On November 24, in the main event of UFC Beijing, surging UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes will attempt to avenge the only loss his career, as he battles former title challenger Francis Ngannou.
Since their first fight, which went down in April of 2013, both Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou have realized mountainous success in the perilous UFC heavyweight division. More recently, however, Blaydes has emerged as a bona fide title contender, while Ngannou has slipped into a bit of a rough patch.
Ngannou has lost his last two bouts: a decision loss to former champion Stipe Miocic, and a decision loss to Derrick Lewis in an objectively terrible fight. When it comes to the causes of Ngannou’s current slump, there are several theories. UFC President Dana White has posited that the former title challenger might have developed a bit of an ego problem. Curtis Blaydes believes this is a definite possibly. In his eyes, Ngannou became so confident in his fight-ending power that he failed to develop the other facets of his game.
“I do believe he may have had an ego,” Blaydes said on the latest stacked episode of BJPENN.COM Radio. “I think even after the loss to Stipe, I think he was able to get by for so long with just being a one punch, heavy handed type of guy, and then when he got a little bit of adversity, he wasn’t able to meet the challenge. I think he’s unwilling to change. I don’t see his grappling getting much better. I don’t see his conditioning getting much better. I believe he’s going to rely on his one punch power because he has an ego. He believes in his one punch power that much.”
If Ngannou has in fact become overconfident in his punching power, of course, that’s just fine with Curtis Blaydes. It just means that he’ll have more paths to victory than his foe in Beijing.
“It gives me a lot more options to win,” he said. “We have options, it’s just easier. But you have to do one thing, and then you’re not able to do it, you get frustrated and you start to over commit, and that just leads to mistakes.”
In Curtis Blaydes’ eyes, Ngannou might also be dealing with some lingering fear. That is certainly how it looked to him when Ngannou fought Derrick Lewis.
“It was bizarre,” he said of the fight. “They’re both almost the same guy. Heavy, one punch power, not the best grappling, not the best conditioning. So, I thought they would both go out there and take each other’s heads off in the first round. It was weird to see them both be hesitant. I don’t know, I’m not in their heads or in their corners, I don’t know what was going on.
“They both just looked really hesitant and almost afraid, I guess. I don’t want to be disrespectful and say they’re scared of each other, but that’s what it looked like from the outside in.”
Who do you think will come out on top in Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou’s UFC Beijing rematch?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 9/2/2018.