UFC 218: Why you need to be paying attention to heavyweight Francis Ngannou
'The Predator' is on one of the most vicious runs in division history
UFC's heavyweight division has been long considered the doormat of the company. It's where either blown up 205'ers go at the end of their careers or guys who couldn't cut weight end up and fight, for the most part, out of shape. Outside of the shooting stars Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar and Stipe Miocic, heavyweights in MMA tend to gas out incredibly fast and look out of sorts if they reach a third round.
But on Saturday night at UFC 218 in Detroit, fight fans will be welcomed to the next generation of heavyweight. At 31, Francis Ngannou may not be a new kid in terms of age, but he's still the new kid on the block in UFC. The Frenchman -- by way of Cameroon -- is a physical freak with the build of a middleweight, but somehow walks around and fights at 245 pounds.
While Ngannou is yet to take on one of the top heavyweights in UFC's division, the power and speed is undeniable. He is able to setup his counter shots by being quicker in the Octagon than his opponents. If you total up his last three fights with the company, Ngannou has fought just over one round of action in the cage while scoring brutal knockouts. And even though he has a loss on the resume, the best comparison I can come up with is undefeated boxing champion Anthony Joshua.
The two gigantic brawlers look eerily similar in size and stature, but also have some of the same rigidities in action. Joshua, at times, feels almost robotic with his movement and punches. Ngannou can fall into similar lapses, especially in his first couple fights with UFC.
But to be successful on Saturday, Ngannou will need to be more fluid with his movements and quicker than the veteran Alistair Overeem. The Dutchmen is hoping to earn a second shot at champion Miocic with a victory on Saturday night, but knows the challenge ahead.
"He definitely deserves this fight," Overeem said. "The guy looks like a beast. He's on a nine-fight winning streak. He's doing great, he looks great. He looks awesome. You can see what he's done with the competition. He's got that one-punch power. He does deserve to be here, and it's going to be a very exciting fight. I'm in the best shape of my life."
If Ngannou is successful and gets his shot at Miocic, we could be staring down the barrel of a top three heavyweight title ever and easily the first where both fighters posses that one-punch knockout power fans crave.
Ngannou may still have a ways to go in terms of raw skill and ability, but I'll take power over skill anyday.
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