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Rise of the Predator: The story of Francis Ngannou, UFC Heavyweight Champion

"The Predator" Francis Ngannou
"The Predator" Francis Ngannou
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 01 Apr 2021
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From battling poverty to being considered a challenger to one of the MMA G.O.A.T.S. in Jon Jones, Francis Ngannou has come a long way.

The Herculean Cameroonian heavyweight just beat one of the all-time great heavyweights, Stipe Miocic, to claim the UFC Heavyweight Championship. There is seemingly no one ready to stop the reign of 'The Predator '.

Francis Ngannou's Background

Francis was born in a village in Batie, Cameroon. Crippled by poverty, he worked in sand quarries to support his single mother. He decided to move to Europe at the age of 26, to pursue a career in boxing. Mike Tyson was his idol.

However, he was jailed for two months for illegally crossing the Morocco-Spain border.

Upon reaching Paris, he spent his days in the gym and the nights at homeless shelters. Despite training for boxing, his fellow trainees motivated him to take up Mixed Martial Arts, citing it as a quicker way to make money and make ends meet.


UFC Career

After having racked up six fights for the French Promotion, 100% Fight, Ngannou impressed people with his raw power. He signed with the UFC and had his first fight in December 2015, when he knocked out fellow debutant Luis Henrique.

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Ngannou never looked back since then and continued to accrue consecutive wins, most of them being knockouts. Upon gaining five wins in which he seemed like an unstoppable force, Ngannou was slated to face Alistair Overeem at UFC 218.

This was the biggest fight of Ngannou's MMA career, as Overeem was considered a heavyweight legend by hardcore and casual MMA fans alike.

Ngannou took the world by storm when he produced 'The Greatest Knockout of 2017' (as per ESPN and Bleacher Report) in finishing Overeem in the very first round. This pushed Ngannou right up into title contention as he faced the then champion, Stipe Miocic, for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.


Miocic Masterclass and the Journey to Redemption

After the legendary knockout of Alistair Overeem, Francis Ngannou faced Croatian heavyweight Stipe Miocic for the Heavyweight Championship.

Miocic weathered the early storm from Francis Ngannou and picked him apart through his excellent game plan and mat game. Miocic picked up the win by unanimous decision, in a match that exposed the holes in Ngannou's game plan.

Francis Ngannou again lost another match at UFC 226, this time to Derrick Lewis, a fight in which he was vividly hesitant to be the aggressor.

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Francis then worked on his game plan and racked up four consecutive wins, including knockout wins over legends such as Cain Velazquez and Junior Dos Santos.

Upon finishing Jairzinho Rozenstruik by knockout in 20 seconds, Ngannou waited for the victor of the trilogy between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, the winner of which would hold the UFC Heavyweight Championship.


UFC 260

Stipe defeated Cormier and was holding the UFC Heavyweight Championship, coming into UFC 260. His next title fight was up against a much-improved version of Francis Ngannou rather than the one he faced in 2018.

In what was hyped as "The Biggest Baddest Rematch," Francis Ngannou showed a much-improved takedown defense and landed punches of ferocious intensity. Upon the culmination of the first round, it only seemed a matter of time before Francis took his righteous place as the king of the heavyweights.

It took Francis Ngannou only 52 seconds in the second round to land a scary jab on Miocic, who was knocked unconscious. Ngannou thus gained a knockout victory and was named the new UFC Heavyweight Champion of the world.


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The reign of 'The Predator', Francis Ngannou, has just started, and it doesn't seem to be ending any time soon.

Published 01 Apr 2021, 05:01 IST
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