UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC 220 card in Boston.
Updated: Jan. 17, 2018 • 7:00 PM ET
Cleveland native Stipe Miocic can make history at UFC 220 in Boston this weekend.
Stipe Miocic has a chance to make history on Saturday in Boston at UFC 220, but the focus has been more on the man he’ll fight than the champion himself.
In the main event at UFC 220, Miocic will defend the UFC heavyweight title against No. 1 contender Francis Ngannou. It will be Miocic’s third title defense since winning the gold at UFC 198 over Fabricio Werdum in May 2016. A win over Ngannou would give Miocic the record for the most successful title defenses in heavyweight division history and cement his legacy as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history.
Miocic has successfully defended the title against Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos, but he still continues to fly under the radar as one of the more underappreciated champions in the UFC. The Ohio native has won five straight fights, all by finish, and eight of his last nine overall. Miocic’s path to the title required patience and longevity, as well as wins over some of the top fighters in the heavyweight division.
He approaches fighting and everyday life with the same blue-collar attitude, working part-time as a firefighter in Valley View, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland) when he’s not training. The idea that Miocic is a regular guy during the day and the “baddest man on the planet” on fight night makes him one of the more compelling stories in UFC history. The man he’s fighting on Saturday in Boston, however, has garnered more attention with a unique story of his own.
Ngannou has gone from homeless to No. 1 contender in five years. He lived on the streets of Paris before entering free training in 2013. The hard-hitting heavyweight from Cameroon is 6-0 in the UFC, winning every fight by finish.
He defeated Overeem at UFC 218 with one of the scariest knockouts in recent memory. Ngannou entered that fight last month with a considerable amount of hype, but there were still questions about how he would compete against a top contender. He answered those questions in less than a minute, finishing Overeem with one punch that earned him the shot at Miocic’s title.
The burning question entering Saturday’s fight is, will Miocic try to stand with Ngannou? Few believe that anyone in the heavyweight division can take a punch from the No. 1 contender, and those that have been hit by Ngannou have been finished. But Miocic takes a more intelligent approach to striking than anyone Ngannou has fought, using great footwork and not entering or exiting exchanges with his chin out in the open.
Miocic has superior wrestling and if used efficiently, he can put Ngannou in compromising positions. Curtis Blaydes proved in 2016 that Ngannou can be taken down, so Miocic, a former Division 1 wrestler at Cleveland State, could find similar success with well-timed and accurate takedowns.
Ngannou, though, will enter Saturday’s fight as the favorite and expects to finish Miocic the same way he has his previous opponents.
“The match against Stipe, the same way, knockout,” Ngannou said via the UFC after knocking out Overeem. “There are no possibilities besides knockout for me. I just get myself ready, go do easy fighter back home.
“I’m not good at three-, four-round fight, just knockout first round and go back home.”
Miocic expressed his own views on The MMA Hour earlier this month.
“All the pressure is on him, honestly,” Miocic said. “He’s being built up as a finisher and all that, but the best guys he’s faced, I knocked them out two years ago. So, whatever.”
The showdown is one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights in the recent memory, and the winner will solidify their position as “the baddest man on the planet”.
UFC 220’s co-main event will be for the light heavyweight championship, as Daniel Cormier will defend the title against No. 2 ranked Volkan Oezdemir.
Cormier will step into the Octagon for the first time since a no-contest against Jon Jones at UFC 214 last July. Jones finished Cormier with a head-kick to win the title, but the result was overturned after it was reported that Jones had tested positive for steroids, giving Cormier the belt back.
Cormier has proven to be the greatest light heavyweight on the planet not named Jon Jones, as he has defeated everyone else that has stepped into the Octagon with him. He has defeated Anthony Johnson (twice), Alexander Gustafson, Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson.
Oezdemir represents new blood and a new challenge, but Cormier doesn’t seem phased by the Switzerland product.
“He’s a tough guy, but they’re all tough,” Cormier said at the UFC 220 Press Conference late last month. “You don’t expect to fight anybody easy, but I’ve fought kick boxers before, I’ve fought wrestlers, I’ve fought guys with big power. I’ve fought fast guys, big guys.
“it doesn’t matter, I’ll fight the same way. There’s no secret to how I’m going to fight. I’m gonna go forward, I’m gonna press him and I’m gonna just make him work for 25 minutes. If Volkan Oezdemir is able to withstand that and beat me, because nobody has been able to do it but Jones, Jones is the only one that has been able to keep that pace that I put on people, he’s the only one. If Volkan Oezdemir can do that and beat me, then hats off to him. But I don’t believe that he has it in him to do that. Those guys just don’t work as hard as I do.”
Oezdemir has taken a short path to earning a title shot, while looking dominant in the process. The 28-year-old has only had three fights in the UFC, but has shown scary punching power in his last two bouts after a win over highly regarded Ovince Saint Preux in his UFC debut.
Oezdemir quickly knocked out Misha Cirkunov last May and then surprised many by finishing Jimi Manuwa in less than a minute at UFC 214 two months later. Many believed the winner of that fight would be granted the next title shot, and Oezdemir solidified his place in Boston in dominant fashion.
Cormier represents Oezdemir’s biggest challenge, and it’ll be interesting to see how the power-puncher responds to the pressure, should the fight make it to the later rounds. Oezdemir’s fight against Saint Preux went to a split decision, and the Swiss fighter didn’t look as comfortable in the last five minutes of the fight as he did in the first five.
The rest of the main card
Featherweight fight - Calvin Kattar vs. Shane Burgos
Light heavyweight fight - Gian Villante vs. Francimar Barroso
Bantamweight fight - No. 10 Thomas Almeida vs. No. 14 Rob Font
Featherweight fight - Kyle Bochniak vs. Brandon Davis
Welterweight fight - Sabah Homasi vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
Flyweight fight - No. 10 Dustin Ortiz vs. No. 11 Alexandre Pantoja
Featherweight fight -Dan Ige vs. Julio Arce
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Featherweight fight - Matt Bessette vs. Enrique Barzola
Lightweight fight - Islam Makhachev vs. Gleison Tibau