MMA angles? Francis Ngannou’s coach hoping ‘we get one single-leg for free’ against Tyson Fury

Francis Ngannou spars with coach Dewey Cooper. – Amy Kaplan Icon Sportswire

In some ways it felt like Francis Ngannou vs. Tyson Fury was simply an inevitablility. With Ngannou making his desire to test himself in the boxing ring the centerpoint of his contract feud with UFC it was either on the promotion to set him up with a big boxing match, or watch Ngannou do it on his own.

It still feels a little surprising that the ‘Predator’ was able to nail down the notably elusive Fury and get him to sign on the dotted line, but the bout promises to be a massive payday for both men, and one with minimal risk for the championship heavyweight boxer.

That last point was made especially stark recently, as pre-fight media events started to get rolling. Footage of Ngannou’s open workouts showed the Cameroonian-born Frenchman as a surprisingly tentative puncher who struggled to throw in combination. The whole thing was underwhelming enough that Fury’s dad had to wonder if it wasn’t a joke.

“Just seen Francis Ngannou and Mike Tyson and that so-called trainer what’s got the pads on, seen the open workout. I hope he’s kidding along and he’s playing possum here,” John Fury wrote in a post on social media. “I hope that’s a joke and intended to be a laugh. Because if it’s not, he ain’t got a prayer. He ain’t got a cat in hell’s chance. He won’t get out of the first round. It’s probably going to be Tyson’s quickest knockout.”

Coach Eric Nicksick talks Francis Ngannou’s gameplan

Whether or not Ngannou’s shown the full depth of his skills in his recent sparring sessions or not, it doesn’t sound like his plans for Fury are based off the 37-year-old’s grasp of boxing fundamentals. Xtreme Couture head coach Eric Nicksick recently sat down with MMA Fighting to talk about how they’re planning to approach the unbeaten champion. First and foremost, it sounds like the trick will be to make it an MMA fight instead.

“We’re jumping into somebody else’s territory and trying to figure out how to beat the best to ever to do it in the heavyweight division. It is going to be tough. I’m going to tell Francis to sneak in a single-leg [takedown] every once in a while, take this guy down,” Nicksick joked. “Maybe we get one single-leg for free.”

Obviously that isn’t the real plan, but it remains to be seen if the actual thing looks a whole lot better. From the sound of things, Nicksick & Co. are taking a page out of the McGregor/Kavanagh book and hoping that Ngannou’s ‘MMA angles’ create the necessary confusion the former UFC title holder needs to make this a competitive fight.

“Here’s the thing: [Deontay] Wilder might look wild, he might not be as technical as some say, but I think just having a little bit of erratic motion—things that you may not be accustomed to and doesn’t look as clean—that’s right where I think clean boxers get hit,” Nicksick explained. “We call them boogers in the gym. ‘This guy’s a booger.’

“It’s not a term of disrespect. It’s just like when you watch two guys who are very, very technical fighters, they just are working on this sharpness of technique back and forth. Whereas, if you put a technical fighter against a booger, he’s not used to that erratic motion and stuff coming from different angles and stuff coming from different stances. Doing all this stuff that we do within MMA.

“I think it’s going to be key for us—to not try to outbox Tyson Fury. I think if we get in a situation where it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to out-technique this guy,’ we’re going to be in trouble. It’s up to us to come up with creative ways on how to approach this.”

Nicksick also extolled the quality of Ngannou’s striking out of the southpaw stance, and hopes the ability to switch things up on Fury mid-fight will give the man an extra edge. It all seems pretty far fetched, but hope is what keeps the dream alive.

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Tyson Fury on Ngannou’s chances

Even the most optimistic of analysist is essentially only giving Ngannou a ‘puncher’s chance’ of getting the win on October 28th in Saudi Arabia. Ngannou developed a reputation as the hardest puncher the UFC had ever seen during his tenure with the promotion. But, if that’s the gamble, Fury’s not giving it much thought.

“Doubtfully,” Fury responded in a recent interview, when asked if Ngannou might be able to knock him out. “Anything a boxer can do, left or right handed, small, fat, ugly or pretty — I’ve seen it all before and I beat them all before.”

Fury also added, in the same interview, that he’d like to face UFC champion Jon Jones in the Octagon next. Of course, that’s already clearly not going to happen, with the recent news that Fury had finally come to terms with Oleksandr Usyk for a heavyweight fight sometime in either late December or early January. If that bout truly is on the horizon, then it’s a far more thrilling proposition to boxing fans than anything Fury might try to do in MMA.

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About the author

Zane Simon


Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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