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Posted 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Lightning Strikes Twice: Lethal Left Hooks Punctuate Wild Week in Combat Sports

This weekend saw fireworks in the heavyweight worlds of both boxing and MMA. The biggest bangs were created by The Predator from Cameroon and  The Body Snatcher from Brixton . Francis Ngannou Took on and took out UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, while Dillian Whtye iced Alexander Povetkin, each with a perfectly placed  left hooks. Let’s take a closer look at these luscious lefts as well as the other goings on in the world of combat sports

Miocic vs Ngannou 2: Evolution of the Predator

We begin with Francis Ngannou a former child laborer who chose honest work rather than follow his father into gang life in his village. At age 10 he was working at a sand quarry lifting bricks all day, building the foundation of the action figure physique you see today. His dad was a renowned  street fighter, rather than follow his father’s footsteps into the underworld, he followed his better angels into the boxing ring.

 He crossed oceans and borders in pursuit of his goal. He spent a month in jail for immigrating illegally into Spain before settling homeless and friendless in Paris. He was taken in off the street and trained for free under head coach Didier Carmont. It was Carmont who convinced Ngannou to set boxing aside and try his battered hand at MMA.

As much praise as Carmont deserves for training Francis, the moment he held pads for him he had to know. He had stumbled upon the most valuable thing in the world. A big man, with a big punch and absolutely nothing, nothing, to lose. Only time and training were free for Francis. He made the most of what he had.

Francis worked tirelessly, in that he focused on his craft with diligent discipline, while also being too poor to own even a bike. Thrown quickly into the pro’s Francis found himself able to swim with a rising tide. He turns pro, going 5-1 on the French circuit before going global and finally joining the UFC. Last weekend Francis finally achieved his goal to unseat Stipe Miocic with a brutal left hook that lain him out of his leg. Let’s take a closer look at how he pulled it off and decapitated the Heavyweight king. 

It starts with patience. Which despite what anybody will tell you is a virtue in a fight. Francis hit the UFC like a knife in the back. Post one vicious KO after another never getting anywhere past the 2nd round. He went on a year and a half run, when nobody even made it out of the 2nd minute. He rocketed to the top of the rankings, Running finally into Stipe Miocic. Stipe is a part time firefighter and full time cardio machine from Cleveland. \

Francis had never gone the 5 round championship distance. He came in throwing  and despite landing some big punches, Stipe soundly out-wrestled the power puncher over the distance. Keeping all that power useless and grounded. Grinding out a workman like win over a game but over-matched Ngannou.

The two year interlude between the first and second fights, was filled with a listless Derrick “My Balls was Hot” Lewis and another heap of quick knockout victims. The knockouts were what they were. A good fighter is defined by their A game. A great fighter is usually defined by plan B. So Francis went out and collected heads in the cage, while quietly grinding his wrestling and cardio in the gym.

On the other hand Stipe went from 36 to 38 in violent style fighting series modern classics  with  UFC commentator and Jon Jones nemesis Daniel Cormier. That was a bad knockout and 2 subsequent wars may have put some mileage on Stipe. But to lay Stipe’s loss to Francis at the feet of father time greatly undersells the evolving game of the predator..

The most obvious difference was Francis playing his A game much more patiently. In the first fight Francis came out swinging and while he Rocked Stipe early, he also wore himself out and left openings for Stipe’s take downs. By limiting his volume not only was Francis more poised and mentally prepared to go all 5 rounds, it was conserving his cardio for when he needed it. While Stipe was trying to find holes that no longer existed in Francis game, Francis found some openings of his own.

The firs big shot he landed was a right hand. This punch was set up perfectly with a body jab that  drew Stipe’s focus to the body, while Francis went to his temple but not for peace. Francis kept calmly stalking, feinting and pressuring until sitting down on a 1-2. Stipe ducks under and grabs a single leg. Francis hops to the cage, gets his foot to the outside then splats Stipe to the mat on the sprawl as the champion is forced to shoot for a double.

From the sprawl Francis pivoted off to the spun to Stipe’s back and grab a body lock. Francis broke the champion down to all fours and starting landed ground and pound that doused like a hatchet hitting wet logs.  After a dozen or so of these short, accurate disgusting sounding punches, Stipe was forced to fight off the take down and you can see it despite a stone faced Stipe keeping his calm. Like his mind said to himself “Shit. He got better.”

Before Francis used his eyes to set up a high kick. It was a classic “look low, go high” set up as Francis eyes Stipe’s lead leg. The look and the motion tells Stipe a leg kick his coming. He withdraws his lead leg to make the kick miss, but when the kick comes in high his feet are together and he’s off balance and unable to take it properly.

Once again. Francis was calm. Ticked away the seconds knowing he had the round in the bag so long as he didn’t make a mistake. Stipe spent the next minute poking and prodding for openings he could find.  The second round started, Stipe looked to strike early and ran into a left hook. He’d dropped his right as he threw and Francis left hook came in hot over the top of it. Take note. It will be on the test later.

Francis took a breath and reset. Started slapping at Stipe’s right hand with his jab. Francis lead with a right hand that Stipe tried to step away from but Francis caught up to him with a clean power jab off the faked right. By leading with his right he puts he closes the distance a bit and squares his stance a bit with his weight over his right hip. As Stipe steps away Francis coils his body, snapping his right hand home to help rotate into a jab. Francis’ step in combined with all that coiled weight to turn a simple jab into a full blown power shot that rocked Stipe. Stipe false to the cage and Francis lands a sentence of those short sickening shots punctuated by an uppercut as Stipe got off the cage on loose legs.

Francis chased with a left hook as Stipe tried to catch him coming in on a right hand. Remember that thing from earlier? About that Left hook coming over Stipe’s dropped off-hand as he jabs? Well, Stipe certainly doesn’t. Because Francis laid him out with one to win his championship. The two were classy afterward with Stipe telling Francis to enjoy every second of his title reign and that he’d earned it. In a world of constant shit talk, and loud insecurity. Both remain humble work horses working to give people hope.

 At 38 after another hard night at the office you have to wonder if maybe it’s time for Stipe to go full time at the firehouse.  Ride that fire truck off into the sunset and enjoy his dangerous retirement of public service. Francis has set up a non-profit designed to give the kids of his home village in Cameroon the free training to kids. Paying forward the kindness his own coach once paid him. These two men serve as fond reminders to look out for your people in victory or defeat.

What good is the millions if your spirit’s broke?


Blood on My Kicks: Dillian Whyte Dominates Povetkin

Speaking of broken, it appears that after nearly a decade tangling with the top of the heavyweight heap it appears that Alexander Povetkin may finally be done at the top level. At age 41 “Sasha” had been in with and beaten everybody but Klitschko and Joshua.

Last August he met rising British/Jamaican star and all around mad lad Dillian Whyte. The two fought a memorable war with both men tasting the canvas in a lively fight. It was a contest of the two best heavyweight body punchers of their era. Both men snapped in their body shots which echoed through the quiet room. The true sound of one hand clapping. At the end of round 4 Whtye dropped Povetkin as the Russian tried to swarm at the end of the 4th. Povetkin got up, saved by the bell. About 30 seconds into the next round Sasha responded in kind. Dillian didn’t get up. An immediate rematch was eyed for the fire fight.

Then the fickle bitch known as 2020 slapped that idea down. Alexander Povetkin caught a particularly sever case of Covid. The rematch, scheduled for late January was scrapped as Alexander was hospitalized twice. Povetkin got out the hospital and went straight back to training. The rematch went ahead, either too soon or too late for Alex Povetkin. Too soon in that maybe a bit more time could have given a chance to recover better from his illness. Too late in that ,for a 41 year old heavyweight, time is the one thing he doesn’t have.

From the opening bell Whyte looked strong and Povetkin’s legs seemed wobbly. The first body bunch Whyte landed sent Povetkin across the ring like Sean Michaels selling a stone cold stunner. Sasha settled in a bit and got his legs back. Dillian knew what he wanted and spent most of the fight looking for anything but. Dillian was dilligently throwing his 1-2’s, that right hand down to the body, anything to make Povetkin think about something other than his lethal left hook. It’s presence was felt in the form of feinting.

Every time Dillian’s left hook moved off the line of a jab, Povetkin pinned his glove to his temple. Dillian started feinting the hook and taking advantage with a right hand down the middle. Both high and low. After taking about 10 clean right hands, Dillian finally put Povetkin down with a lethal leaping  left hook in the 4th. The ref calls the fight with Povetkin on spaghetti legs as a towel comes in the. Dillian Whyte, the brash big lad by way of Brixton had his sweet revenge.

While from the early going Povetkin didn’t quite look the same, that’s hardly the fault or problem of Dillian Whyte who did his job and once again finds himself knocking on the door to the top tier of heavyweights. When asked about possible future match-ups the most obvious fight would seem to be Deontay Wilder, who has gone strictly off the radar since his thrashing by Tyson Fury this time last year. 

When asked about possible future fights Whtye spoke as simply as you’d expect. Pulling tape off a hidden hamstring injury, never mentioned outside his camp. Wincing and whining in pain not numbed by the adrenaline of a fist fight. “I want who next. I want who next.” Smiling as he  slow pulls the tape off his mangled hammy. Letting out a tiny  “haaaahhhhhhh”  That sounds like a husky coming home from  the vet too high to howl properly. The rarely seen visceral pain of even an emphatic win smeared across his face.

 “I want to fight” he laughs “Why not enjoy it while I’m young?” Before expressing annoyance that he didn’t get more blood on his all white, but blood splattered boxing shoes.

Some people are just wired for this shit.


Odds and Ends: Rounding up the rest of the weekend

In the UFC former Welterweight champion Tyrone Woodley continued his skid picking up his 4th straight loss since dropping his championship to Kamaru Usman back in 2018. A counter right hook rocked Woodley who was mid uppercut as it landed. Woodley listed off to the cage and Vicente Luque pored it on, chasing Woodley across the cage where he stumbled allowing 10th ranked Luque to sink in a a mean looking D’arce choke as he Woodley was mushed awkwardly against the cage.

Rising Irish prospect Sean O’  Malley returned to his cartoonish winning ways. Posting up off a front kick with his right, to smash Almeida with a left that dropped him. Almeida rolled to his back and O’ Malley hit him with the most brutal leaping punch to a grounded opponent since Bisping vs Henderson.

Not to mention Oscar De La Hoya announcing he’s taking a comeback fight in July, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua agreeing to a 2 fight deal. The tragic loss of Middleweight legend Marvin Hagler far too young at the age of 66,  Lightweight women’s champ Amanda Serrano posting her 30th KO, nearly unifying the titles in her 3rd weight class. Extending her unbeaten streak which back to April of 2012. 

Needless to say it’s been a wild week in the world of combat sports. When when it rains, it tends to pour. With both Dillian Whtye and Francis Ngannou making waves in their respective heavyweight divisions. I look forward to seeing those lightning left hooks strike twice on the same weekend again.

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