Francis Ngannou claimed the title of 'Baddest Man on the Planet' last Saturday, when he knocked out reigning champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 260. In their first fight at UFC 220 back in 2018, Miocic dominated Francis with his superior wrestling and grappling skills, even eating some shots from 'The Predator' and still emerging victorious.
This time around, though, Francis Ngannou came in as a much more well-rounded fighter, stuffing Stipe Miocic's only takedown attempt and then finishing the job in the second round. While a lot has been said about his apparent lack of technique in the past, we believe Francis Ngannou could turn out to be the scariest fighter in UFC history.
5. His background
Francis Ngannou's story is the stuff of books, movies, and legends. Born into poverty in Cameroon, he began working in sand mines at the age of 10. His father was a street fighter and his uncle holds a black belt in karate along with a brown belt in judo.
Safe to say, fighting is in his blood. Ngannou decided to use this inspiration from his family and turn it into something positive for himself by pursuing boxing. He began training at 22 but had to stop due to an illness, and at 26 he decided to head to Paris to pursue professional boxing.
Upon reaching Europe, he was imprisoned for 2 months for illegally crossing the border. After living homeless on the streets of Paris, he began training for free in August 2013 under Didier Carmont who introduced him to the sport of MMA. Two years later, he was signed by the UFC.
4. Time in training
Anyone who has ever competed in combat sports, or been a champion, will tell you that to be the best, you have to start training as young as possible. Floyd Mayweather famously said his teenage kids were too old to learn how to box, as he began when he was 4.
In this regard, Francis Ngannou is a gifted force of nature. He began his MMA training in August 2013 and was competing just months later in November. In two years, he made his UFC debut against fellow newcomer Luis Henrique on 19 December 2015 and won the fight via knockout in the second round.
Ngannou faced veteran Alistair Overeem on 2 December 2017 at UFC 218 and won via a first-round KO which made for a brutal highlight reel. On 20th January 2018, Ngannou faced UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic for the title at UFC 220 in a fight that he would eventually lose by a unanimous decision.
The time taken for Francis Ngannou to start training and reach a UFC heavyweight title fight was less than 5 years, which is absolutely jaw-dropping.
3. Skill improvement
Not unlike his meteoric grasp of MMA, Francis Ngannou has shown exceptional levels of improvement in his skills. There is no better example of this than his rematch with Stipe Miocic at UFC 260.
In their first fight at UFC 220, Stipe Miocic dominated Francis Ngannou on the ground, completely neutralizing his legendary power and punching ability. While he did eat some shots from 'The Predator', Miocic pressed forward and dominated Ngannou for 5 rounds, winning a convincing unanimous decision victory.
Fast forward to UFC 260, and Francis Ngannou showed incredible levels of improvement. As opposed to his previous tendencies of simply rushing in and throwing haymakers, Ngannou was calm and composed.
He pressured forward without being impatient and showed incredible takedown defense. Stipe Miocic shot for his legs but Ngannou not only sprawled beautifully, but almost immediately pivoted his hips into a back-take. He even followed it with an offensive wrestling attempt of his own.
We know Ngannou's been working with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman who has some incredible wrestling skills along with the best takedown defense in the UFC. However, no one expected to see such a poised, composed, and dominant performance from a man who had no answers for Miocic in 2018. If Francis Ngannou continues to level up the same way, he is going to be unbeatable for a long, long time.
2. Francis Ngannou's legendary punching power
This needs no introduction. You've probably seen clips of Dana White expressing his disbelief while reading about Ngannou's punching power, which is the hardest in UFC history. Supposedly the equivalent of 96 horsepower, it is like getting hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can.
While Derrick Lewis has 12 UFC knockouts compared to Francis Ngannou's 10, 'The Black Beast' has 7 first-round KOs in the 20 knockout wins of his career. 'The Predator', on the other hand, has finished 11 of his 12 knockouts in the first round, which is absolutely baffling. The power in Francis Ngannou's hands is no joke. Even though he played it safe against Derrick Lewis in their fight at UFC 226 and lost by decision, the Francis Ngannou of today would probably approach that fight very differently.
Dana White has hinted that Lewis could be Ngannou's next opponent, other than Jon Jones. Here's hoping for an absolute firecracker of a fight.
Francis Ngannou has a combined Octagon time of 514 seconds in his last 5 fights. That's just under 9 minutes, 5 of which came courtesy of the first round against Stipe Miocic at UFC 260. Four of his last five fights have ended in first-round knockouts, with three 'Performance of the Night' bonuses.
He also has the highest 'Finishes Per Win' percentage in the UFC at 100% and has never been finished inside the Octagon. As mentioned above, he's secured 11 of his 12 knockout wins in the very first round.
Francis 'The Predator' Ngannou seems to live up to his cage name every time he steps inside the Octagon. 16 wins, 16 finishes; 11 of those in the fiercest division of the world's biggest MMA organization.
We are witnessing the rise of a man who may go down in history as the scariest fighter to ever set foot inside the UFC Octagon.