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UFC Fight Night 141 card: Francis Ngannou vs Curtis Blaydes 2 full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contenders Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes will rematch this Saturday (Nov. 24, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 141 inside Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China.

Ngannou went from UFC poster boy and “NEXT BIG THING” to fighting on the UFC Fight Pass-only event that airs on a holiday weekend at three in the morning. It’s a pretty stunning fall from grace, but luckily, it’s still just a pair of losses to excellent fighters for a man still young in his career. Ngannou remains just one knockout win away from the UFC’s good graces.

For Blaydes, the narrative here is Ngannou handing him his first loss, back when “Razor” was a mere 5-0 pro. Two years of valuable experience later, Blaydes is looking to show his growth and make a statement about his own worthiness regarding a title shot.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man.

Francis Ngannou

Record: 11-3

Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (UFC 218), Andrei Arlovski (UFC on FOX 23), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Fight Night 86), Luis Henrique (UFC on FOX 17)

Key Losses: Stipe Mioci (UFC 220), Derrick Lewis (UFC 226)

Keys to Victory: It may have been a rough year for Ngannou, but the athlete from Cameroon rose to the top for a reason. He still hits tremendously hard and is difficult to take down, a result of spectacular physical gifts.


Ngannou’s last two fights were dramatic displays of patience in both extremes. Opposite Miocic, Ngannou charged forward without any strategy or craft. He tried to force the fight and was dominated as a result. He adjusted too far in the other direction against Lewis, throwing almost nothing for three rounds as he waited for the perfect opening.

Ngannou must return to his measured but active approach against Blaydes. At range, Ngannou has to throw effective offense without over-committing, which means lots of straight shots and some kicks set up by combinations. Blaydes will be looking to shoot underneath Ngannou’s punches, but that cannot deter him from throwing.

If Ngannou can land without getting sloppy, it will force Blaydes to come to him. Despite his improvements, Blaydes’ jab can still be countered and he moves straightforward, a pair of traits that Ngannou can capitalize upon.

Curtis Blaydes

Record: 10-1 (1)

Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (UFC 225), Mark Hunt (UFC 221), Alexey Oleinik (UFC 217), Daniel Omielanczuk (UFC 213)

Key Losses: Francis Ngannou (UFC Fight Night 86)

Keys to Victory: Blaydes does not hide his intentions in the cage. The collegiate wrestler’s goal is to pick his opponents up and put them down with force, and while his striking is coming along, it’s his elbows on the mat that end fights.


To defeat Ngannou, Blaydes has to wear his foe down, which means lots of takedowns and mat returns. On the feet, Ngannou is still the far more dangerous man, meaning Blaydes does not want to trade with the Frenchman.

The jab is a very important weapon for Blaydes here, as it can really disrupt Ngannou’s attempts to counter punch. In addition, feinting the jabbing and shooting is a key Blaydes’ technique, although he will have to be wary of the uppercut counter that is dangerous to an actual jab or actual shot.

If Blaydes establishes the jab and takes repeated, well setup shots, any improvement on Ngannou’s part is unlikely to be a factor.

Bottom Line: It’s a rematch in what is certain to eventually be a trilogy.

Ngannou’s career can survive three-straight losses, but it’s far from ideal. Furthermore, Ngannou already beat Blaydes when both men were at a similar stage in their careers — a loss here is proof that Blaydes evolved more since that night. A win, on the other hand, reasserts Ngannou as a top contender.

Again, Ngannou is capable of special, terrifying performances. If he flattens Blaydes, those losses will be forgotten.

Since that loss to Ngannou, Blaydes has been the picture of consistency. Consistent wins, consistent improvement. He’s risen up the ranks quickly, but Blaydes doesn’t win quite in the highlight reel fashion his foe. He dominates foes and often knocks them out, but not in a way that gets people quite as excited.

This is Blaydes’ moment to prove himself the better man despite the hype, the man deserving to inherit the division as the mainstays grow even older. With a win here, Blaydes is in great position for a title shot or title eliminator match next.

At UFC Fight Night 141, Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes will go to war again in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?

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