The UFC’s next big thing took on Stipe Miocic and it was hyped as if Francis Ngannou could obliterate the heavyweight champion over the course of a couple of rounds. Some others put their money on Miocic, the more experienced and well-rounded fighter to take out Ngannou. What no one expected was that it was going to last all five rounds in a battle of attrition. An exhausted Ngannou lost to a decision to what could be the best heavyweight in history, then immediately got hit with criticisms about his ground game and gas tank. His coach recently spoke out defending his fighter.
“I was surprised that someone like Joe Rogan said that Francis [Ngannou] didn’t know what to do on the ground. I think people should go check the fight again. Francis spent three minutes throwing heavy punches without hitting the target and he wasted a lot of energy. After that, he got taken to the ground and he was in the cross mount. At that position, when you have a heavy wrestler on your back and you really have a very little small amount of moves you can make from there. […] What I’m trying to say is that if Francis didn’t know what he was doing on the ground, how come Stipe [Miocic], who has way more experience in professional MMA and who has vicious ground and pound, how come Stipe didn’t finish Francis on the ground if Francis didn’t know what he was doing?”
Unfortunately it didn’t go on my way last night but I learned some different aspects of this sport and I’ll come back stronger! TRUST ME ☝️ . #UFC220
— Francis NGannou (@francis_ngannou) January 21, 2018
“The fight was on the ground nearly 80 -percent of the time. So, how come he didn’t finish him? Francis has a good ground game and if you check at the end of the fourth round, Francis went for a heel hook and it made Stipe run away. Francis could’ve stood up, but he didn’t have enough energy, that’s why he just laid down. We spent a lot of time working on his ground game with legit black belts. We spent time in Vegas and he was working with Vinny Magalhaes. He showed very good things. Stipe had head control, but he didn’t finish [Ngannou]. Stipe had a guillotine, but he didn’t finish him. Stipe escaped a heel hook from Francis – when was the last time you saw a heavyweight go for a heel hook? It’s not fair to say he didn’t work his ground game. He did. It’s not fair to say that Francis didn’t work his wrestling. He did. Wrestling isn’t just about attacking, it’s about defending and he showed good things on that.” — Coach Fernand Lopez speaking to MMA NYTT.
Franics Ngannou’s coach made no excuses on the performance, even saying he punched himself out, but what he took offense with is the allegations that Ngannou didn’t work on his ground game. Of course, Ngannou didn’t win the fight with Stipe Miocic, but that doesn’t mean he still isn’t the next big thing. He’s only known about MMA for five years. Miocic finished Mark Hunt, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and Junior dos Santos. Yet, he couldn’t finish Ngannou. That should garner more praise for the heavyweight prospect than criticism.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/24/2018.