Although UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou revealed that if he could have chosen his path to victory against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 it would have been via knockout, proving people wrong worked out well also.
With the eyes of practically every fan on him and the talk in all circles surrounding his uncertain future and ongoing dispute with the UFC, Ngannou didn’t buckle under the pressure.
In fact, much like his knee brace held up his torn MCL and damaged ACL through five rounds of action, Ngannou’s focus, perseverance, and the team around him held up his self-belief, something that would prove to be crucial on his path to victory.
Having pushed through multiple areas of adversity, “The Predator” made it to the Octagon for the first pay-per-view main event of 2022 with a point to prove. After two rounds of comfortable control on the feet for Gane, that point looked to be fading.
But after metaphorically catching that point and slamming it to the ground in the third round, the Cameroon native used his improved wrestling game to add the first blemish to his former teammate’s record.
Having been unable to get close to “Bon Gamin” on the feet, it was undoubtedly the strategic adjustment to takedowns and ground control that turned the tide last Saturday. Having seen Gane’s reaction to it at the end of the third round, Ngannou said he knew it was to be smooth sailing for the remaining 10 minutes.
Ngannou Happy To Prove Doubters Wrong Despite KO Preference
Prior to UFC 270, the prevailing narrative was that the unification showdown was a case of power vs. technique on the feet. Very few even discussed the possibility of either party choosing to initiate a wrestling sequence, and even fewer believed Ngannou would be capable of engineering a victory with it.
While he sees the opportunity to have proven his doubters wrong and show he can go five rounds, even when grappling is involved, as a good thing, Ngannou still admits he’d have chosen a KO if he could have.
“I didn’t know, for sure, that it was gonna be a grappling match. But I have that as an option, that it could be a grappling match,” Ngannou said during his appearance at the post-fight press conference. “Basically, because I wasn’t very comfortable on my stand, I wasn’t very stable, so I was very concerned. I couldn’t move properly, and against a guy who moves as well as Ciryl, It was very tough for me, the standup part. But he kind of gave me the opportunity; came to me at first with those takedowns… My team recommended me to keep doing that, work on the wrestling and grapple because we were pretty confident about our skills.
“Neither do I (expect to see me fight five rounds), I haven’t seen me fight for so long [LAUGHS]. The wrestling has been part of my game from the beginning. I’ve been working on (it), maybe it wasn’t good enough, but I never had a chance to prove it,” added Ngannou. “If I would’ve chose, it would’ve been a knockout man [LAUGHS]. This five rounds, it wasn’t my call. But meanwhile, it was a good thing because I finally had a chance to prove that I can do it. Everybody counts me out when it goes to five rounds, ‘Ah, Ciryl by decision! Only way Francis wins is by knockout,’ but you were wrong.”
With another wrinkle added to his game, Ngannou has displayed his development from knockout artist to all-round mixed martial artist. That’s certainly a scary prospect for the rest of the division should he agree to a new deal with the UFC and continue his reign.
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