Francis Ngannou believes he has put in the work to ensure the outcome will be different in his rematch with Stipe Miocic.
Ngannou and Miocic first clashed at UFC 220 in January 2018. Going into the fight, Ngannou had torn through the heavyweight division, picking up six straight stoppages without seeing the third round. However, all that momentum came to a screeching halt when he was forced to spend almost the entirety of the title fight underneath Miocic, eating shots on the way to a clear decision loss.
During the UFC 260 pre-fight press conference, Ngannou gave Miocic his due credit, but said it’s hard for him to even watch that performance back (H/T MMA Fighting).
“Obviously, I’m not taking credit off Stipe, he was the better fighter that night, but when I look at that fight, I don’t recognize myself,” Ngannou said. “Even the way that I’m fighting, the way that I’m rushing, that guy looked like me, but I don’t recognize that style.
“Also, I did a lot of mistakes leading up to that fight. I wasn’t even there myself. I didn’t even have emotion in that fight. I don’t know. I was just there, [a] lack of emotion. This time things will be different. I had enough time, me and my team we put everything right, and I think it’s going to be right.”
After following the Miocic loss with an extremely lackluster performance against Derrick Lewis, Ngannou made the shift to start working with the coaches at Xtreme Couture full-time. The move has paid dividends, as Ngannou has since knocked out his last four opponents in less than three minutes combined. On top of that, Ngannou believes they have addressed the holes in his games, most notably his takedown defense and cardio.
“There’s difference in all of the aspects,” Ngannou said about his improvements. “I remember leading up to that fight, I was thinking about how it feels to fight a [five]-round fight. I had a lot of questions unanswered. I didn’t have any experience on that. Even if I lost that night, I came back, there was a part of me who wasn’t happy but satisfied for the fact that I can do it. If I make it right, I can get there.
“I don’t have that concern anymore. I had a better preparation this time and I have that experience. I put some good work on my wrestling, jiu-jitsu, even striking so I think skill wise, I have improved a lot and I still have a lot of places to move in this sport. I may be 34 years old, but I believe that I’m very young in this sport and I have a lot of places to grow.”
Thanks to the improvements he’s made, the narrative heading into the Miocic rematch remains the same as it was before their first meeting over three years ago: Francis Ngannou is an unstoppable force destined to rule over the division for years to come. In fact, people seem so sure of an Ngannou victory that they’re already arguing over what his next fight will be. Will Miocic be given a chance to complete the trilogy? Or will Jon Jones get an immediate title shot in his new division? Even UFC president Dana White doesn’t seem to have an answer.
“We’ll see what happens,” White said. “We’ll see how this thing plays out. It would be tough to say no, [Stipe Miocic] doesn’t deserve the rematch. Of course [he deserves it]. Yeah, I don’t know.”
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