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Francis Ngannou is an incredible athlete with an unbelievable life story.

At this very moment, some writer somewhere in Southern California is in the midst of converting that life story into a film script. They’re running into trouble making the facts read realistic, however. How can a man cross deserts and oceans into homelessness, stumble into a boxing gym, and walk away a UFC Heavyweight champion? Already, it sounds implausible, and we haven’t even gotten to his bold stance against UFC pay, record-setting power, or professional boxing debut against undefeated champion Tyson Fury.

It’s absurd. Ngannou has bet on himself repeatedly in the last few years, and it has continually paid off! There’s a great moral here about self-belief and big goals, but those lessons do have to be tempered by the simple fact that Francis Ngannou is a special human being.

Even so, his gifts have limits. He is just a man. Anthony Joshua knocking him out (watch it) has no right to feel surprising — it’s the logical conclusion of Ngannou’s boxing career. A great chin cannot absorb so many clean Joshua blows, nor can an MMA fighter master boxing in his late 30s

Ngannou’s remarkable nature has blurred the line between possible and impossible, reality and fantasy. It’s why fight fans gave him a chance against Anthony Joshua, despite the fact that we all know better! We know what happens when MMA fighters, even the best ones, cross over into the boxing ring against elite boxers.

For a moment, Ngannou was the exception. He took Fury’s best shots, knocked him down, and brought him to the brink of his first professional defeat. This Joshua loss sends him back to reality, and it really forces us to reconsider the Fury fight.

Suddenly, the Fury bout looks like a perfect storm. It was obvious from the weigh-ins that Fury wasn’t in peak shape for the Ngannou match. He didn’t prepare well enough, nor has he ever been a huge hitter in the ring. Ngannou also had the element of surprise on his side in regards to how he would look in the ring. Combine that surprise with a well-trained MMA fighter’s adeptness in the clinch, and Ngannou nearly scored one of the greatest upsets in boxing history.

A miracle. Lightning in a bottle. The perfect storm.

Joshua didn’t encounter such rough waters. He saw Fury struggle, but he also saw ten rounds of Ngannou throwing the same counter left hook over and over again. His game plan was obvious from the backstage clips of him hitting mitts. Consequently, Joshua wisely showed up in shape, executed his game plan, and unloaded right away.

It looked like an expert boxer piecing up an MMA fighter. It looked like what we should have been expecting. Ngannou was shook from the first knockdown, and he never managed to work back into the fight before the hammer fell.

There are at least silver linings of Ngannou’s boxing sojourn and subsequent return to Earth. Ngannou parlayed his self-confidence into a legendary performance against Fury and TWO gigantic paydays. His gamble already paid off in terms of finance and legacy. Now, he can ride off into the PFL smart cage to knock out Renan Ferreira on his terms.

Is there still boxing opportunity? Of course. A Fury rematch will still sell at any point in the next few years, as would a match up vs. the struggling Deontay Wilder. Saudi Arabia has the bank reserves to book another Ngannou super fight or two, though I wouldn’t be too optimistic about the outcomes after other boxers have now seen Ngannou felled.

The game has changed.

Insomnia

I am glad that Ion Cutelaba is back to doing his Green Man routine. An unserious fighter in an unserious division!

An update to a forthcoming Apex event:

Only one of these three lines is the least bit funny or interesting.

Claudio Ribeiro’s loss last weekend to Christian Leroy Duncan will go down as the last of his UFC stint.

I hope Merab Dvalishvili was paid well for his second cut in three weeks.

Are Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko TUF coaches that you’ll tune in for?

I don’t care if Ngannou gets knocked out in the ring ten more times, no professional boxer would touch him in the cage.

Sean Strickland’s retirement could come sooner than later.

A lovely bit of grappling!

Song Yadong is exaggerating with his 170 pound number, but he is probably the biggest Bantamweight I’ve ever personally trained with. Which is annoying because he’s also the second fastest!

Slips, rips, and KO clips

A prospect to watch:

Stationary along the ropes is a bad idea.

A good show of composure to recover from the rolled ankle!

Random Land

RIP to a legend! Dragon Ball is so woven into martial arts culture that this really oughta be in the regular column.

Midnight Music: Alternative, 1979

Sleep well Maniacs! More martial arts madness is always on the way.

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