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JDS to tame heavy-hitting Ngannou? Get UFC on ESPN 3 tips

Leigh Copson 26 Jun 2019
Junior dos Santos (credit:USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Images)

UFC on ESPN 3 predictions for Saturday, June 29. Can former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos continue his resurgence or will Francis Ngannou move a step closer to another shot at becoming ‘the baddest man on the planet’? Read on for all of our free predictions and betting tips for UFC on ESPN 3.

Francis Ngannou v Junior dos Santos

Junior dos Santos has surged right back into heavyweight title contention thanks to his best run of form for over seven years, but can he make it four victories in a row when he takes on one of the hardest-hitting heavyweights in the history of combat sports – Francis Ngannou?

Dos Santos was on top of the world in late 2011 when he took just 64 seconds to shatter the aura surrounding then heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, but he managed just one successful defence of his crown before surrendering it back to Velasquez, and that brutal loss sparked a rollercoaster run of form for the Brazilian. He went 3-4 between December 2012 and May 2017, and in that time he lost a hat-trick of title fights, with his most recent crack at the crown ending in a first-round TKO defeat at the hands of Stipe Miocic. Dos Santos bounced back from that with a decision win over Blagoy Ivanov and then got back to his old destructive ways with a couple of second-round TKO wins over Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis to put himself right in the title picture.

A victory over Ngannou on Saturday night would almost certainly land ‘Cigano’ a shot at becoming a two-time champion, but ‘The Predator’ has title ambitions of his own having seemingly got his career back on track in the past several months.

Ngannou’s stock was sky high as he steamrollered over a string of opponents to earn a title fight with Stipe Miocic in January 2018, but the speed of his rise was topped by the speed of his fall as he was embarrassed by the then champion over five rounds before producing a pathetic performance in a decision defeat to Derrick Lewis. Ngannou had been gun shy on the night and many wondered if the hype train had been derailed – the Cameroonian answered in emphatic fashion. He needed just 45 seconds to dispatch Curtis Blaydes and then took out former champion Cain Velasquez in even swifter fashion, getting the job done inside 26 seconds. Velasquez argued afterwards that a knee injury was to blame for the quickfire loss, but there can be no doubting that ‘The Predator’ is back on track after those losses to Miocic and Lewis.

However, can he now complete his turnaround by beating Dos Santos to secure a shot at the winner of the upcoming title fight between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic? This really is a tough fight to call.

Ngannou has devastating punching power that can take out any man, but we have also seen that he can be mentally weak and broken by an opponent – just watch that title fight loss to Miocic and the after-effects it had on him when he faced Lewis in his next outing. We have also seen that his best chances of winning a fight come in the early stages – he has never won a fight that lasted longer than 10 minutes and ‘Cigano’ will almost certainly be aware of that.

Dos Santos, meanwhile, possesses great stopping power too and he has shown a tremendous ability to take punishment over the years despite suffering several TKO defeats. The problem is that he has been involved in a number or wars and you have question at which point they will finally take their toll on the 35-year-old? It could be that he can no longer stand up to the devastating striking power that will be sent his way by Ngannou in this one. That is a question that can only be answered once the bell rings on Saturday night.

But while you have to wonder about dos Santos’ punch resistance, he cannot be written off because there is a clear way to victory for him – that is staying out of troubling for the first couple of rounds and taking this fight beyond the third. Like a character in a fighting game, Ngannou’s power will lessen the more the fight wears on and if dos Santos can pound away with those leg kicks he can speed up that process and also break Ngannou’s spirit.

I understand why the bookies are backing the Cameroonian, but the one time he stepped under the brightest of lights he wilted in spectacular fashion and the same cannot be said for dos Santos, who is a veteran of five-round fights. If he can ride out the early storm and make it to round three, I fancy JDS for the upset.

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