MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN 3, a five-round heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos. The event takes place this Saturday, June 29 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Francis Ngannou (-245)
Ngannou (13-3) is 8-2 overall in the UFC. The 32-year-old native of Cameroon is coming off of back-to-back first-round knockout wins over Cain Velasquez and Curtis Blaydes to bounce back from back-to-back decision losses to Derrick Lewis and Stipe Miocic. After quickly rising the ranks of the UFC heavyweight division with five straight stoppage wins to open his career in the Octagon, Ngannou earned the 2017 “KO of the Year” when he knocked out Alistair Overeem, earning himself a title shot against Miocic in the process. The fight with Miocic proved to be too much too soon for Ngannou as his lack of takedown defense and overall wrestling ability was exposed. He then followed that up with a lackluster performance against Lewis. But since then, Ngannou seems to have gotten his mojo back. He needed a combined 71 seconds to finish two of the best heavyweights in the world in Velasquez and Blaydes which shows you just how much knockout power he possesses in his gigantic fists. He seems to have gotten his confidence back and with another win here over JDS could very well be in line to fight the winner of UFC 241’s Daniel Cormier vs. Miocic 2 for the heavyweight title later this year.
Junior dos Santos (+205)
Dos Santos (21-5) is 15-4 overall in the UFC. The 35-year-old Brazilian has been one of the top heavyweights in the Octagon for over a decade now and is a former UFC heavyweight champion. His list of wins is impressive: Velasquez, Miocic, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, Ben Rothwell, Frank Mir, and many more. He’s one of the top knockout artists in UFC heavyweight history with 15 wins by knockout including 10 TKO wins in the UFC alone. He also has a solid wrestling game and has a good gas tank for a heavyweight. After an issue with USADA (which he was eventually cleared of) stole a year of his career, JDS has come back with a vengeance as he currently rides a three-fight win streak over Derrick Lewis, Tai Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov. He has looked to be in prime form as of late and could very well get back in the driver’s seat to fight for the title if he can get by Ngannou. But as good as he’s looked lately, you can’t ignore the fact he was knocked out in brutal fashion in fights against Miocic, Overeem and Velasquez. Although his chin has held up in his last few fights, he is someone who has been fighting a long time and who has taken a ton of damage in his career. It’s a credit to JDS that he is still fighting at such a high level considering he’s been in the UFC since 2008, but at some point he will start showing signs of a decline. Is this fight against Ngannou the one where he finally shows his age? It remains to be seen. But with the amount of knockout power in his fists and with all of his experience in the Octagon, you can never count JDS out of a fight.
Fight Breakdown: Considering the amount of thunderous knockout power both of these men possess, this bout is almost assuredly going to end inside the distance with someone getting brutally knocked out here. Both men absolutely have the capability of landing the KO blow, but I favor Ngannou here. Here’s the younger fighter, he’s the faster fighter, and he hasn’t taken as much damage in his career. As good as JDS has looked in his last couple of fights, we can’t forget all the wars he’s been in and his chin has been cracked numerous times in his career. Ngannou is fighting with a high level of confidence right now and has all sorts of momentum behind him. After laying waste to Velasquez and Blaydes in his last two fights, another knockout here over JDS would absolutely earn Ngannou another title shot. I am not discounting the possibility of JDS getting a knockout himself, or even grinding this fight out with his wrestling. But more times than not I believe Ngannou wins this fight, and I believe he does so by knockout.
Prediction: Francis Ngannou wins via TKO