When you look at the UFC Minneapolis headliner between Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos on paper, most would agree that the meat and potatoes of the bout will take place on the feet. However, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials of dos Santos have been called into question by his opponent this weekend.
While speaking to the media in a scrum earlier this month, Ngannou had some things to say about the validity of dos Santos’ black belt in BJJ.
“First of all, I don’t believe that jiu-jitsu black belt,” Ngannou told reporters in Las Vegas (h/t MMA Weekly). “I don’t believe in dos Santos’ jiu-jitsu black belt. I don’t know where he’s from, but I don’t believe that.”
The vast majority of Junior dos Santos’ victories have come with his strong boxing and striking pedigree. “Cigano” has 14 knockouts in his 21 professional wins, with his only submission victory coming in 2006, just his second fight as a professional. Dos Santos’ black belt was awarded in December 2012 by longtime coach Yuri Carlton.
For dos Santos, if Ngannou was trying to get in his head heading into the potential no. 1 contender heavyweight matchup this weekend, it doesn’t seem like it worked as he stated to MMA Fighting.
“I honestly don’t know what’s his strategy with saying something like that, but if he’s trying to avoid getting punched in the face, that didn’t work,” dos Santos said. “And he came to that conclusion based on what? Come on.”
After getting finished by Stipe Miocic at UFC 211 in May 2017, Junior dos Santos has run off three consecutive victories over Blagoy Ivanov, along with finishes of Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis.
Ngannou, on the other hand, has gotten back to his winning ways following his heavyweight title loss to Miocic at UFC 220 in January 2018. “The Predator” would go on to lose a lackluster decision to Lewis five months later at UFC 226, but has since had quick opening round knockout wins over Curtis Blaydes and former champion Cain Velasquez; using just a combined 1:11 of Octagon time in the two victories.
How do you see the main event of UFC Minneapolis going down this Saturday between Junior dos Santos and Francis Ngannou?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 6/26/2019.