On Saturday night at UFC 226, what was supposed to be the most explosive UFC fight of all time quickly turned into a 15 minute heavy breathing contest.
In the end, Derrick Lewis (20-5) picked up the unanimous decision win while vehemently shaking his head. Francis Ngannou (11-3) to his side looked like he had just eaten fifteen pounds of Taco Bell – mouth wide open and shuffling side to side, visibly upset with himself.
How did this happen though? How did the 520+ pounds of fast twitch muscle fiber sharing the octagon transition into what Joe Rogan called the worst heavyweight fight of all time.
— UFC (@ufc) July 8, 2018
The bigger they are, the harder they fall
The answer may ironically lie within Francis Ngannou’s world record of the most powerful punch in the world. Francis, like all of us, is a human. He had ridden a wave of confidence the size of Roy Nelson’s gut into UFC stardom. He, like all of us, believed he was destined to knock the now former UFC champion Stipe Miocic into oblivion. Until, he wasn’t. He lost an absolute five round beating. Coming in 10 pounds lighter to this bout at 253 pounds, it was evident he had focused more on his conditioning. But as it would turn it out, he was focused too much on too many things – he was petrified.
The roars of the crowd quickly turned into boos as the two giants of men exchanged the odd half-hearted faint or low kick. Their eyes widened, and action simply ceased to exist.
Robin Black perhaps put it best in his analysis of the fight’s mental side, “In those 15 minutes they were unable, not unwilling, unable. They could not get their brain to do what hey so wished they could get it to do. We’ve all been there.”
In other words, both men were physically there, but never mentally clocked in. It was a shame to see them not perform at their best, but that is the risk of the game they play. Robin continues,
We have these expectations that we build. The day before if you would have asked what their biggest fears were tothem, they’d say failing… having a terrible performance and being embarrassed. And for days, months, and years they [will now have to] come to grips with it. They would have done anything to avoid that shame … This human frailty – these hesitations, we saw [Ngannou] turn Overeem into a Pez dispenser, who had 20 years more combat experience – And then tonight we saw [this] because he’s a human being.
As the great David Bowie put it;
Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band.