With Stipe Miocic having so thoroughly cleaned out the heavyweight division, when Daniel Cormier beat him, there weren’t many options left. The dearth of talent may be a promotional nightmare but it is welcome news for Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos.
The former challengers to Miocic’s throne headline this weekend’s UFC on ESPN 3 broadcast. Ngannou and dos Santos are rated No. 2 and 3, respectively, according to the company’s official divisional rankings, making their heavyweight clash a de facto title eliminator.
When: Saturday, Jun. 29 at 9 p.m. ET (main card)
Where: Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Odds: Ngannou -230, dos Santos +170
For as menacing as Ngannou is inside the Octagon, fight fans were treated to his comedic side following the NBA’s summer draft. Touching a mainstream audience, the UFC heavy-hitter compared himself to the No.1 overall pick and former Duke University hooper Zion Williamson.
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) June 21, 2019
All told, Ngannou has outdone himself ahead of his latest headliner. He made himself an even bigger magnet for attention when he criticized the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu credentials of dos Santos. Despite his opponent’s black belt, Ngannou doesn’t affirm its legitimacy: “I don’t believe in dos Santos’ jiu-jitsu black belt. I don’t know where he’s from, but I don’t believe that.”
Dos Santos is well known for his tremendous boxing, setting up a his daunting overhand right with a fluid jab. But his lifetime grappling coach Yuri Carlton couldn’t help but find Ngannou’s suspicion funny.
“I just want ‘Cigano’ to win,” Carlton responded via MMA Fighting. “(Ngannou) is just another guy talking—they all talk. Every fight is the same old story. We’re used to that already.”