Matt Brown: If Francis Ngannou lands same punch that dropped Tyson Fury, ‘I don’t think Joshua gets back up’

Nobody outside of friends, family, and coaches picked Francis Ngannou to beat Tyson Fury when they met this past October, yet the former UFC heavyweight champion scored a knockdown and nearly pulled off one of the greatest upsets in combat sports history.

Less than six months later, Ngannou now faces Anthony Joshua in another massive fight, except this time around he’s not being viewed as a gargantuan underdog with little chance to win. Of course, Joshua remains a sizable betting favorite according to oddsmakers, but Ngannou’s success against Fury opened some eyes about his chances to compete in high-level professional boxing.

Long before the Fury fight was official, UFC welterweight Matt Brown actually called for Ngannou to land Joshua as his debut opponent in boxing because he felt that was the most winnable fight amongst the elite heavyweights in the sport. Joshua notoriously doesn’t like getting hit, and Ngannou might be the most powerful puncher this side of Deontay Wilder — and that could be a recipe for disaster for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist.

“The reason that I said Joshua was the fight to make originally, because Ngannou hits incredibly hard,” Brown said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “We know this and Joshua, he’s actually shown more grit than people give him credit for, but he’s not known as being that Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali that’s going to take a punch and swing back. That’s just not what he’s known for. He’s known as a little bit more chinny.

“If Ngannou hits Joshua with that punch he hit Fury with, I don’t think Joshua gets back up. That’s the whole story of this fight to me.”

On paper, Joshua should cruise to victory, but the same thing was said about Fury when he fought Ngannou.

Brown expects the biggest difference for Joshua to be that he at least has some footage to study from Ngannou’s debut fight with Fury to better understand what he’s up against.

In the same way that no one really picked Ngannou to win his professional boxing debut against the lineal heavyweight champion of the world, nobody imagined that the former UFC heavyweight champion would actually attempt to outbox someone like Fury. Most believed Ngannou would have to present some unorthodox moves and hope that he could land a nuclear bomb to catch Fury off guard and win the fight.

Instead, Ngannou actually looked like an experienced boxer in the ring, although Brown doesn’t know if that alone would be enough to get past Joshua on Friday.

“Joshua, we’ve had a lot of knocks on him with his chin and how much heart he has and everything, but I think he’s improved his skills, in my opinion,” Brown said. “His jab, he’s using it a lot more and that makes me nervous for Ngannou, because that was one thing Tyson Fury didn’t do a lot of. He wasn’t setting up traps for Ngannou. He wasn’t playing a strategy, it seemed like. We talked about it before, there was no tape on Ngannou. You didn’t know what you were getting. I talked about that at length on this podcast where I said, ‘Look, we don’t know what to deal with so you don’t know how to build a strategy. You don’t know what you’re going to get and that makes a very difficult fight, especially a guy that hits extremely hard.’

“Ngannou fought differently than we expected him to. He actually boxed with Fury. He looked good doing it. I think the difference this time is that Joshua does have tape on Ngannou now. It’s only one fight, but he knows a little bit of what to expect, and Joshua’s gotten better. That jab, in my opinion, is what’s going to decide this fight. If Joshua can get his jab going, it could be a relatively easy night for him. If he can’t get it going and they start throwing power strikes back and forth, that’s obviously where you don’t want to be with Ngannou.”

The 10 rounds and 30 minutes that Ngannou spent in the ring with Fury should give Joshua something to work with in his preparation for the fight.

That being said, Brown knows there’s far more information out there about Joshua than Ngannou, and that should give “The Predator” a chance to offer up a few more surprises in this fight. It doesn’t necessarily mean Ngannou will win, but he still has the chance to exploit some advantages over Joshua when they throw down.

“Having one fight doesn’t tell us everything we need to know,” Brown said. “That, to me, is where Joshua should have a game plan now. because he has a fight [to watch], he’ll have a strategy. Tyson Fury wasn’t able to put together a strategy. Joshua should be able to put together a strategy. It’s going to be interesting, at least now, how it all unfolds and how it comes together.”

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