In the co-main event of this weekend’s UFC 218 in Detroit, MI, fourth ranked UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou (10-1) has an opportunity to punch his own ticket for a title showdown with incumbent champion Stipe Miocic. But for the Cameroonian to secure a title shot, he needs to get past a man who has been around the top of the heap for the past decade; Alistair Overeem (43-15 1NC).
The last time fans saw Ngannou fight was back in January, when he dispatched of former UFC heavyweight king Andrei Arlovski. The 6’4” Predator finished the Belarussian via TKO in just over a minute and thirty seconds. The win was Ngannou’s fifth in the promotion and the first to really prove that he should be considered among the elite in the UFC’s Land of the Giants.
“It was a good win,” remarked Ngannou when chatting to Bloody Elbow about the Arlovski fight. “He’s a former UFC heavyweight champion, to get a win over someone like that on your record is great. I was really happy for that.”
Ngannou stated that Arlovski being such a well-known fighter didn’t automatically mean he was the toughest opponent he had faced. Nor did it mean, according to him, that he gained a notable amount of experience from besting Arlovski; compared to previous fights.
“Ok, that was a big win, obviously that was a good name to put on my record,” argued Ngannou. “But my other fights were good fights and good wins, too. Against this big top name, it was easier than some of my other fights. I fought someone before who wasn’t a UFC former champion, but who took me into two rounds. So I am very happy and it is going to help me move forward, but other fights have done that, too.”
Ngannou went on to explain that he doesn’t tend to look at individual fights and consider what he learned from them, or what benefit they might have had on his trajectory. Instead, the former Parisian – and current Las Vegas resident – stated that he prefers to view his all of bouts as a part of his whole career.
“I’m not just focused about only one fight. Every single fight is very important for your development, but all of them combined bring you success. All of them combined bring you to the title shot. Every fight I have had is part of the title shot.”
Ngannou could very well receive a championship fight if he finishes Overeem in similar fashion to the way he KO’d Arlovski. However, Overeem – who finished Arlovski himself in 2016 – will almost certainly be doing all he can to prevent that from happening. The Dutch former K1 and Strikeforce champion is on a two fight winning streak with wins over Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum inside this calendar year.
The 32-year-old Ngannou, who admitted to being very young in MMA experience, said he wasn’t expecting it to be easy to put Overeem away. “I think right now, in the UFC heavyweight roster, Alistair Overeem is a dangerous fighter,” he said. “He’s tough and he’s smart. Very smart. So that makes him dangerous. He has a lot of experience. He knows about this game so well. He’s a big challenge for me right now, but I do not think he wins.”
When asked if he foresaw any weaknesses in Overeem, that he believed he could exploit come fight night, Ngannou chuckled before finally stating: “Yes of course, but that is confidential.”
In preparation for this fight Ngannou has based himself out of the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas. Working with him are Dewey Cooper, a former K1 and cruiserweight boxing champion, and Fernand Lopez, Ngannou’s longtime coach from France.
Despite there being a potential title shot on the line, Ngannou is doing his best to not lose focus on training for the fight he currently has booked. “You try not to put a lot of pressure on yourself. Title or no title, you just fight. Don’t do mistakes and let those thoughts put pressure on you. This is just one more fight.”
Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem is a fight ready to make all kinds of waves in the UFC’s biggest division. The bout goes down this Saturday as the co-main event for UFC 218. The pay-per-view begins at 10PM ET.
Who will win the UFC 218 co-main event?
This poll is closed
Ngannou by stoppage
Overeem by stoppage
Ngannou by decision
Overeem by decision
Draw, No Contest, Other