UFC Minneapolis Main Event Preview: Francis Ngannou vs Junior Dos Santos

In terms of fights that on paper can’t fail to entertain, this weekend’s heavyweight matchup is a prime example.

Two heavyweights on the cusp of another attempt at world title glory will battle it out in Minneapolis in what’s sure to be a fire fight.

Francis Ngannou and Junior Dos Santos are notoriously enthralling to watch, both have frightening power in their hands and can finish the fight in an instant.

Ngannou has been on a rollercoaster journey during his life as well as in his martial arts career. Born into poverty in Cameroon with little education, at the staggeringly young age of twelve he began working very hard in the sand quarries.

Despite many offers to join local gangs, he didn’t want to go down a similar path to his Father who was a notorious street fighter and instead at twenty-two decided to pursue boxing. At twenty-six he moved to France to try and make something out of combat sports but lacking both money and friends, he ended up homeless.

Eventually Didier Carmont took him under his wing and encouraged him to focus instead on mixed martial arts. Despite a setback early in his second fight, after six outings he signed for the UFC. Several victories later, Nganou was ready for a high-profile bout.

He was matched up against UFC title challenger and kickboxing world champion Alastair Overeem. In just shy of two minutes Ngannou landed one of the most frightening one punch knockouts in the history of the sport. Now he couldn’t be denied a shot at the belt.

At the time the world champion was Stipe Miocic who is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights who has ever lived, but despite this, it was Ngannou who was generating all the attention. Dana White was marketing Ngannou extremely hard, often referring to him as the hardest puncher the world has ever seen. The bookmakers had him the favourite going into the bout, but despite the hype the fight unravelled in a way Ngannou wouldn’t have expected.

Stipe Miocic proved why he was the best on the planet, after an exciting first round where both men traded bombs, it was the champion who took control and outclassed the challenger by out boxing and out grappling him en route to a unanimous decision victory.

In his next contest, it was clear that Ngannou’s confidence had been heavily dented. Against Derrick Lewis he would lose another decision in a fight that has been deemed one of the worst of all time, after barely even throwing a punch.

With his career in tatters, he was matched up with a man he had already beaten, Curtis Blaydes, in Beijing, China. Since the first fight, Blaydes had excelled and it looked like this was simply a contest where he could avenge his loss and Ngannou would fade out of the spotlight.

However, Ngannou landed one of his trademark shots forty five seconds into the fight and announced that he was back. He followed this up with a similar showing against the returning and arguably greatest heavyweight ever in Cain Velasquez.

When it looked like he’d never be anywhere near a shot at the belt ever again, he turned it all around, but the one man who wants to put an insurmountable hurdle in the way is Junior Dos Santos.

The former world champion is also renowned for his hands; he certainly has elite technical ability, but make no mistake he certainly carries power in those punches. Like his counterpart he also started work early in life, in his case at just ten years old and in addition also excelled very quickly in martial arts.

After seven wins in the UFC he fought and beat Cain Velasquez for the world title. He would go on to lose the title in a rematch two fights down the line, but this achievement is still highly regarded. He would eventually get another shot at gold against Miocic but on this occasion he lost via KO.

Since then he has put together three victories over Blagoy Ivanovov, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis and has looked as good as he ever was.

On Saturday night we’re in for a real treat. Two men, whose boxing talents can result in a knockout at any point in the fight, are in desperate need of a victory. One to fulfill the legacy that it seemed he was destined to achieve and the other to reach the mountain top one last time. With so much at stake this fight can’t possibly disappoint.

 

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