At the opening pay-per-view of 2022 this past weekend, Ngannou returned to defend his title for the first time since winning it at UFC 260 last March. Ahead of his unification showdown with former teammate Gane, a lot was being made about his future, preparation, and mindset.
Would his ongoing contractual dispute with the UFC affect his performance? Would his desire for a crossover to boxing distract him from the threat of “Bon Gamin?” Would Gane’s technical style and fast movement nullify his power? Was a knockout his only path to victory?
When the iconic voice of Bruce Buffer called out “and still” after 25 minutes of action, Ngannou had successfully answered all of those questions.
Usman: Even I Don’t Do That Sweep
After struggling on the feet for the opening two rounds, it appeared “The Predator” was on his way to a first defeat since 2018 and a potential departure from the promotion. But in the third frame, a momentous takedown changed the game.
After seeing the control he could employ on the ground, the UFC’s hardest-hitting knockout artist put his grappling improvements on full display, earning the nickname “Francis Ngannoumedov” from some fans with the performance.
One man who had a front-row seat for Ngannou’s impressive strategy towards the end of the UFC 270 main event, and who knows a bit or two about wrestling, was reigning welterweight king Usman.
Speaking to BT Sport in the aftermath of his fellow African champ’s victory, “The Nigerian Nightmare” described Ngannou as the evolution of the heavyweights and suggested even he doesn’t perform the sweep “The Predator” employed while on his back in the fifth and final frame.
“Francis, that’s the thing about him, he’s one of those special athletes that he takes everything as it comes,” said Usman. “He was gonna be able to deal with whatever was coming at him. He didn’t initially engage in the clinch or the wrestling the first round. That came from Gane, which I thought was an excellent game plan.
“But we’re just seeing the evolution of heavyweights. I mean, did you see that sweep in the fifth? I mean, damn. Even I don’t do that one. So you’re seeing the evolution of the game, and Francis is a scary man.”
While an Ngannou prediction was hardly left field prior to UFC 270, the manner in which he defeated the previously unbeaten Gane was one in which not many, if anybody, had seen coming.
With a clearly developed ground game to go along with the immense KO power that has left the likes of Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Stipe Miocuc unconscious, the champion is a scary prospect for the rest of the division—if he remains in the promotion beyond 2022, that is.
What did you make of Francis Ngannou’s performance at UFC 270?