Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou: Breaking down the potential superfight and booking the UFC’s outsiders
The UFC’s light heavyweight champion who has never been truly defeated, and one of the company’s hardest-hitting heavyweights who is considered a human highlight reel for his sheer power and ferocity.
What would happen if the two squared off in the center of the Octagon? The debate has raged on ever since UFC 249 wrapped up in the middle of May, and the possibility of the fight actually happening has ramped up ever since.
Both UFC stars are caught in tough situations in their respective divisions, and the timing seems to be perfect for the duo to get together for a superfight. Jones is dealing with a lack of high-profile, marketable competition at light heavyweight, and Ngannou is being forced to wait in line until heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and former champion Daniel Cormier settle their rivalry with a potential trilogy fight in the summer.
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But, according to Jones on Twitter, the UFC isn’t willing to pay top dollar for this fight at the moment, much to the chagrin of Jones, Ngannou and UFC fans on social media.
“Before even discussing numbers, the UFC was unwilling to pay more for the Francis super fight / for me to move to heavyweight,” Jones wrote. “Said I could possibly earn more in pay-per-view buys.”
That news isn’t entirely shocking, considering the need for the UFC to build up new stars in Jones’ division. The only way for them to do that is for a light heavyweight to give Jones a run for his money in a title fight, or for that fighter to take the belt off of Jones entirely and cement their legacy that way.
At the same time, the UFC likely doesn’t want a heavyweight to be the one to take down Jones before he loses his light heavyweight belt, as it would take away any of the shock value and noteworthiness of Jones’ championship loss, if it ever happens.
The same could be said for Ngannou’s situation. The UFC built Ngannou up into a star before his first title shot against Miocic at UFC 220 back in 2018, but they seemingly rushed him into a fight he wasn’t ready for. Miocic’s wrestling stifled any of Ngannou’s hype, and the company was forced to go back to the drawing board for the hard-hitting, Cameroon-born fighter.
If Jones were to take out Ngannou in the Octagon, it would put a halt to Ngannou’s newfound momentum. Plus, it would lessen the excitement about a “new-and-improved” Ngannou getting his second chance at Miocic in the future for the heavyweight title, or even Ngannou going up against Cormier if Miocic doesn’t successfully defend his belt.
But, when fans and analysts get wind about a solid superfight idea, they don’t let logic and reasoning get in the way of excitement. So, the conversation continues, and they push on in their quest for that battle in the cage.
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Even after Jones himself signaled a shutdown in any conversations surrounding the matchup, his manager Abe Kawa went with a “never say never” approach, keeping fans intrigued by the idea.
“Listen, it can always still happen,” Kawa told MMA Junkie Radio. “One thing we have is a tremendous amount of respect for Dana [White] and the guys up there. Whenever the fans really want something to happen, it happens. So that being said, it can always happen. That’s never a straight no, it’s not. It can absolutely happen.”
So, let’s say negotiations pick up over the next month or two, and the fight does happen. What happens next for all of the outsiders in the situation? The guys like Jan Błachowicz, Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos in the light heavyweight division, or fighters like Miocic, Cormier, Curtis Blaydes, Derrick Lewis, Alexander Volkov and Alistair Overeem at heavyweight?
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To nail it all down, we’ll dive into some fantasy booking, starting at light heavyweight:
- Dominick Reyes (1) vs. Thiago Santos (2)
Blachowicz (3) is apparently next in line for a title shot, according to Jones himself, after Santos and Reyes each fell to Jones in the champion’s two most recent fights. So, it would be tough to imagine the third-ranked light heavyweight risking that opportunity with an extra fight in the meantime while Jones fights Ngannou.
If you’re looking for a way to get Blachowicz in a high-profile fight as a potential “tune-up,” the first step would be to pit Reyes and Santos together. Let the two fighters duke it out after each gave Jones runs for his money, and determine which way the UFC should take the division. You can’t have both waiting for a title shot and create a revolving door of challengers, so let them figure out who falls further down the ladder.
- Jan Blachowicz (3) vs. Glover Teixeira (5) OR Winner of Reyes-Santos
Depending on the length of the wait for Jones and Ngannou’s superfight, you’ll have to figure out what to do with Blachowicz.
If Jones-Ngannou happens quickly, and Jones doesn’t take too much damage, you may not need a tune-up fight for Blachowicz. But, if the Jones-Ngannou fight takes a while to build up, and the fallout lasts for a long time, you’ll have to start looking at other options for the Polish 37-year-old.
The easy options? Pit him against Glover Teixeria for a highly-ranked fight to keep Blachowicz challenged and relevant, or create a number one contender’s fight between Blachowicz and the winner of the Reyes-Santos fight.
If Reyes wins, it’s a fresh matchup for the third-ranked Blachowicz. If Santos wins, it’s a chance for Blachowicz to avenge his lone loss since 2017, a third-round TKO, and prove his case for a title shot over the rest of the group.
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Now, we move to the heavyweight division, with a lot more big names to take care of:
Stipe Miocic (C) vs. Daniel Cormier
This one is a no-brainer at this point, if all parties can get a deal done soon.
Miocic is interested in the fight to finish off the trilogy and establish himself as the greatest heavyweight of all time with a second win in a big-money fight against Cormier. And, Cormier has said it could be as simple as Miocic or retirement when it comes to his next step as it relates to the Octagon.
It’s an easy fight to market, and it has to get done soon before Cormier calls it quits for good. Because of all of that, we have Ngannou’s push for the fight with Jones this year.
Curtis Blaydes (3) vs. Derrick Lewis (4)
Blaydes and Lewis have been jawing back and forth for months at this point, and given their respective spots in the UFC’s heavyweight rankings, this fight makes a lot of sense.
If Ngannou gets booked against Jones, and Miocic and Cormier are locked in as dance partners, Blaydes and Lewis find themselves as the odd men out in the situation. Depending on how the UFC perceives Overeem’s value following his win over Walt Harris, a fight between Blaydes and Lewis will either determine Ngannou’s next heavyweight opponent, or the next man up to fight the heavyweight champion in the future.
The ultimate card with all of this madness? Jones vs. Ngannou in the main event, Reyes vs. Santos as a co-main event, and potentially even Blaydes vs. Lewis under that.
Alexander Volkov (7) vs. Alistair Overeem (8)
Both Alexander Volkov and Alistair Overeem are coming off some high-profile wins, for varying reasons. Volkov sits in the seventh spot in the heavyweight rankings after defeating a not-so-fan-favorite in Greg Hardy, and Overeem is back in the heavyweight mix after a win over Walt Harris.
It’s tough to get a fresh matchup for Overeem after such a long and successful career, as he’s already had battles with Miocic, Ngannou, Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and Aleksei Oleinik. He hasn’t squared off with Lewis, which could be his next fight, but he also hasn’t seen Volkov.
From a rankings perspective, it makes sense to let Blaydes and Lewis handle their beef if Blaydes takes out Volkov on June 20, and then let Overeem continue his rise back to the top with a challenge in the form of Volkov. If not, you could just go with the Blaydes-Volkov matchup, and then a Lewis-Overeem showdown.
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It’s a tough puzzle to fully parse out, but if a Jones-Ngannou battle takes place in 2020, it’ll surely create chaos for the UFC to maneuver around the rest of the year.
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