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The Rise and Fall of Francis Ngannou
One week ago, if you had told me that Franic Ngannou and Derrick Lewis would have gone the full 15 minutes of their fight, I would have assumed you never saw either of them fight before. If you told me they would have put on the worst fight in UFC history, I probably would have slapped you and told you to watch another sport. The betting line in Vegas didn’t have this fight making it to the 2nd round, and fight fans believed the same thing. With all of the fights for UFC 226 being exciting with amazing submission finishes and bloody battles, when it came time for the co-main event the anticipation was high and fight fans in the arena and at home were gearing up to possibly see a murder in the center of the Octagon. Boy oh Boy were we wrong because this fight should have ended in a draw or at least have been stopped and forfeited due to extreme boredom. Derrick Lewis was complaining of back pain early on, and Francis just looked like he didn’t even want to be there, and it seems we have the UFC to blame for that.
Francis Ngannou burst on to the UFC scene completely destroying his opponents not allowing any fights to get out of the 1st round. The hype was building for the man who had such an incredible story, the UFC marketing machine was setting him up to be the Mike Tyson of Mixed Martial Arts. When Francis knocked out Overheem with one of the most devastating strikes ever, the UFC took that opportunity to have him fight for the UFC Heavyweight championship against Stipe Miocic. Most MMA fans were very intrigued to see this fight because the UFC had us all thinking that Francis was an unstoppable force who would be the champion until he decided to retire. Stipe out classed Ngannou to the point where it looked like Francis didn’t deserve to be in the same company let alone the same cage as the champ. After a 25 minute beating, the shine on Ngannou seemed to be going away, but a lot of the fans still believed that he could bounce back from that loss just because of the power he possess in his hands. When the UFC announced the fight with Francis vs Lewis, the world was buzzing just thinking of how wonderfully brutal this fight would be. After watching the worst fight in history, it seems that the confidence and swagger Francis possessed is now gone and for a division that needs more stars, that could prove to be troublesome.
We have always accused the UFC of pushing certain fighters too hard and too fast, and in this case they have ruined one of the best future stars they could have asked for. Seeing Francis come out so tentative, fight fans in the arena were showing their displeasure for the fight as loud as they could, but you had some hope that the pace would soon pick up. Commentators thought that they were just feeling each other out in the 1st round, and the action would soon pick up, and it didn’t. It got so bad, at one point referee Herb Dean had to stop the fight and tell the fighters to engage with each other. I’m going to say that again, the fighters were told they HAD TO ENGAGE, what the hell is that?? Derrick Lewis is to blame also, but he was at least attempting to get something started by throwing switch kicks and clinching to go for takedowns. When the final bell sounded, fight fans breathed a sigh of relief because the fight was finally over. Lewis got the win by decision, but it should have ended in a draw because neither fighter pushed the pace, or landed any significant strikes.
The UFC derailed Ngannou’s career by overhyping him and putting him against the champ way before he was ready. We only have a shell of what used to be and that is highly disappointing. You always question how a fighter reacts to their first loss or even the loss in a championship fight. Ngannou has to find a way to get his kill mode back or else his future with the company will be done. It is all on the fighter to be able to rebound off a loss, but when the company is building you up to be the next big thing and you falter, they need to take on some responsibility. The scary thing is, with the up and coming fighters into the company, how many more careers will be derailed because the WME has a big mortgage payment and their PPV buys have been less than stellar. Who the UFC gives Ngannou next will be interesting, they can’t give him a wrestler because his takedown defense is horrid, they can’t give him an elite striker because after this showing, he doesn’t look like he wants to engage due to fear of either being taken down, or outclassed standing. With a man who fought his way out of being homeless, a loss in the cage should be the least of the man’s problems. Hopefully we get the old Francis back, but if we don’t he will be just another sad story of what could have been, had the UFC not wanted to sky rocket him into superstardom without seeing what skills he really had, and how big his weaknesses really were.
By: Tommy Dee on air personality at Pride Rules MMA Podcast
Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)