The last time the UFC had a Heavyweight fight that was creating as much buzz as the UFC 220 Main Event, we may have to go back to the debut of Brock Lesnar. While the caliber of both men competing for the Heavyweight Championship on Saturday night is much higher than that of Lesnar, when it comes to the impact on the division and overall MMA experience, Mir vs Lesnar I was a fight that ignited interest in what was then, as is now, a relatively stale state of the division. UFC 220 is a solid fight card overall, with another title fight as well, as Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier defends against Volkan Oezdemir.
Let’s take a look at the highly anticipated Main Event.
Stipe Miocic is an “animal”. One of the greatest Champions in UFC history, at 17-2 he has beaten some of the most decorated names in the sport, including multiple former Champions. Miocic is riding a five fight winning streak which includes two successful title defenses. After taking the belt from Fabricio Werdum via KO, he then stopped Alistair Overeem, followed by Junior Dos Santos in a rematch of a fight he previously lost to Cigano in 2014. Other wins on the legendary resume of the Miocic, an Ohio firefighter, include Andreli Arlovski, Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt, just to name a few.
Looking to dethrone the Champion, the challenger Francis Ngannou (11-1) is arguably the most imposing and intimidating force that the Heavyweight division has ever seen. The massive Nigerian has made a quick run up the UFC latter with six wins in six attempts, all finishes with five via way of knockout. In his last two fights, Ngannou disposed of two potential future Hall of Famers, Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski, with ease. The fighter aptly nicknamed The Predator, echoing the legendary Don Frye, is known for the hardest punch in MMA, however that’s far from all that this tremendous specimen possesses in his repertoire.
Miocic will have to push this fight if he wants to win. While he has very good boxing and moves quick for a big man, Ngannou does as well. Miocic thrives inside where he can push and wear on his opponents while using his dirty boxing and quick strikes in transition. He moves in and out well, changing levels and forcing his opponent to constantly work. Micocic however is 35 and aging. It is around this time most combative athletes begin to slow down. While the Champion still looks to have plenty left in the tank, he has also constantly vulnerable to taking damage. His defense isn’t particularly slick and he has found a way into trouble with being overly aggressive many times. This is the potential kryptonite for the Miocic. While his toughness is unquestionable, he may not be able to take the same type of damage from Ngannou that he has been able to recover from with other opponents. Stipe will have to be very crafty in this fight. He will have to use his aggressive style to close the distance with cleaner angles than he has ever used before. He will have to use his speed to avoid Ngannou’s power and agility. If he is to win this fight, he will have to wear the big man down over the course of multiple rounds and hope to finish it in the later rounds, hoping that the challenger’s conditioning fails him.
What about Franic Ngannou and his keys to winning this fight? Power is always the talk when it comes to the big man, however that’s far from his only attribute. Ngannou moves quickly for a man his size and he put his power together with devastating accuracy. Stipe’s game has always been at close range, however Ngannou excels in that area of the game as well. Most opponents that Stipe has fought do not handle the pressure and close battles as well as Ngannou, and this is another example where the Champion’s greatest attribute could be tested, or potentially neutralized. The Predator has shown a tremendous propensity for doing battle inside, with his quickly changing stances and accurate, lethal and diverse strikes. This is where we believe that the big man will be able to turn the fight in his favor. Surely Stipe will avoid striking at distance with the challenger and will attempt to utilize his best intangibles, however, whether they’re better remain to be seen. Ngannou’s size, strength and deceiving craftiness could prove to be the difference in forcing the Champion to change his game plan early in the fight if he is unable to impose his will.
Prediction – Ngannou T/KO Round 1
Ngannou should be able to avoid Stipe’s onslaught with his footwork and range, keeping the Champion at a relative distance. Miocic will work hard in order to put the fight on the cage and get inside, expending a lot of energy with limited success. Ngannou will use his strength, agility, and quick footwork to avoid the initial attack, forcing Miocic to adjust at range where The Predator finishes him with strikes towards the middle, or end of the first round.