You couldn’t have told me that this weekend both Rampage Jackson and Francis Ngannou weren’t going to beat Chael Sonnen and Stipe Miocic, respectively.
Physicality alone, there was this buildup to each match that left you with the impression that these two brothers were about to unleash a pre-MMA, Kimbo Slice styled street molly wop on their competitors, the likes that would have had the bearded and side-braided one smiling a gold tooth smile brightly down from heaven.
Sadly, this was not the case. Instead, their performances furthered the long-standing stereotype that black men can’t grapple and both lost their bouts on the ground where they were cremated. From Anthony “Rumble” Johnson to Paul “Semtex” Daley, if matchmakers need an interesting hype matchup, get a brother with hands and place him against a white boy that can wrestle, mix in a cage, and watch him flop.
Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) and Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) are an unlikely pair of basketball hustlers. They team up to con their way across the courts of Los Angeles, playing a game that’s fast dangerous – and funny.
Remember Woody Harrelson’s performance as Billy Hoyle in the 1992 movie classic, White Men Can’t Jump? It was a revolutionary concept to have a white guy hustle street ballers who professionally hustled each other by praying on their perceived superiority. Hoyle would play the nondescript eager white guy that wants to hang with the ‘brothers’ and didn’t mind making a little wager for their time. Meanwhile, he’d lay in wait like a true pool shark, watching the wagers rise with each nod to their superiority complex until he finally would reveal his abilities at the height of the betting process.
It was a pure genius concept at work. However, when Hoyle paired up with Sidney Deane, played by Wesley Snipes, to take on the bigger basketball challenges for larger payouts, one thing was apparent, Hoyle couldn’t dunk. It was the ultimate role reversal for a street hustler with immense pride like Hoyle to not be able to do something masterful with a basketball. Hoyle would gamble away his girlfriend’s money chasing that challenge and literally lose her and everything he cared about along the journey.
Enter Francis Ngannou, the 6’4″, 263-pound French-Cameroonian fighter that has been dominating the UFC heavyweight ranks since 2015. In six fights, Ngannou had only seen the second round twice and it normally ended via a vicious knockout. Once, he submitted an opponent via a kimura in the UFC and he had utilized grappling three other times before entering the world’s biggest MMA organization. Still, none of those opponents were current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Hear from Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou following their five round title fight at UFC 220. Subscribe to get all the latest UFC content: http://bit.ly/2uJRzRR Experience UFC live with UFC FIGHT PASS, the digital subscription service of the UFC.
As an opponent, Miocic is the equivalent of the final test for Billy and Sidney in the movie when they suited up to play a final game against L.A. blacktop legendary duo King and Duck. In a very tight game, Sidney and Billy prevail, with Billy scoring the winning point from Sidney lobbing an “alley-oop” pass to Billy, who dunked it.
Ngannou knew that Miocic was going to be the toughest challenge of his career and a win over him would have not only given Africa its first-ever UFC champion in any weight class, but also solidified a successful heavyweight run that was nothing short of meteoric. Instead, Miocic used a masterful plan of wrestling and grappling to offset Ngannou and tire him out quickly over the course of five grueling rounds.
In the pursuit of the perfect punch, Ngannou bricked like Billy hitting the rim with the ball and tanking the execution.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rampage Jackson entered the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix and in the first round, faced former UFC trash talking king, Chael Sonnen. The chain-wearing Jackson howled his way into the Bellator cage and looked nothing like the man who is famous for body-slamming Ricardo Arona to sleep in Pride Fighting Championships in 2004. Although he doesn’tt do it often anymore, Jackson knows how to wrestle and grapple, but the increase in weight or the lack of striking engagement by Sonnen forced Jackson to the mat where he invariably failed to match Sonnen’s power.
Although Sonnen is the pre-Conor McGregor originator of white boy swag, Rampage Jackson continuing in the tournament would have set up a potential matchup with either Fedor Emilianenko, Frank Mir, or his nemesis Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal. Instead, Jackson wound up looking like Billy Hoyle telling Gloria (Rosie Perez) that he lost all the prize money he just won trying unsuccessfully to dunk.
Except in this case, Jackson lost $30,000 from a bet he made with Sonnen on Instagram of $10,000 for every takedown he scored on him. Sonnen ultimately scored three.
6,382 Likes, 211 Comments – Chael Sonnen (@sonnench) on Instagram: “@rampage4real offers me a bet… @bellatormma #beyondthefight #fourpackrevolution”
This weekend reminded me that even though I love a good knockout like anyone else, I wished both Francis Ngannou and Rampage Jackson would have channeled with inner Royce Gracie and Matt Hughes and figured out a way to win on the ground. At least Daniel Cormier put it down on the ground against Volkan Oezdmir to wash away the Jon Jones losses and keep his UFC light heavyweight strap.
Still, Billy Hoyle was always more interesting to watch than the finesse of Sidney Deane for the maturation of his game. With Rampage’s career on the downslide, let’s hope Ngannou will continue to chase the slam dunk while perfecting his ‘J’.