Francis Ngannou’s demolition of Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 was a performance that would strike fear into the heart of any professional fighter, let alone the rest of us mortals. The newly crowned UFC heavyweight champion possesses power that has never been seen before in any combat sport. He currently holds the world record for the "most powerful punch." At its hardest, a single punch from Ngannou contains the force of a Ford Escort driving at maximum speed, and if you had to choose between them, perhaps you would take your chances with the car.
With a matchup against UFC legend Jon Jones potentially on the cards this summer, the question remains: how do you beat a man who carries such incredible firepower in his hands?
Even though we saw a much improved Ngannou in the rematch last Saturday, the blueprint for defeating ‘The Predator’ was originally drawn up by Stipe Miocic in 2018. Let’s have a look at three of Francis Ngannou’s weaknesses.
1. Ground game
Ngannou is at his most comfortable standing toe-to-toe with his opponents. The former boxer has no problem turning a fight into a slugfest, knowing that a single counterpunch connection is usually enough to get the job done.
When you consider that his MMA training started as recently as 2013, it is sensational how much this man has achieved so far.
However, he is not without flaws. The first title fight against Stipe Miocic was a textbook example of skill nullifying power, a true MMA masterclass. Miocic survived some wild onslaughts to eventually score several single-leg takedowns. Without his power, Ngannou had no answers on the ground and looked out of his depth.
It is true that he showed good takedown defence in the recent rematch, but the likes of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones will know that Ngannou does not want to fight with his back on the canvas.
An outstanding world-class athlete, the Cameroon native is 263 pounds of pure muscle. His raw power will always be his greatest friend, but it can also be his enemy.
Carrying that much weight in muscle can be taxing on the body, particularly if you’ve been fighting for ten minutes or more. Lactic acid builds up, breathing becomes labored and the tank meter on the Ford Escort leans dangerously close to ‘E’.
Ngannou’s power will only decrease as the fight goes on - every single fight he has ever won has been within two rounds. It is no coincidence that his losses have been in fights that lasted both three rounds (Derrek Lewis) and five rounds (Stipe Miocic).
Surviving the first ten minutes against Francis Ngannou is a daunting task for any fighter, but make it to the third round and the odds are significantly in your favor.
This is more of an unknown than a given. As mentioned above Francis Ngannou’s fights don’t usually last very long, and because of this he hasn’t actually taken many shots flush on the chin.
Stipe Miocic landed some decent shots early in the first fight, but standing in front of Ngannou wasn’t something that his coaches encouraged, so securing takedowns became a much safer strategy from the third round onwards. Trading early with The Predator is not a good idea.
It is only within these later rounds, when Ngannou’s energy is depleted, that testing his chin becomes a viable option. Too many takedown attempts in a row can be predictable, so the threat of a punch becomes even more important. Someone like Jon Jones could potentially use his speed to get a shot off quickly, dipping back safely out of range from the counter.
A situation like this would show us just how good Ngannou’s chin is - if he can withstand power punches from elite fighters then he is truly special indeed.