Even Eric Nicksick would probably say he went a bit too far when it comes to breaking down and analyzing the first fight between UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and his fighter Francis Ngannou.
The Xtreme Couture head coach wasn’t working with Ngannou for this fight, so he didn’t have the basic knowledge of the training camp that led up to that night, but he obsessively watched them images in order to prepare for the rematch at UFC 260.
In fact, Nicksick has revealed that he has looked into the 25-minute UFC 220 fight at least once a day since Ngannou’s second chance to become champion was confirmed by the promotion.
” Every night. I watch it, “Nicksick told MMA Fighting ahead of UFC 260.” It’s scary, but I watch it every night. When I was on Fight Island and the fight was announced I started watching the tape and watched it a few times before that, but just did a nighttime diet for myself. As are mannerisms and the observation of movements and patterns.
“It’s really overkill. It’s not healthy. I should turn it off, I will certainly admit it, but it’s just something that’s almost a beloved tradition now. My wife will be done with this soon. I plug it in and watch it for a bit. I just think it’s important to put in the time, especially giving the guy I consider the best to ever do this with Stipe Miocic, the respect he deserves.
Nicksick’s dedication to preparing for Ngannou’s fight has been at the center of attention since they started working together full-time just under two years ago.
Four straight knockout wins without a single opponent reaching the two minutes of the first round helped Ngannou win his rematch with Miocic, but that’s where the real work began.
Regardless of recent success, Nicksick says Ngannou will be the first to point out his shortcomings in the initial showdown against Miocic, which is part of why he spent hours and hours in the gym to eliminate those weaknesses leading up to the rematch.
“I think he understands at this level, at the title level, you’re not just going to cut everyone like they’re soft,” Nicksick explained. “There are guys who will try to outsmart you. They’re going to have better combat IQ. His approach to this fight [against Stipe], in many ways and he will tell you by his own admission, he thought he was just going to go in there and knock him out and take the belt.
“Unfortunately you are fighting Stipe Miocic, arguably the greatest to do so, he won’t make it easy for you. It’s not like that at this level.
That night, just over three years ago, Ngannou caught Miocic with a few good punches in the first round, but the Ohio native avoided his best punches and then continued with the withdrawal after the withdrawal. to cancel the knockout all together.
In five rounds, Miocic continuously planted Ngannou on the canvas where he absolutely beat him with punches, almost winning a save on several occasions. The defense against Ngannou’s withdrawal was no match for Miocic and his struggle, not to mention the Cameroonian struggling mightily with his conditioning after never getting past the second round in any of his previous fights.
When it was over, Miocic was rising high as a champion while Ngannou still tried to catch his breath after being made to look human for the first time since joining the UFC.
As devastating as this loss was to him, Nicksick believes that in the end, it made Ngannou a better fighter.
“Sometimes you need those ass screams from Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis is fighting to really make you understand who and what you are, but also to make you understand what you are capable of overcoming,” said Nicksick. “So all of these things are the maturing of this man’s career, but when you sum it up and look at everything this guy has been through, it’s kind of one of those side stories for what he’s been through in. his life.
“The rejections, the time it took to actually get here, to get to Europe, to travel through Africa, he has been told no or rejected on several occasions, but it is his perseverance or his resilience. which makes him what he is. It wouldn’t be right if he hadn’t had the hiccups to get there. A bit of hindsight. It shouldn’t be that easy for him. I’m glad we have the rematch. I’m glad we have time and he really had to right the ship to get back inside and start over.
In terms of physical preparation to prepare for the rematch, Nicksick was incredibly impressed not only with Ngannou’s work ethic, but his own willingness to address perceived weaknesses in his game.
As for Ngannou’s conditioning, Nicksick started tackling this issue as soon as they started working together and he earned the fierce knockout striker’s trust with a philosophy that appealed to his end goal. to become UFC champion.
“We sat down and talked about it after [Junior Dos Santos], just sort of conquer those demons if you want areas of our game that I wouldn’t necessarily say we weren’t good at – I like to use the term we weren’t good at yet, “said Nicksick. “These are the things we really wanted to focus our attention on and make sure we ticked all the boxes.
“The exact analogy I told him was to look at if for some reason we didn’t throw a single punch for an entire side, you’re still going to hit hard but if you really double down on all of those things, you are not really comfortable yet and focusing our attention on these improvements, how do you think this will work for you? He said “this will make me unstoppable”. So I said, let’s start to redouble our efforts on these areas of improvement and, by its own admission, what are you not comfortable with? Cardio and this and this and that. OK, let’s start doubling down on this. ”
It was pretty much the same when it came to Ngannou’s fight, who just wasn’t up to par with Miocic in their first fight.
With days to go until the rematch, Nicksick has full confidence in Ngannou’s wrestling and he might even have a few surprises up his sleeve if he engages in wrestling trades with Miocic at UFC 260.
“We had to implement [wrestling] in every practice we do, ”Nicksick revealed. “So it’s not like a practice that you practice or hit the pads. It’s MMA. So in every practice you should focus on defending a takedown. Plus, you need to focus on destroying guys on your own. You have to have an offensive fight just as important as your defensive fight.
“These are some of the things, scary as it sounds, this dude blows on guys on teardowns, puts them on their backs and beats them from the top. This guy now enjoys the elements of offensive and defensive wrestling and understands that there is another way he can find victory and not be shy in wrestling. You have to implement it one way or another. “
Of course, Nicksick understands that his comments about Ngannou’s improvements will no doubt be met with skepticism, as the No.1-ranked heavyweight contender hasn’t been forced to show anything during his recent streak of four. consecutive wins.
This is why Nicksick is so excited to see Ngannou perform on Saturday night where he can show everything he has learned, because no doubt Miocic will force him to be at his best.
“We can talk about it, we have a blue face, but you have to prove it,” Nicksick said. “You have to show people. Everyone will have their doubts until you are able to implement it. “