The UFC makes a return to China this weekend and sees a colossal heavyweight clash at the top of the bill.
#3 Curtis Blaydes (10-1) and #4 Francis Ngannou (11-3) do battle once again in a vital clash at 265lbs.
Having fought in April of 2016, Blaydes is hoping to exact revenge for his only loss when medical officials put a halt to a vicious beating Ngannou put on him.
Since then, Blaydes has been on an upward curve that shows no signs of slowing down with five big victories to his name over titanic names like Mark Hunt and more recently, Alistair Overeem.
Conversely, Ngannou’s path has been quite different since the last meeting.
Having blasted through opponents including a highlight reel KO of Alistair Overeem, Ngannou fought for the title against then champion Stipe Miocic and since that loss, was involved in one of the most dreadful fights in the UFC’s 25 history.
Ngannou received harsh criticism from UFC President Dana White following the Miocic loss and has perhaps lost some mind share from an MMA fanbase who are not afraid to quickly move on to the next big thing.
Ngannou says he is more focused and having already tasted victory over Blaydes, he is aiming to show the world that he is still a major player in the heavyweight division and that these last two losses are a blip in a career that has given us some epic highlight reel moments.
There is no question that the momentum is with Blaydes right now and an impressive showing is likely to earn him a title shot sooner rather than later.
For Ngannou, his major issue in his most recent outings was a serious lack of stamina and an over reliance on one killer blow which was evident in the Miocic fight.
The fight with Derrick Lewis saw the Frenchman on the more defensive side with a tentative approach focusing on not losing rather than going out to win the fight.
The power is clearly there for both men with 15 KO/TKO victories combined.
In Curtis Blaydes’ case. The gameplan is simple. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and if you connect, there’s a good chance your opponent will fall.
On the other side, Ngannou needs to be more confident in his ability to push the action and make Blaydes take an early step backwards and trust in the boxing and power he knows he possesses.
The two were always destined to fight again at some stage given the trajectory they have now found themselves in since they last fought two years ago.
Both have grown and changed and for Ngannou, he has headlined and fought for a championship title but since then his stock has taken a sharp downward curve and how he handles himself is an intriguing storyline as we prepare for the event on Saturday.
Consistency is not always key especially in MMA but Curtis Blaydes has it in abundance and redemption is in the air for the American who has the tools and skills to beat Ngannou.
Curtis Blaydes to beat Francis Ngannou via KO/TKO – Round 2