The Power of Francis N’Gannou: How N’Gannou Capitalizes on Opponent’s Mistakes To Win Fights

The Power of @francis_ngannou: How N’Gannou Capitalizes on Opponent’s Mistakes #MMA

UFC heavyweight, Francis N’Gannou is the heaviest hitter ever seen in the promotion. With such size and power, we’ve seen some of the greatest fighters crumble by his sword.

You may have read our piece, The Evolution of Justin Gaethje. In today’s analysis section we will be looking at the power possessed by Francis N’Gannou and how he uses the boxing basics to dispatch his opponents with a violent force.

The Jab and Straight

It is no secret that Francis N’Gannou wanted to originally be a boxer. On his episode of Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson, he was out to be a boxer because of Tyson. MMA was brought to him by his coaches and he just sort of thrived in it. When he took his first fight, N’Gannou didn’t even know what MMA was. He just relied on his basics of the jab setup to get him through fights, a technique he still uses today.

From the very first fight inside the UFC, Francis N’Gannou has shown a grasp of the basics. The jab to a straight right, or the 1-2 combo, is the most basic combo in boxing. In his debut in 2015 against Luis Henrique, the 1-2 was the beginning of the end for Henrique.

As you can see above, Francis steps into his jab with his lead leg, fires off the jab and then sends the right soaring down the middle. Francis pushes off his back foot and rotates his shoulders, hips and legs, giving that right maximum power that hurt Henrique.

One thing N’Gannou does not do well in the video, when he fires the straight, his left hand that he uses to jab just drops. This leaves him open to a counter if that does not connect.

In the rematch with Curtis Blaydes, it’s the jab and going over the top of Blaydes’ jab that was the finish of the fight. Francis N’Gannou steps in with his lead foot, throws a jab to get a reaction out of Blaydes. We will talk about this not landing flush in the brute force section of the article. But, N’Gannou comes over the top of Blaydes’ jab and pivots his hips to, again, get maximum power.

Placement And Capitalizing On Mistakes

Two of the best ways to knock someone out is the chin and right behind the ear. The chin is a massive blow that causes the head to move so rapidly that the brain concusses and also overloads the central nervous system that causes that limpness seen in fighters after they’ve been struck. Behind the ear is a nerve cluster that, when struck will overload the nervous system as well. But in addition to the nervous system, the back of the ear is in the vicinity of your equilibrium and a strike there can throw you out of balance as well.

As mentioned earlier, the jaw is a weak point in a fighters armor and harbors the “off switch.” Two ways a punch to the jaw can put someone out cold: on the side, causing the head to twist, or on the chin, causing the head to snap back.

Looking at the Henrique fight from 2015, it was an uppercut to the chin that was enough to cause him to go limp. Watch in the GIF below in slow motion. Francis throws the lead uppercut and as soon as it connects to the chin, Henrique has his head snap back and is out cold.

The fight with Andrei Arlovski was N’Gannou’s first real test with an experienced fighter and former champion. N’Gannou capitalized on the opportunity with a first round knockout. This example shows how N’Gannou capitalizes on mistakes made by his opponents and does not let them out for free.

In the finishing sequence, what you can see N’Gannou do well against an experienced Arlovski. He measures the distance and places punches right where they needed to be. N’Gannou knew the distance and avoided Arlovski’s overhand and fired right over the top behind the ear (equilibrium). That had Arlovski off balance and in serious trouble. Then, Arlovski was found guilty of leaving his lead hand down and leaving himself open. N’Gannou fired a hook off his back feet that was the end of the fight.

Perhaps N’Gannou’s most popular highlight was when he sent Alistair Overeem’s head into orbit. Overeem is a fantastic striker and had a lengthy career in K-1. Overeem did not fight smart against Francis, plain and simple. After failing to grapple and get the fight to the ground, Overeem abandoned his game plan pretty early on and started to brawl. In the finishing sequence, Overeem tried to channel his inner Muhammad Ali and duck and dip his opponent and N’Gannou landed a big shot up right.

If you watch Overeem, he dips his head and is looking directly at N’Gannou’s feet. His hands are also flailed out, which was his undoing. He leaves that right side open to N’Gannou to launch a lead hook, which he does. Overeem fired an over hand right (these don’t work on N’Gannou, by the way) and you can watch N’Gannou load the punch up. As Overeem moves his head right, N’Gannou is not in position. But, he adjusts his hips, loads up the left in his back pocket then socks Overeem, producing one of the best knockout highlights there is to offer. Watching a couple times, you will see N’Gannou pivot his hips to get maximum power out of this lead hook.

Boxers have made a grand living off of spectacular head movement, think Joe Fraizer and Mike Tyson. But, in order for head movement to work, you have to actually be looking at your opponent, specifically his/her chest. A fantastic example of this is when Canelo put on a defensive clinic against Daniel Jacobs. Notice how Canelo keeps his eyes up instead of looking at Jacobs’ feet. To be honest, I just really love this clip and want to share it as many times as possible.

When Francis N’Gannou lost his title shot to Stipe Miocic, being wrestled for five rounds, much was talked about N’Gannou and his seemingly one dimensional game plan. The UFC decided to run him through Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez, some of the best wrestlers heavyweight has to offer. It wasn’t enough. As we saw earlier, N’Gannou put Blaydes away quickly. The fight with Cain Velasquez was no different. In only 26 seconds, we learned a good bit about N’Gannou in grappling exchanges post-Miocic.

When N’Gannou finished Velasquez, much was made of his knee going out due to the injury plagued career Velasquez has endured. Dominick Cruz even said on the broadcast that his knee went out. That was later proven to not be the case.

At the angle above, you can see a little better what transpired. Velasquez shot for a single-leg takedown because N’Gannou still has the “can’t wrestle” stigma. In response, N’Gannou pushes on the neck of Velasquez, stopping the take down attempt. The push also created space that N’Gannou needed to finish the fight. He throws an uppercut that landed on the chin of Velasquez, causing him to lose his legs under him. While he may have hurt his knee from falling down, it was undoubtably N’Gannou’s uppercut that caused him to fall in the first place.

Moving to his fight with Junior Dos Santos, Francis N’Gannou capitalized very similarly to how he put away Overeem. JDS threw an overhand right and left his left side open. N’Gannou throws the same loaded hand, this time his right, into the jaw of Dos Santos. This time, N’Gannou didn’t quite get the pivot in his hips that he normally does and it didn’t put away Dos Santos. But, Dos Santos made a couple critical mistakes. First, take a look at the picture below. It’s almost identical to Overeem as to where Dos Santos is looking.

The second, and most absurd mistake is turning his back to N’Gannou. Dos Santos is literally facing away from Francis N’Gannou. N’Gannou sees the opportunity and punches Dos Santos in the jaw from behind. It was enough to end the fight.

If you look back to many of N’Gannou’s knockouts, even on the big names, he’s taken advantage of the fighters not looking at his chest, where they should be. They look at the ground and are off balance, shying away from the power Francis N’Gannou comes with.

Alistair Overeem looking down
Cain Velasquez looking down as well.
Andrei Arlovski looking to the side and down.

All of these opponents make the same mistake. They take their attention off of Francis N’Gannou and try to get away from the power. With the exception of Velasquez in these examples, they all throw an over hand, miss and over extend, stopped looking at N’Gannou’s chest and get clocked.

The Killer Instinct of Francis N’Gannou

Another thing that Francis N’Gannou possesses his how honed his killer instinct is. He doesn’t go berserker and fire bombs (with the exception of Rozenstruik). He applies pressure and thudding shots that puts his opponent away. Looking back at the Henrique fight, you can see after he landed that 1-2 we talked about earlier, he didn’t let Henrique have any time to recover from N’Gannou’s shots.

In his third fight with Bojan Mihajlovic, you can see that killer instinct when he doesn’t hurt his opponent either. Migajlovic took a desperate takedown in an attempt to avoid the devastating blows from N’Gannou. In that mistake, N’Gannou capitalized and punished him on the ground. The first couple shots got through and hurt but Mihajlovic was able to cover up. N’Gannou didn’t let up and kept pounding into his guard, letting Mihajlovic know it was in his best interest not to get up and the fight was called off.


Perhaps the best weapon possessed by Francis N’Gannou is fear. It’s not a thing you can calculate or describe. It just happens. Fear of his power causes his opponents to make rash decisions in their fight and N’Gannou capitalizes on the mistake.

In the Mihajlovic, N’Gannou begins to attack and Mihajlovic wants none of it. He is running with his back turned to N’Gannou, looking back. As N’Gannou is in full pursuit, Mihajlovic turns his body and tries for a takedown. But because his back was turned, his legs and hips were pointed out instead of towards his opponent to get the most possible leverage. N’Gannou shucks Mihajlovic off of him, kicking back his own leg and avoiding any chance of it turning into a single leg takedown.

Similarly, when Overeem, Arlovski, Velasquez and Dos Santos all look away, flail their arms, or even turn their back to N’Gannou, it’s that power that has them acting irrationally and has the very experienced fighters doing something they are not known for doing.

Brute Force

What Francis N’Gannou lacks technique, he makes up for on brute strength to get him through moments in the fight. When he’s not comfortable, he’s not afraid to go simply on instinct. This caused him trouble in the Stipe Miocic fight. But, he has had success elsewhere. The first example of this success was in his fight with Anthony Hamilton.

Hamilton managed to expose a bit of a weakness in N’Gannou’s game that would bite him in the ass in the Miocic fight. Hamilton managed to get the fight to the ground. Unfortunately for him, N’Gannou just went for a kimura and was simply stronger than Hamilton. Everyone knows Francis N’Gannou is no grappler. But here, he looked like a murderer with the kimura.

Another example of N’Gannou’s brute force is in the rematch with Curtis Blaydes we looked at earlier. If you look at the gif again, the counter to Blaydes’ jab doesn’t even land cleanly. N’Gannou’s forearm catches the tricep of Blaydes. But, Blaydes still goes down. Power is the only reason that worked the way it did for N’Gannou.

In his most recent fight with Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Francis N’Gannou throws all technique out the window and brawls, something we’ve never seen him do. He makes several mistakes in this fight, but got the win anyway. Why Francis N’Gannou decided to fight different is something only he and his camp knows. But, Rozenstruik is a very talented kickboxer and maybe N’Gannou didn’t want to give him a breathing moment. N’Gannou fires an overhand right, and misses. Rozenstruik fires a left off his back feet and that, too, misses. Notice where N’Gannou is looking.

This is just poor form. He also threw wild hooks with his chin up in the air, another good way to get knocked out. But, it all worked out for N’Gannou in the end. He got the finish in just 20 seconds. Perhaps N’Gannou was just betting on his power over Rozenstruik’s. This isn’t the type of fighting N’Gannou wants to continue, especially if he gets the next shot at the title after Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier fight their rubber match.

In Conclusion

Francis N’Gannou punches hard and it is based in basic technique and pure strength. N’Gannou is the hardest puncher to ever step foot in the cage, over Mark Hunt, Derrick Lewis, Shane Carwin and anyone else. I confidently say all the time that there are only two fighters I’m comfortable with saying they will for sure be champions one day: Petr Yan and Francis N’Gannou.

Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!

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