Tale of the Tape
Francis Ngannou, fighting out of Las Vegas, Nevada
MMA record 16-3
Betting odds: +135
Long known for his incredible power, the Cameroon-native in an explosively fast puncher with a somewhat limited overall game. Clearly that’s been enough to get him far in the sport, as he now makes his first UFC heavyweight title defense, but he will need to round out his skill-set if he is to reign for any lengthy period. To his credit, clear improvements have been made in recent bouts to his footwork, patience, scrambling, fight IQ and striking technique. However, this week’s matchup could see his game could be tested in ways like never before, particularly in his own realm on the feet.
The name Francis Ngannou is synonymous with power but that’s actually not what makes him especially dangerous. While yes, he does hit extremely hard, his power has been somewhat overrated. He hasn’t shown to hit harder than any other heavyweight in history, contrary to UFC marketing fluff. He knocks out fighters who have already been knocked out before, including in even more brutal fashions than he is able to deliver. That’s not to say he isn’t one of the hardest hitters we’ve ever seen — he is — but he’s not in a class of his own like the hype lead you to believe. In fact, he arguably isn’t even the hardest hitter on the current UFC roster, as Derrick Lewis makes a great case for that title.
What does make “The Predator” special is his speed. He is not only the fastest heavyweight in the current UFC division but may very well be the fastest in the organization’s history. Combining that speed with his top-tier power makes him one of the most dangerous knockout artists we’ve ever seen. He simply beats opponent’s to the punch on a consistent basis and only needs to land a single time to end everything. This means regardless of how badly he is out-skilled in a matchup, he will always have a significant chance at victory.
His weaknesses on the feet still boil down to his overall technique. To put it bluntly, has has basic footwork, sloppy punching and poor defense. Further, he is the living embodiment of the term “a good defense is a strong offense.” His barely moves his head or even tries to block with his arms — his response is to an opponent’s strikes is to simply counter and hope that you go down first. This has worked out wonderfully thus far, for him, but eventually that will be exploited.
We haven’t seen any significant grappling from Ngannou since his loss to Stipe Miocic back in January of 2018. There, he showed significant issues with clinch work, takedown defense and grappling defense from his back. Since then, he has at least shown improvement in the clinch and scrambles, but his defensive grappling has been largely untested. Considering how helpless he looked on the ground vs Miocic, I find it hard to believe Francis has turned into a defensive grappling stalwart in the time since.
Aside from defensive grappling, cardio has been shown to be another costly issue for Ngannou. In any fight that has passed round two, he has shown clear trouble with endurance. His offense becomes muted, his footwork turns extremely plodding and he’s an easy target for strikes and takedowns. This is surely something opponents plan for but few have had success surviving the early striking onslaught. Ultimately Ngannou’s overall game seems fairly lacking on paper, but every so often a fighter comes along with such a potent combination of intangibles that they can go surprisingly far despite that. His extremely rare combination of explosive speed and one-punch power make him a nightmare matchup for any opponent with any style. Eventually his lack of skills will cost him., however. Come this Saturday night, he will challenge by far the most technical striker of his career in Cyril Gane, who I’ll be breaking down tomorrow.