Hard-hitting heavyweights will collide in the UFC Minneapolis main-event as Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos square off in a title elimination showdown.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to make it clear at this point that I don’t see this one going to a decision.
With that being said, the heavyweight clash between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos could well leave some people surprised.
Like we’ve seen in the past, a pair of punchers this fierce can often find themselves locked in a staring contest – something that we saw to a great extent during Ngannou’s universally panned showdown with Derrick Lewis at UFC 229.
But there are two critical facts that need to be highlighted given the performance the Cameroonian gave in that matchup.
Firstly, he seems to be a different animal now entirely.
Secondly, with no disrespect intended to Cain Velasquez or Curtis Blaydes, he hasn’t been forced to deal with a legitimate knockout threat of JDS’ calibre since that awful stalemate.
Francis’ pair of first-round knockouts did a lot to reignite the public’s belief that he can be a truly devastating force in the division but in Junior dos Santos, he will face off against a former champion who is wise enough not to make the mistakes of some of his predecessors.
Ngannou’s reach advantage could be crucial here because I would still say that in terms of shot-by-shot speed, these guys are pretty even. JDS is still quite quick, despite his advancing age and in many ways, his three-fight win-streak indicates that he’s most certainly still a player in the division.
And while the current run of form that has seen him rattle off three wins from three is impressive, the strength of the heavyweight division is miles below where it has been in the past and given that it has been about eight years since he won the title, a decline in the fortunes of Junior dos Santos is bound to happen.
There are few people in the sport who can really punish you quite like Francis Ngannou.
That type of knockout power isn’t normal, try as people might to downplay it.
In a matchup of two strikers, I’d give the technical and tactical edge to dos Santos but in all honesty, it’s very, very difficult for me to pick against the explosive power-puncher when he’s facing off against an ageing legend who will likely play into his hands.
This one should be another quick and brutal finish for The Predator.
Prediction: Francis Ngannou via first-round knockout.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena