Ngannou went from gun-shy to KO machine after changing mindset

Francis Ngannou was on the brink of being CUT by the UFC after his dismal showing against Derrick Lewis – where he landed just ELEVEN strikes – yet four knockouts in 162 seconds has put him on the heavyweight throne and he intends to stay there

  • Francis Ngannou has come a long way since his bizarre defeat by Derrick Lewis 
  • Ngannou, 35, landed just 11 strikes over the course of 15 minutes at UFC 226 
  • UFC chief Dana White said that Ngannou’s ‘ego’ put him on the brink of being cut
  • However, he rediscovered his big right hand with four knockouts in 162 seconds 
  • Ngannou says he is now calm and trusting that his punch will reach its target 

The last place any UFC fighter wants to be is on the receiving end of a Francis Ngannou strike. 

The Cameroonian can largely attribute his meteoric heavyweight rise to the dynamite contained in those fists of his. 

In January 2018, Ngannou set up a heavyweight title fight with Stipe Miocic off the back of four first-round knockout victories, with his brutal flooring of Alistair Overeem still widely regarded as one of the greatest UFC knockouts of all time.

Francis Ngannou is the most powerful puncher that the UFC has even seen in its history

Yet Miocic resolutely refused to succumb to the same fate suffered by the likes of Overeem, Andrei Arlovski and Anthony Hamilton and completely dominated Ngannou over five rounds, winning via a lopsided unanimous decision.

Billed as the dawn of a new heavyweight era by pundits and fans alike, Ngannou was served a rude awakening as Miocic ensured that the bout did not develop into the slugfest predicted, instead putting on a masterclass in ground and pound to sap the confidence of Ngannou across 25 minutes of action.

In fact, the ramifications of that defeat by Miocic were clear for all to see six months on from his defeat in Boston. 

The Cameroonian’s fists contain dynamite and have taken him to the summit of the division

Ngannou’s clash with Derrick Lewis at UFC 226 in Las Vegas has the unwanted title of the most boring heavyweight fight in UFC history. 

Tensions were palpable in the build-up to this three-round contest. Lewis shoved Ngannou at the pre-fight press conference and the bookmakers offered big winnings for this bout going beyond the first five minutes, with both men renowned for their devastating knockout power.

Yet the fight went the distance and, much to the irritation of the watching masses, Ngannou barely pulled the trigger.

Lewis’s 20 strikes landed across 15 minutes is a terrible showing, but Ngannou landed just 11 strikes all fight, with the Houston native being handed a unanimous decision victory as a result.

‘That’s the worst heavyweight fight I’ve ever seen,’ commentator Joe Rogan said when the ‘action’ mercifully came to an end. 

However, the Predator was seriously derailed four years ago and faced a confidence crisis

He landed just 11 strikes in his snoozefest against Derrick Lewis at UFC 226, his lowest point

It later emerged that Lewis was nursing a back injury throughout the fight, in what could be viewed as a mitigating factor for the American. But there was no such excuse for the gun-shy Ngannou, who looked a shadow of the man that savagely put down Overeem. 

As a result, the Cameroonian came in for most criticism from fans, pundits and even UFC president Dana White, who launched a scathing rebuke of the Predator’s mentality after the bout. 

‘Horrible,’ White said in the immediate aftermath of Ngannou’s performance. ‘I think that he had a pretty quick rise here and obviously the fight over Alistair Overeem catapulted him.

‘Everybody was talking about him. I thought he was going to be the next guy. I think his ego ran away with him. Big time. I can tell you that his ego absolutely did run away. The minute that happens to you in the fight game you see what happens – you start to fall apart.

UFC president Dana White has since revealed that they were considering cutting Ngannou

‘I had some personal encounters with him, as did other people in the organization and this guy’s ego was so out of control. Before the Stipe fight he took off and went to France. Didn’t even really train for that fight. And you see the results. Well, then he comes back and he did train, but the ego is what hurt Francis Ngannou.’

White has since revealed that the UFC were considering cutting Ngannou from the roster, such was the frostiness of their relationship, but they ‘got past’ the friction. 

‘I think the ego problem was a whole different situation. It’s not even worth getting into, but we got past that. We got past all that. He lost two in a row at one point, and we could’ve parted ways with him, but we didn’t. We stuck with him and now he’s the world champ, and you know… we’ll see how this plays out.’ 

Any concerns about Ngannou’s reluctance to pull the trigger were dispelled in November 2018 in Beijing, when the Cameroonian took just 44 seconds to wipe out Curtis Blaydes. 

However, he rediscovered his booming power punches and stopped Curtis Blaydes in 44 secs

Ngannou rolled over UFC legend Cain Velasquez inside just 26 seconds in back to back wins

Ngannou indicated that there were issues he needed to ‘fix’, with a rematch against Miocic and a chance to right the wrongs of his defeats in Boston and Vegas his motivation to reach the summit of the heavyweight ranks. 

‘Junior dos Santos owes me one fight and then I’m looking for Alexander Volkov,’ he said. ‘Also a revenge against Stipe Miocic. That fight, I didn’t do well and I really want to fix it.’

Dos Santos would meet Ngannou, but not before the Predator blasted UFC legend Cain Velasquez out of the Octagon inside 26 seconds in Phoenix.

The Brazilian put up a slightly better fight than the former Mexican champion, lasting 71 seconds before Ngannou eventually got to him with a winging right hand that left his rival in a heap to emphasise that he had rediscovered his freakish punching power once again. 

Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s fate was handed to him inside 20 seconds in Jacksonville, Florida as the UFC granted Ngannou his wish to square off with Miocic once again.

The Cameroonian kept the ball rolling with a victory over Junior dos Santos, taking 71 seconds

He tallied four wins on the trot with the destruction of Jairzinho Rozenstruik inside 20 seconds

In total, Ngannou spent 2 minutes and 42 seconds in the Octagon between his defeat to Lewis and rematch with Miocic, with four different opponents standing opposite him during that time. 

Ngannou has reflected that he has taken a more relaxed attitude in the Octagon, comfortable in the knowledge that his freakish power will come to the fore at some point during a fight.  

‘Since I fought Stipe the first time, I was looking for a KO and it didn’t go well,’ Ngannou said recently. 

‘And then I went back did my thing usually and the knockout came back. It seems like I made for knockouts even without searching for it.’

That laid-back approach reaped its rewards against Miocic last year. In a rare turn of events, Ngannou was unable to get his rival out of the Octagon inside the opening round.

In all, it took him under three minutes for another title shot, when he finally clinched UFC gold

Ngannou says he is now relaxed and does not search for a knockout, but trusts it is coming

The Cameroonian would have been forgiven for panicking, for fearing that the events of their first fight would play out once again. Yet he remained composed, kept the faith in his booming right hand and got the knockout 52 seconds into the second round. 

White lauded Ngannou following his victory, praising his willingness to improve and become a more rounded fighter, not overly reliant on his power punches.

‘Listen, he had the first fight with Stipe. He’s had a lot of time to think about it and a lot of time to break down tape and work on things that he was deficient in the first fight. He did his job,’ White said.

‘He looked damn good. He even ate that big right hand that Stipe threw back at him. It was a very impressive performance.’ 

Ciryl Gane awaits the heavyweight champion next. The former team-mates know plenty about each other having trained together in Paris. 

Gane may offer a more complicated puzzle to solve for Ngannou but the Cameroonian will be confident that, over the course of 25 minutes, he can set the Frenchman up for a booming right hand to retain his championship.  

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