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What’s next for Francis Ngannou?

Francis Ngannou had perhaps the biggest win of his mixed martial arts career at UFC 249 over multiple-time world kickboxing champion Jairzinho Rozenstruik. It was incredibly impressive, given the fact that Rozenstruik was 10-0 in mixed martial arts competition, and 76-8-1 in kickboxing. Rozenstruik had only ever lost a handful of stand up fights in his life prior to UFC 249, and Ngannou did it in record time, finishing off the Surinamese fighter in just 20 seconds.

His previous three opponents lasted 71 seconds, 26 seconds, and 45 seconds. This means of his last four fights since losing two straight, it only took him two minutes and forty-two seconds combined to finish all four opponents.

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It looked like we may had seen the best of ‘The Predator’ after his fight with Derrick Lewis. After being mauled by UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic, he was incredibly gun-shy in his next fight with ‘The Black Beast’, then the UFC gave him a rematch with Curtis Blaydes. Most of us didn’t agree with the matchmaking, thinking it was too early after two straight setbacks to give him someone who’s surging on a six-fight unbeaten streak like Blaydes.

He proved us all wrong very quickly however, as he finished him off with his powerful punches, as well as Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos in his next two. Now he’s coming off a straight up starching over one of the best and most powerful strikers in the entire sport. That begs the question, what’s next for Francis Ngannou?

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‘The Predator’ is in a weird spot, actually the heavyweight division is in general. With himself sitting at No. 2, the only two above him are Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, who need to face off with one another and settle their trilogy. The thing about this, each of their last fights were in August of last year against one another, and Ngannou took his last two fights just to stay active, he’s been next in line.

Ngannou’s been the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight belt in most peoples eyes since he beat Velasquez. Not to mention the No. 3 ranked heavyweight is Curtis Blaydes, who Ngannou finished twice. No. 4 is Junior dos Santos, No. 5 is Derrick Lewis, No. 6 is Jairzinho Rozenstruik, he’s fought just about everybody at the top of the heavyweight division.

He did of course lose via unanimous decision to Lewis, but it’s doubtful the UFC would make that fight again. Though Ngannou may come out with more confidence this time around, it was just too lackluster of a fight that had way too many fans complaining.

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This opens up a potential superfight between himself and Jon Jones, and they’ve been back-and-forth on twitter since Ngannou’s win over Rozenstruik. Jones does have a couple potential title challengers in his division, but it’s arguable who should get the next shot at him. Many people believe Dominick Reyes should get the immediate rematch, many people believe Jan Blachowicz deserves a shot at him, and Glover Teixeira just had a big win at UFC Jacksonville to improve his winning streak to four straight. Thiago Santos is also looking to come back after his knee injury, is it possible they could sort themselves out while Jones makes the trip to heavyweight?

The UFC stated that they may need to strip Stipe Miocic of his title, considering the fact that he said he can’t and won’t train during this pandemic. This could also open up an interim, or vacant title fight with Ngannou and Cormier, though both of them said they wouldn’t fight for an interim title. It’s doubtful the UFC would strip Miocic under the circumstances, but he hasn’t been the most active. Either would be an insane fight to witness, but Ngannou will certainly fight for the belt again soon, so why not a match up with arguably the best ever during the wait?

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Jon Jones versus Francis Ngannou would be such a great fight, and it would do so well for the UFC. You have Jones, who’s not the UFC’s biggest seller, but he’s a name that everyone knows, and there’s a ton of controversy around him. So many people want to see him lose, and so many people want to see him win. He’s not the kind of fighter fans are neutral about, either they love him or hate him. Him moving up to heavyweight to fight Ngannou would be huge. ‘The Predator’ is just as tall as ‘Bones’, standing 6’4”, and he also has an 83” reach, only 1.5” shorter than Jones’. The light-heavyweight champion has gotten tagged by opponents with much shorter arms than Ngannou’s.

Many people think Ngannou is a one-trick pony, that all he can do is swing wildly and hope to connect. That’s not the case. He does have technique, his hands can be very fluent, as shown in his fights with Luis Henrique, Curtis Blaydes both times they fought, Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez, and he showed good leg kicks against Junior dos Santos before finishing him. He doesn’t usually fight with absolute reckless abandon, it’s a wonder why he fought Rozenstruik like that. Perhaps he knew he wasn’t going to win that fight with technique, given the skills of Rozenstruik on the feet.

That’s not all though, some believe Jones could use his wrestling to neutralize the one-dimensional Ngannou. Given Jones’ wrestling background and the fact that he submitted two BJJ black belts in his first four title defenses, it’s safe to say he’s better on the ground. However, Ngannou isn’t a newbie to the grappling side of things.

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Three of his first four wins came via submission, and he submitted Anthony Hamilton in the UFC with a wicked kimura. He got it in a standing position while Hamilton was trying to take him down, and he swept him with it before finishing the fight. Though Hamilton isn’t as good as Jones at really anything, he’s a lifelong wrestler. That’s not an easy thing to do to someone like that, especially just three years into a mixed martial arts career. All four of his submission wins were finished with a different method than the last as well.

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The light-heavyweight champion stated that the negotiations for this fight went south however, and that he’s walking away from the sport considering. That may just be a ploy for Jones to get more money, and maybe it could happen if the UFC steps up and pays him more. But if not, what else could be next for Ngannou? Perhaps that match up with Cormier if his trilogy with Miocic falls through, or maybe a fight with the No. 7 ranked Alexander Volkov. It seems insane to give Ngannou anyone outside the top three, but there really aren’t many options for him to stay active.

Sky is the limit for Francis Ngannou, it really is. He’s such an incredible talent, we’ll never see another like him. Considering he didn’t get into MMA until his mid-twenties, we may not see the very best of him until his mid-thirties, and that’s incredibly exciting. That, along with his African bloodlines, he has all the potential in the world to continue getting better and better for a few years to come. What would you like to see be next for ‘The Predator’?

 

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