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Morning Report: Daniel Cormier less confident Francis Ngannou beats Jon Jones after UFC 270 but cautions Jones not to get cocky

UFC Fight Night: Medeiros v Hadzovic Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

This past weekend, Francis Ngannou successfully defended his UFC heavyweight title, taking home a unanimous decision over Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 270. It was an unexpected performance from Ngannou who, after a rough start, relied on his hitherto unused wrestling and grappling game to take over the fight in the later rounds. It was the sort of performance that many felt was underwhelming, including prospective title challenger Jon Jones, who made it clear that he was not impressed with Ngannou’s performance. Enter Daniel Cormier.

Earlier this month, Cormier predicted that both Ngannou and Gane would beat Jones should they fight, and speaking on his personal YouTube channel yesterday, Cormier admitted to reconsidering this stance after watching Ngannou struggle against Gane. But after taking some time to think on it, Cormier cautions Jones, or anyone else, from reading too much into this one fight.

“I took a few days to think about this after UFC 270 because the moment I left the arena in Anaheim I thought to myself, ‘I think Jones beats both of them,’” Cormier said. “I really did, after watching them in that fight, think to myself - and then talking to Henry Cejudo and other people - I was like, ‘Man, I think Jones might be them both.’ So I was ready to admit I was wrong. I was ready to come on here and say, ‘I was wrong, Jones beats them both.’ ...

“Then I listened to Francis talk to Ariel (Helwani) and all his contract stuff and it really dawned on me, because even in the buildup we talked about this, Francis has so much going on, and then right before the fight, I’m in the locker room and we get information that he’s dealing with a very severe knee injury and I was thinking, ‘Man, he may not get through this.’ But then he gets through it in the most unexpected way you could ever imagine, with him taking Ciryl Gane down in the ways that he did.

“And as I thought about all those things, I thought to myself, ‘Maybe Jones does beat him,’ and I’m watching Jones’ Tweets and him almost celebrating, ‘Wow, this fight gives me a ton of confidence.’ You’d better slow down. You’ve got to slow down, because I had to slow down as an outsider. Because what we saw in Francis Saturday was not the Francis Ngannou that we are used to. What we saw was a guy that was able to adjust on the fly - something that Francis didn’t have before - and still keep his championship.”

Ngannou was dealing with a tremendous number of distractions heading into UFC 270. The champion tore ligaments in his knee a few weeks before the bout, had a messy contract dispute with the UFC looming, and was fighting a man coached by his own former coach, who he was not on good terms with. The fact that Ngannou was able to retain his title amidst all that, Cormier says, is something to be lauded, not criticized.

“Jon said something to the effect of, ‘If this is the apex predator in the division, I’m excited about it.’ We’re talking about a wounded king of the jungle,” Cormier said. “And if the wounded king of the jungle is still the best heavyweight in the world, maybe we should look at it a different way. Maybe we shouldn’t judge Francis as harshly because he can’t walk, amongst other things. Listen, all the contract stuff and all the Tyson Fury talk and coach Lopez chirping at him, that takes its toll on anyone. So to go out there and beat a guy that was called the future of the heavyweight division, on bad knees, it’s still something to be very proud of.”

That being said, Cormier also isn’t able to completely discount what happened on Saturday. The former two-division champion admits that even allowing for outside the cage factors, Jones still had a better shot against Ngannou than he previously believed.

“I’m less sure today than I’ve ever been in those guys beating Jon Jones,” Cormier said. “Because ultimately, Jones is a competitor and he’s a competitor at the highest level, and when you give a competitor like that - wounded or not - that visual, he feels now more invincible than he’s ever felt in his entire life. And I’m not one to give Jones compliments easy. He’s a good fighter, he really is. He’s now working with Henry Cejudo and after last weekend, how do you doubt anything Henry Cejudo does? You know that going into this fight Jones is going to have a masterful game plan, he’s going to have everything in order to give himself the best opportunity to win a fight against the champion.

“I think Jones matches up better with Francis than I thought initially, because Jones is smart in there. He will minimize risk, take advantage of situations to allow for himself to be in the fight. Does that mean he’s going to win? I’m not certain. But I’ll tell you one thing, he’s going to compete better than a lot of us thought prior. But we can’t judge Francis on last weekend. That’s the king of the jungle and he was wounded, but if there’s a time you want to fight him it’s right now, because he’s gonna be coming off a real injury.”

But whether Jones will get that opportunity is completely up in the air. Ngannou is set to undergo surgery for his injured knee that will likely sideline him for the rest of the year and we may have already seen the last of the heavyweight champion anyway. But Cormier certainly hopes not.

“All I can hope is that the UFC and Francis Ngannou comes to terms so we have more experiences watching Francis Ngannou do his thing,” Cormier concluded. “Because every single time it is an event and I am hoping and praying that last weekend wasn’t the last Francis Ngannou event I get to call.”


TOP STORIES

Fire. Charles Oliveira defends lightweight title against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274.

Weak. Francis Ngannou’s coach: Dana White’s absence after UFC 270 win was ‘a weak move’.

Busy. Dana White addresses why he didn’t put title around Francis Ngannou’s waist after UFC 270.

Out. Francis Ngannou to undergo knee surgery, recovery likely in ‘9 to 10 months’.

Galaxy Brain. Fernand Lopez told Ciryl Gane not to kick Francis Ngannou’s knee, thought injury rumors were ‘bait’.

Bold. Kamaru Usman considered fighting Jan Blachowicz for light heavyweight title: ‘I think I would beat him’.


VIDEO STEW

The MMA Hour.

Kamaru Usman on how he spent his first million dollars.

Vanessa Demopoulos becoming a star overnight.

Ngannou training with Khabib.

Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker.


LISTEN UP

Heavy Hands. Discussing t he best fights from UFC 270.

UFC Unfiltered. Interviews with Matt Frevola and Maxx Crosby.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Goals.

Jake Paul staying on Dana White.

Game on.

Miesha Tate is on Celebrity Big Brother.

New tattoo for the new champion.

Nate Diaz.

She said she said.

Khamzat Chimaev wrestling with Yaroslav Amosov.


FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Kleber Koike (28-5-1) vs. Ulka Sasaki (23-9-2); RIZIN, Feb. 23.

Kenji Kato (13-7) vs. Kazuma Kuramoto (8-2); RIZIN, Feb. 23.

Suguru Nii (12-11) vs. Sora Yamamoto (12-6-2); RIZIN, Feb. 23.

Charles Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC) vs. Justin Gaethje (23-3); UFC 274, May 7.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.


EXIT POLL

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