Coach Fernand Lopez Admits Francis Ngannou Deviated From The Gameplan: ‘It Was A Mess’
A few days have passed since UFC 220, but still he feeling of regret burns in the heart of Francis Ngannou and his coach Fernand Lopez.
Ngannou was defeated soundly by Stipe Miocic on Saturday night in what was a lopsided decision at the TD Garden in Boston. Speaking for the first time since the loss, coach Lopez described how the gameplan unravelled as early as the first round.
“The fight didn’t go our way, that’s clear for all to see,” Lopez said. “We were expecting the level of skills that Stipe brought, he was awesome and his levels changes were beautiful. We were lucky he didn’t try to finish Francis, but he didn’t every try to commit to many submission or anything. There were some good things that Francis did. He showed amazingly bravery and he never gave up. No one was thinking it would ever go 25-minutes, but Francis hung in there in the face of great adversity.
“Francis let out everything in the first round and after that, he had nothing left, but he still kept going. The first round was incredible and if every round was like that it would’ve been one of the best fights ever, but these are two heavyweights and that was never going to happen. He did a good job to hang there, but I won’t lie, I was disappointed. When I saw Francis rush in and throw a high kick, I was shocked.”
Lopez then went on to describe what the actual gameplan was and the extent to which Ngannou didn’t follow it on fight night.
“That wasn’t at all in the gameplan. That must’ve been Stipe’s dream. Have someone rush him and try to take his head off. That made it easy for him to change level and get the takedown. As a cornerman, you simply can’t do anything. The gameplan was to manage the range and throw some combos, but be cautious and to step back out and keep the distance so he couldn’t bring his wrestling. That didn’t happen.”
“I’ll be honest, I’ve not talked to Francis about it yet,” he continued. “I don’t like to have a debrief straight after the fight. I like to have two weeks to let the fighter think and digest the fight. When he’s ready, two weeks later I’ll talk with him and try to understand why he went for that gameplan and that strategy. I didn’t expect what happened. The gameplan was so different, but Francis just went rushing after him, hunting him and yeah it just wasn’t what we had planned.”
With Ngannou clearly struggling upon returning to his stool at the end of the first round, Lopez tried to give him an alternative approach to help him recuperate in the second round. Ngannou listened, but by then the damage had been done and Miocic from there dominated the contest.
“At the end of the first round I tried to get things back, but when I saw him, I could see everything was gone. He’d burned out everything,” Lopez said. “When you’re a heavyweight and you’ve burned everything it’s over. He didn’t have enough energy to use his footwork and step in or out. The only thing I thought we could do was try to play with the right uppercut and make Stipe think twice about coming into range so he could breathe. I was telling him to play jab-jab-uppercut, but Stipe was so smart and took him down again.
“People say that Francis did not prepare for wrestling and grappling enough during the camp, but that’s false. He hung there for 25-minutes with no gas in the tank and didn’t get submitted, so he showed everyone he knew what he was doing. People also forget that he also went for a heel hook in the fourth or the fifth round, I forget, but it made Miocic abandon his ground attack and Francis was able to stand up. People saying Francis not being prepared for wrestling or the ground game are wrong. That wasn’t the issue.
“The issue was the range management and the distance management in the fight. Francis needed to choose the range to fight and it didn’t happen. Whenever Stipe moved in, Francis should’ve moved back to maintain the distance. As soon as he chose to hunt and chase Stipe, it was a mess. Without any footwork it was over.”