OK, it’s time to have a talk about Francis Ngannou.
Last night in the main event of UFC Minneapolis, Francis Ngannou did it again. He knocked out an elite heavyweight in the very first round without breaking a sweat. In the aftermath, fans, commentators, and media members sang the same refrains: rhetorically asking how scary Ngannou is or directly proclaiming him as one of the scariest people on the planet. The latter is particularly some heavy praise, yet somehow it is still selling Ngannou and his accomplishments short.
I encountered a “scary” statistic following the close of UFC Minneapolis: four minutes and four seconds. That’s the total fight time for Ngannou’s victories over Cain Velasquez, Curtis Blaydes (rematch), Junior dos Santos, and Alistair Overeem. Francis Ngannou has only been dropped one time in his UFC career, and that was by a leg kick last night. He also has 10 knockouts and counting in his career 17-fight career. That’s beyond scary. It’s greatness. Let’s call it what it is.
The term “scary” needs to be replaced with “great” or, better yet, a perfect hybrid between the two: “dominant.” Because we’re at a point where we can’t go on billing this guy as this special attraction. We need to consider him one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
I get it. That’s going to make a lot of people cringe. He’s not the most beloved nor is he well-rounded, but the facts don’t lie. The man’s overall UFC résumé, including caliber of opponents, methods of victories, and fight time is arguably already better than anyone else’s, but I understand that a world title is needed to be in the conversation of GOATs in your division.
Well, I’ve got news for you. If Francis Ngannou defeats either Stipe Miocic (Getting his loss back against a man many consider the HW GOAT) or Daniel Cormier (A man whom many have in their overall GOAT conversations), then based strictly on résumé, which is generally how the public judges GOAT talks, then he would be the greatest UFC heavyweight of all time based on those metrics.
If you just look at the data objectively, it wouldn’t even really be close. Some will point to the Derrick Lewis performance/loss. But in no way does that overshadow all that Ngannou has done as is, let alone if he defeats Miocic or Cormier. Just Wiki this man’s résumé of opponents, methods of victory, and fight time, then replace “Francis Ngannou” with the name “Cain Velasquez” or “Stipe Miocic,” and there would be virtually no push back on where this guy stands.
Lastly, even if we are to fuse “greatest fighter” and “best fighter” and just look at his skill set, if I pick up a controller and start playing Mortal Kombat, and I keep doing the same exact maneuver over and over, consistently beating the best players around the world in seconds and with a full energy bar remaining each time, then sorry, I’m an elite player of that game, whether or not I have a wide arsenal of moves. And if I were to make it to #1 in the world after doing that, then I’d challenge you to name a better player than me who ever lived.
Well, if Francis Ngannou defeats either Stipe Miocic or Daniel Cormier to become #1, that’s the exact challenge I will make to people on his behalf when running down the list of heavyweight GOATs. Francis Ngannou is indeed scary. This narrative attached to him is true. But it’s also limiting. His defensive footwork is beyond scary. His distance control is beyond scary. His counterstriking timing is beyond scary. His accuracy is beyond scary. The man isn’t just power. He’s a lethal striker, an athlete, and a man who deserves the respect based on objective facts and merit as a man who is a championship win away from being the greatest UFC heavyweight of all time.
And the truth is, that scares a lot of people.