many ways the pressure is off.
Psychologically, fighting a man that has already beaten you is not an easy task. Ngannou has proven he can do it once - against Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 - but his fight against Derrick Lewis was easily the worst performance of his career. Losing to Lewis again would completely derail the 'Predator’ hype train.
It is a must-win fight for Ngannou, whereas Lewis comes into the rematch under no pressure, knowing that even a decent performance may incite a financially rewarding trilogy fight.
2. UFC Legacy
While there is more to lose for Francis Ngannou than Derrick Lewis, a win for Ngannou avenges both losses in the UFC back-to-back, therefore reiterating his recent improvements in MMA.
A successful title defence is also a confidence booster to any new champion’s reign. If he can do it in emphatic fashion then it only increases the odds of a Jon Jones superfight this year.
This is probably the plan in place from the UFC: The more times Ngannou destroys his opponents the more value can be placed on a potential fight with Jones.
Derrick Lewis is currently tied with Vitor Belfort for the record of most knockouts in UFC history, with 12. Lewis is now on a four-fight win streak, winning his last two via knockout.
Francis Ngannou, the world record holder of ‘most powerful punch’, already has nine knockout victories in the UFC. Ngannou is also on a five-fight knockout win-streak.
Sparks didn’t ignite when they met in 2018, but there were mitigating factors. Ngannou had just come off his first UFC loss, a five-round lesson in MMA against Stipe Miocic, and his confidence was visibly shaken. Lewis did what he had to do to win, but maybe if he needed to do more he would have.
The power both men possess is scary, it is fair to say they are the hardest hitters in the UFC right now. It may not be the fight that everyone is dreaming of this summer but it has the potential to be a superfight of its own, which could even turn into a classic UFC heavyweight trilogy.