This Saturday, the UFC will touch down in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with UFC 206. Though the card was rocked by the late cancellation of its originally planned main event—a light heavyweight title fight between Daniel Cormier and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson—it is still dominating most of the MMA discourse at the moment.
UFC 206 is not, however, the most immediate event on the UFC’s calendar. Before the organization touches down in Toronto on Saturday night, it’ll make a Friday night trip to Albany, New York. This card will mark the Octagon’s debut in the capital of New York state, and nobody is talking about it.
Granted, the card is not exactly a jaw-dropper on paper. It does, however, include some pretty interesting fights. One of the most interesting off all these fights is the card’s co-main event, which will pit French-Cameroonian heavyweight Francis Ngannou (8-1) against Washington’s Anthony “Freight Train Hamilton (15-5).
The thing that makes this heavyweight showdown interesting is not that Ngannou and Hamilton are particularly big names. Instead, the appealing detail of this showdown is that Ngannou is arguably the hottest prospect in the UFC heavyweight division, and that Hamilton is probably the biggest test of his career thus far.
Having said that, let’s take a look at Ngannou.
The 30-year-old debuted in the UFC in December of 2015. He did so with a 5-1 record, with two of those wins occurring by way of knockout or TKO, and the other three coming by way of submission.
Since debuting on the sport’s biggest stage, Ngannou has gone 3-0. This run began in his debut, when he delivered an Octagon-shaking, second-round knockout of Luis Henrique. Then, it continued when he thrashed fellow prospect Curtis Blaydes to a doctor stoppage. Finally, and most recently, Ngannou kept his win-streak alive with a TKO over an outmatched Bojan Mihajlovic. Needless to say, he’s already established himself as a dangerous force in the UFC heavyweight division. Oh, it’s probably also worth mentioning that he’s 6’4, 260lbs, and rippling with muscle.
Now, a bit about Hamilton. While Ngannou currently holds the number 12 spot in the UFC heavyweight rankings, Hamilton is actually not even ranked. Given this, you’re probably wondering why he’s being talked about as Ngannou’s starkest test to date. Well, it’s not because he’s the first of Ngannou’s opponents to have a Wikipedia page.
The thing that makes Hamilton such an interesting challenge for Ngannou is that he’s probably the best wrestler Ngannou has faced. Of course, he’s no Cain Velasquez, Stipe Miocic or Brock Lesnar, but he still the kind of imposing wrestler that could very easily give Ngannou problems.
Hamilton is also one of the most experienced fighters Ngannou has faced. Not only does he have twice the pro experience of the French prospect, but he’s also sharpened his tools against far sharper opposition, having battled opponents like former WSOF champ Smealinho Rama, TUF vet Darrill Schoonover, and current UFC heavyweights Oleksiy Oliynyk, Todd Duffee, Daniel Omielanczuk, Shamil Abdurakhimov and Damien Grabowski. He was also briefly scheduled for a fight with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic—which admittedly doesn’t mean much, but at least tells us that the UFC considers him an opponent worthy of the Croatian legend.
The real takeaway here is that Anthony Hamilton is going to tell us a lot of about Francis Ngannou, who stands out as the most compelling prospect currently signed to the UFC heavyweight division. He’ll either stop the prospect’s rise in its tracks, effectively squashing his hype, or he’ll become the latest name on Ngannou’s ever-growing list of victims. Either way, it’s bound to be fun to watch. It all goes down this Friday in Albany.
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