UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Ngannou 2 Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Beijing, China.
Updated: Nov. 22, 2018 • 10:10 AM ET
Francis Ngannou is looking to get back to his winning ways.
The UFC will host an event in Beijing, China for the first time in company history this Saturday, a card featuring a heavyweight fight with major title implications. No. 3 ranked heavyweight Curtis Blaydes will fight former title challenger and No. 4 ranked Francis Ngannou in a rematch from April 2016.
Ngannou defeated Blaydes via second-round TKO due to a referee stoppage in their first fight, but the latter has gone 5-0-1 since the loss and won four straight contests. Blaydes most recently defeated Alistair Overeem via third-round TKO at UFC 225 in June, which was the biggest win of his career. Many thought the win could lead him to a title shot, but Blaydes will have to get through the only fighter to defeat him in his professional career first.
He believes the first fight with Ngannou was moving into his favor before the referee stopped it.
“I still think I could have won that fight if I would have had that last round,” the 10-1 Blaydes recently told MMA Weekly. “I think he was slowing down and I was about to pick up steam. That’s how I fight. I pick it up as the rounds move on. My style is built on attrition. I want to continue to come at you with the same pace and the same intensity from the first round until the fifth round. I feel I could have won that fight but the doctor came in, he did his job, my eye was swollen and Ngannou won.”
Aside Overeem, the 27-year-old Blaydes has also defeated fighters including Mark Hunt, Alexey Oleynik and Daniel Omielańczuk. Avenging his only loss against a fighter who has already challenged for the title will likely have Blaydes’ discussed for the next title shot at the very least, if not getting the next title shot.
Blaydes is a much-improved fighter since the first fight with Ngannou, showing his above average wrestling skills, improved striking and ability to take a punch. In the fights against Hunt and Overeem, he displayed his ability to handle adversity well and recover better than most in the heavyweight division.
Meanwhile, Ngannou is riding two straight losses, having been dominated in his title fight against former champion and No. 1 contender Stipe Miocic, then losing by decision to Derrick Lewis in a lackluster fight. The 32-year-old Ngannou took a six-fight win streak into his title fight with Miocic with notable wins against Overeem, Andrei Arlovski and Blaydes. He has the most intimidating punching power in the division and proved it with his devastating knockout of Overeem, one of the best KO’s of 2017.
Miocic exposed the holes in Ngannou’s grappling, and it looked as though it has made him slightly tentative to engage in his fight with Lewis. Ngannou is likely several wins away from being granted a title shot, and he’ll have to show improvement on Saturday to re-enter title talks. If he can pull off another explosive knockout, Ngannou could get a shot at redemption against Miocic.
All signs point to those in the top five of the heavyweight division having to wait for champion Daniel Cormier to defend the title against Brock Lesnar. Miocic is also waiting to know who his next opponent is, and a fight with Blaydes, should he get by Ngannou this weekend, would be significantly intriguing.
In the co-main event, Alistair Overeem will make his return to the Octagon and attempt to get back into the win column against heavyweight prospect Sergei Pavlovich.
Overeem rebounded well after losing a title fight to Miocic at UFC 203 in 2016 with impressive wins over Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum, but was then brutally knocked out by Ngannou and Blaydes. The 38-year-old Overeem has taken more punishment in his career than most fighters, and one more bad KO loss would beg the question: is it time for Overeem to retire? A convincing win, though, would likely set him up for a fight with a top 5 contender.
Pavlovich is making his UFC debut and has compiled a 12-0 record in his MMA career. The majority of his fights have taken place in Russia, and he’ll have no easy task traveling to China to fight one of the most dangerous heavyweights in UFC history.
The rest of the card
Bantamweight bout - Song Yadong vs. Vince Morales
Welterweight bout - Li Jingliang vs. David Zawada
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Welterweight bout - Song Kenan vs. Alex Morono
Women's flyweight bout - Wu Yanan vs. Lauren Mueller
Light heavyweight bout - Hu Yaozong vs. Rashad Coulter
Women’s strawweight bout - Weili Zhang vs. Jessica Aguilar
Women’s strawweight bout -Yan Xiaonan vs. Syuri Kondo
Middleweight bout - Kevin Holland vs. John Phillips
Bantamweight bout - Su Mudaerji vs. Louis Smolka
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