In the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on Saturday, the main event of UFC 260 was a rematch that pitched Francis “The Predator” Ngannou against the fighter who beat him in their first bout and the champion, Stipe Miocic.
Ngannou turned on the beast mode quickly to emerge the new UFC heavyweight champion after a second-round knockout win over the American.
The first round witnessed a proper showing of the Predator, as not only did he tag Miocic with some punches that would have knocked anyone else, but he also successfully defended a takedown. He recovered from the takedown to take the champion’s back, paving the way for what was to come later.
In the second frame, Ngannou smashed Miocic’s face so hard, the chin finally gave way. Then, Ngannou displayed his predatory instincts to crack Miocic with another right hand, and a reeling champion gave way to a new era in the heavyweight division with the Cameroonian emerging with the title in just two rounds.
Between their first fight and Saturday’s rematch, Ngannou’s improvement has been astronomical, which is not encouraging news for others in the heavyweight division. Gone were the weaknesses in his takedown defense and cardio of the first fight and in was the ability to shuck the advances of his opponent and be efficient in his offense to win.
Ngannou’s climb to the pinnacle in the UFC tells like a fairytale and comes as the culmination of a fascinating career for Ngannou. Once struggling to eke out a living on the streets of Paris, unsure what was going to be his fate, he committed his life to the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) through boxing only to see his dedication and commitment to the art make him the baddest man in the biggest division of the UFC.
His victory was both a mission of avenging one of only two losses under the UFC banner and beginning a terrifying title reign in the heavyweight category of the Championship. That loss to Miocic by unanimous decision was followed by an ugly UFC 226 loss in 2018 to American Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis, whose 12 knockout bouts is the most in UFC history.
Since then, he has improved his fight lot to become one of the scariest title contenders. This he illustrated by the manner in which he reached this honour. In a combined time of two minutes and 42 seconds, he knocked out four opponents, including wins over Surinamese mixed martial artist and former kickboxer, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, in 20 seconds and American professional wrestler and retired mixed martial artist, Cain Velasquez, in 26 seconds.
The immediate question for the future will be finding potential challengers against the new champion. Dana White, UFC President, already prefaced this by acknowledging what most UFC watchers will want to see happen when he said: “It would be tough to say that Miocic doesn’t deserve a trilogy fight.”
But, most importantly of all, there is always Jon Jones. The former light heavyweight champion, whose name is never far away from the lips of every commenter in the UFC when challengers for champions come up, walked away from the 205-pound division he had ruled for Longest Light Heavyweight champion reign in UFC history (1501 days), to move up to the heavyweight category.
That automatically makes a potential bout between Jones and whoever holds the heavyweight title a superfight. Currently, such a fight, if it ever gets worked out, is likely to be the biggest matchup in the UFC, without a doubt.
It is uncertain for now if Ngannou may have to prove his credentials in a third clash with Miocic before a date with Jones, or another challenger as the case may be. What is undisputed is that “The Predator” has moved to the top of the food chain by clawing his way through in devastating fashion. And, this version of Ngannou is going to be tough to unseat.