Francis Ngannou most recently defended the title for the heavyweight championship on February 22 at UFC 270 against the interim champion Ciryl Gane. Ngannou is known for being a knockout artist with punching power equivalent to 96 horsepower, or the equivalent of getting hit by a ford escort at top speed, so before the fight, it seemed almost a given that somebody in that octagon was going to get knocked out. Ngannou shocked the world by using the fight as an opportunity to display some incredible grappling skill from the third round out and being the first fighter to take down Ciryl Gane in his entire career when he repeatedly lifted the 250-pound heavyweight and tossed him to the ground.
Ngannou’s impressive display of wrestling continued throughout the rest of the five-round championship bout and despite a solid attempt at a leg lock from Gane, Ngannou’s strength and skill dominated the evening, leading to a unanimous decision victory for the champ.
In light of this incredible win here’s a breakdown of some of Ngannou’s most interesting attributes in his fighting technique-
World record for the most powerful punch
Back in 2017, the UFC Performance Institute measured Ngannou’s overhand right and an uppercut from his right hand as well and made the world record for the most powerful punch that was both impressive and scary to imagine, but not surprising as fans had already seen numerous heavyweights get knocked out cold after being hit by Francis’ outstanding strength and power. While there’s often a lot of hype about his right hand, his left uppercut is equally as damaging and has knocked out many opponents as well. In fact, Ngannou seems to favor throwing punches from his left side, and even though he is naturally right-handed, throwing his left uppercut with his left side forward in an orthodox stance definitely adds to his knockout power based on mechanics alone. Perhaps due to Ngannou’s kickboxing experience, he’s able to switch stance naturally throughout the fight which definitely adds to the equal potency in his punches from both hands.
Punches in combos
As if Ngannou’s power wasn’t scary enough, the heavyweight champ isn’t heavy-handed by any means and is noted for throwing 4 to 5 punch combinations against his opponents as well, which can seem rare for a heavyweight, since their size and stature don’t often merit the need to have to throw out volume in light of the strength in their punch. Although it usually only takes one punch from Ngannou to knock his opponent out, he can be seen unloading his hands to make sure he gets the job done. He closes the distance quickly and is known to keep coming forward, throwing jabs, crosses, and check hooks, as well as hand countering by coming over the top and landing a fight-ending punch.
Surprising fans with wrestling skills
Prior to UFC 270, Francis had a few submission wins under his belt, including a kimura from when he fought Anthony Hamilton in December 2016 that he later said he learned backstage right before he went out to fight. Most of those submissions were earlier in his career before he became known as the powerful knockout artist he is today, so it was definitely a big surprise when Francis started breaking out some heavy wrestling skills in his last fight against Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title fight. Those who were looking to see a k.o might have been disappointed, but there was nothing boring about watching Ngannou pick up a heavyweight fighter like Gane and toss him around like he was lightwork, then continue working on the ground, against a noticeably exhausted Gane as the five-round fight wore on. Francis continually worked and stayed calm even as Ciryl made a legitimate attempt with a leg lock that he was able to escape from. While Francis is currently looking toward boxing as the heavyweight title fight was the last fight on his contract, it was great to see him show off a different side of his skill set for what may arguably be his last UFC fight.
The mental strength of a warrior
Fans can be so caught up in how powerful and scary Ngannou is in a fight, that his back story can get pushed aside but his story is worth learning for anyone struggling to find inspiration if they feel stuck. At the age of 22, Ngannou went to Paris, France, was living in his car and away from any friends and family he may have known back home as he sought to build a better life. From there, he was discovered by Fernand Lopez, who got him started on his MMA journey, and after just 5 years of training, he was fighting professionally in the UFC. Ngannou is truly a warrior both in and outside of the octagon and shows that no matter where you are now, you always have the power to change your life around if you believe in yourself and don’t give up, whether on the training floor or in life. Many fighters have inspiring stories, but Ngannou’s trajectory to the top shows he is certainly a one of one in the history of UFC champions.