Since the creation of the UFC in 1993, the UFCs Heavyweight division has always been a fan favourite division to watch due to the One Punch Knockouts and the unpredictability of how a fight will play out between two top heavyweights. The weight class consists of MMA fighters weighing anywhere between 207 pounds and 265 pounds, this leaves a giant difference in weight between some heavyweight opponents unlike other UFC weight classes which only allow a singular pound or two difference to make the bout eligible and although the UFC Heavyweight match ups contain a weight differential, todays UFC Heavyweights have proven that size isn’t the end all be all factor in making it to the top. UFCs current Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic continues to prove this correct after racking up 5 UFC title wins and holing the record for consecutive title wins at 3 against considerably bigger opponents. Miocic is currently scheduled to take on Former UFC Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 in the third and final installment between the two. After this bout takes place there is without question, one man who is next in line to compete for the UFC Heavyweight title, Francis Ngannou.
Born in Batié, Cameroon, Francis Ngannou was brought up with the definition of hard work where growing up Francis lived in a village filled with poverty in Cameroon, this left Ngannou to not receive a formal education and with his parents divorcing when Francis was only 6 years old, he was sent to live with his aunt. At the age of just 12 years old, Francis began working in a Sand Quarry in Batié because of the lack of income that Francis’ family had. During this time, Francis was approached by many gangs in his village but refused to be a part of the criminal behaviour due to his fathers reputation of being a street fighter. Instead, Francis wanted to pursue a positive career in professional boxing with the goal to simply make enough money to live on.
At the age of 22, Francis began training to become a boxer but an illness haunted Francis training for the time being leading to Ngannou to continue to work a variety of jobs just to make ends meet. When Francis turned 26 years old he decided that it was time for a change so he made the decision to leave Cameroon and head for Paris, France to really pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer but once again Francis’ dream was put on a standstill after he was arrested and jailed in Spain for 2 months as he had been caught illegally crossing the border.
When Francis finally made it to Paris, he had no money, no friends or family in Paris and nowhere to live which left Francis homeless while staying in Paris to begin with. In August of 2013, Francis found Didier Carmont who allowed Francis to train at his gym for free to pursue his dream. Francis’ idol in the boxing world was Boxing Legend Mike Tyson who fans would later make the comparison to a few years later. With Francis’ goal of becoming a Professional Boxer finally looking bright, his coach introduced him to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts instead which kick started the rise of Francis Ngannou in MMA.
After turning in his first professional MMA win in November, 2013, Francis racked up a record of 5-1 (3 submission wins, 2 KO wins & 1 Decision loss) before entering the UFC in December of 2015 which was just 25 months after Francis Ngannou has turned professional and around 26 months after he had began training in a legitimate Martial Arts gym.
Francis’ first UFC opponent came in the form of Luis Henrique and with Francis showing the world the first signs of potential, he finished the bout with a devastating uppercut resulting in Ngannou winning by KO in the second round.
Four months on from Francis’ debut, he fought again at a UFC Fight Night that was headlined by top heavyweights Junior Dos Santos and Ben Rothwell on April 10th, 2016. Ngannous second UFC opponent came against another up and coming prospect Curtis Blaydes. Blaydes was undefeated at the time which made the match up intriguing as to what the outcome from the bout may be but Blaydes undefeated record didn’t make a difference as Francis continued to show off the power he contained in his hands as well as the continued increasing advancement of skills when he closed the eye of Blaydes resulting in a doctors stoppage and Francis receiving his second UFC win by TKO in round 2 and the undefeated record of Blaydes broken.
Francis Ngannou proceeded to continue his streak of activity when he faced off against Anthony Hamilton on another UFC Fight Night as the Co-Main Event which was again headlines by UFC top Heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Shamil Abdurakhimov. This stage was the biggest stage that Ngannou had be on up to that point and he did not disappoint with a Kimura submission over Hamilton in the first round to claim a Performance of the Night bonus and his first and only UFC submission win to date.
With the hype surrounding Francis Ngannou growing, he was given the opportunity to take a step up in competition against former UFC Heavyweight Champion and all time legend in the heavyweight division, Andrei Arlovski at UFC on Fox on January 28th, 2017. Francis made easy work of the former champion and only needed 1 minute and 32 seconds of the first round to beat Arlovski by first round KO which cemented Francis’ place as being a legitimate contender for the title in the future and earning him a second consecutive Performance of the Night bonus.
As Francis professional record stood at 10-1, he was originally arranged to take on another former UFC Heavyweight champion in Junior Dos Santos who was coming off a loss to current champion Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title. The bout was agreed to take place at UFC 215 but fell through due to JDS sustaining a USADA issue prior to the bout leaving Francis without an opponent for the Pay-Per-View event. Not long after Francis was scheduled to compete against Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 in December of 2017 which led people to believe that Overeems experience and recent wins over top contenders such as JDS, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt and close bout with Stipe Miocic which almost saw him claim the title after dropping Miocic in their one round war but was unfortunately KO’d at the end of round 1, would be a serious challenge for the Ngannou to get through if he wanted to make his claim for the next title shot. When the two met in the octagon, Francis once again needed a short period of time when he deliberated one of the most devastating uppercut KO finishes ever delivered over Overeem leaving Alistair twitching on the canvas and leaving Francis having his hand raised once again by KO in the first round after only 1 minute and 42 seconds to claim rights to the next title shot against Stipe Miocic, a Knockout of the Year award and another Performance of the Night bonus.
The hype train was in full swing when Francis Ngannou was scheduled to fight for the UFCs Heavyweight title only a month after his win over Alistair Overeem with Dana White announcing statistics about the power that Francis possesses in his hands and comparing it to being hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can. Which left a lot of people believing that Francis was going to steam roll through the most successful UFC Heavyweight champion ever, Stipe Miocic at UFC 220. After a relatively good start from Ngannou in his bout with Stipe, landing some nicely placed punches, Francis seemed to have blown out against the reigning champion leaving Stipe to pick up rounds 2, 3, 4 & 5 by continuously taking Ngannou to the mat and consistently pinning Ngannou there to claim the Unanimous Decision win over Francis which derailed the hype train of Francis Ngannou and left people not as interested in Ngannou as a result of his first UFC loss.
On July 7th, 2018, Stipe Miocic was set for defend his UFC Heavyweight title against then UFC Light-Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier at UFC 226 in a super fight which saw Cormier dethrone Miocic by first round knockout to become a two division UFC champion. The Co-Main event of the night was the returning Francis Ngannou facing off with another known knockout artist, Derrick Lewis. The fight between Ngannou and Lewis has been described on numerous occasions as a “Snoozefest” and one of the worst Heavyweight bouts of all time with hardly any offense shown from either fighter leading to a Unanimous Decision win for Derrick Lewis sending Francis Ngannou on a two fight losing streak and sending his hopes of becoming a heavyweight champion further down. Since this bout, Francis has said that he felt nervous about his bout with Lewis as he did not want to feel a loss like he did against Stipe again where he was dominated for the majority of the fight.
On November 24th, 2018, Curtis Blaydes was set to face Francis Ngannou and with people believing that Blaydes was going to wrestle and beat Francis after gaining a brutal victory over Alistair Overeem in June of the same year, fans speculated that Francis was going to loss for a third consecutive time in one year but Ngannou seemed to have found his way back into his rhythm after he snapped his 2 fight losing streak with a 45 second knockout over Blaydes leading to Francis Ngannou once again receiving a Performance of the Night bonus.
Francis’ claim for a second title shot didn’t end there, he was matched up not long after against arguably one of the best UFC Heavyweights of all time and former UFC Heavyweight champion, Cain Valasquez on one of the UFCs first events scheduled under ESPN on the 17th of February, 2019. Valasquez was looking to return after a long term lay off due to injuries leading to him being unable to consistently compete. Francis Ngannou once again made easy work of yet another former UFC champion when Valasquez looked to wear Ngannou down by clinching up against the octagon with him until Ngannou landed a short uppercut on Valasquezs chin leading to Ngannou Lansing a couple of shots to a downed Valasquez and winning the fight by TKO in round 1 at only 26 seconds.
After almost 2 years since they were originally scheduled to fight, Ngannou and Junior Dos Santos finally met in the octagon as the headliner to another UFC on ESPN card on June 29th, 2019. Dos Santos’ elite background in striking seemed to mean very little against the powerhouse Ngannou which resulted in Francis claiming his third consecutive first round knockout over JDS to put himself back in contention for a title fight and making him once again one of the scariest fighters in the UFCs Heavyweight division. With Francis only needing 1 minute and 11 seconds to put away JDS, this earned him yet another Performance of the night bonus.
Francis’ latest bout came a year later against Jairzinho Rozenstruik which was scheduled on 3 separate occasions but due to Covid-19 restrictions constantly changing, the bout fell through twice before they eventually met at UFC 249 which was the UFCs first event since the Covid-19 lockdown. Although Francis was not the Main Event or the Co-Main event of the night, his performance over the KO artist Rozenstruik was still talked about after the event as Francis only needed 20 seconds to add him to his winning streak with yet another devastating Knockout leaving Rozenstruik unconscious against the octagon.
Francis Ngannou is easily next in line for a title shot after Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier battle it out for the third time and with Francis coming from humble beginnings in Cameroon it’s hard not to route for him to become the first African Heavyweight champion in the UFC.