Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou to battle in highly anticipated rematch at UFC 260
UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will defend the title against hard-hitting Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 this weekend.
Updated: March 25, 2021 • 10:31 AM ET
Stipe Miocic - Wikimedia Commons
The UFC heavyweight title will be on the line at UFC 260 this Saturday, as Stipe Miocic will defend the belt in a rematch with No. 1 contender Francis Ngannou at the Apex in Las Vegas.
In the final bout of a trilogy, Miocic is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 in August. The win was his second straight over Cormier after losing the title to him at UFC 226 in their first bout in 2018. However, Miocic won the title back from Cormier in a rematch at UFC 241 in 2019 with one of the best comebacks in UFC history after trailing three rounds to none. He’ll now attempt to defend the title once again against a fighter who is considered the scariest power-puncher in MMA.
Miocic and Ngannou first met at UFC 220 in 2018 and despite being the champion, Miocic entered the fight as the underdog. After a wild back-and-forth early part of the first round, Miocic dominated Ngannou the rest of the fight and cruised to a unanimous decision victory, severely slowing down the challenger’s hype train. In that bout, Miocic exposed major holes in Ngannou’s takedown defense and ground game, and it has yet to be determined if Ngannou has improved in those areas because they have not been tested since.
In their first fight, Miocic was also able to stand in the pocket and trade punches with Ngannou, something no other fighter has been able to do. While he didn’t do it often, Miocic proved that he can take a punch from the best power puncher in the promotion.
In his next fight just five months later, Cormier finished Miocic with one punch. Many pundits believe Miocic was still damaged from the heavy shots he took in that first round with Ngannou, but he went on to endure punishment from Cormier in two more fights without being finished, so his chin is certainly battle tested.
The biggest question now is: will Miocic entertain the idea of staying in the pocket with Ngannou again?
A few pundits that have watched Ngannou train have said that he has improved since the first meeting with Miocic. Miocic, though, has also improved. He changed his game plan in the later rounds of the second fight with Cormier to win the belt back and dominated Cormier in the third fight. Any mistakes Miocic made were completely erased, which is why he’s still champion today.
Miocic has also slimmed down and changed his physique, which many people believed has helped with his endurance — it should only help him if he finds himself in another five-round fight with Ngannou.
Miocic has defended the belt four times in his career and including Ngannou and Cormier, he has defeated the likes of Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Andrei Arlovskii, Mark Hunt, Fabio Maldonado, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson. One could argue that a second win over Ngannou, a fighter many critics still believe will be the champion someday, would leave Miocic with nothing left to prove.
Ngannou has won four straight fights, but those bouts lasted just over two minutes combined, as he won each by first-round knockout. He most recently defeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249 last May and has key victories in his career over Dos Santos, Overeem, Arlovski, Cain Velasquez and Curtis Blaydes (twice).
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Ngannou has publicly stated that he thought he was going to run over Miocic in their first fight and did not enter the fight well-prepared. Has he made the proper adjustments to get the job done this time? His coach, Eric Nicksick, seems to think so.
“We had to implement [wrestling] in every practice that we do,” Nicksick told MMA Fighting. “So it’s not like one practice you’re sparring or hitting pads. It’s MMA. So every practice you have to focus on defending a takedown. Furthermore, you have to focus on taking guys down yourself. You have to have offensive wrestling just as important as your defensive wrestling.
“Those are some of the things, as scary as it sounds, this dude is blowing through guys on takedowns, putting guys on their backs and beating them up from the top. This guy is now enjoying the elements of wrestling offensively and defensively and understanding there is another path he can find a victory and not shy away from wrestling. You need to implement it one way or another.”
Ngannou has the power to end any fight with one punch. But if he can’t land that shot on Saturday, will he have the endurance and knowledge to make adjustments? To see him utilize offensive wrestling skills against one of the better wrestlers in the division would be a sight to see and unlikely.
Has Ngannou improved his conditioning enough to inflict damage in the later rounds, or is he truly just a first-round fighter? We’ll find out on Saturday night.
The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST
Welterweight bout - No. 7 Tyron Woodley vs. No. 10 Vicente Luque
Bantamweight bout - Sean O’Malley vs. Thomas Almeida
Women’s flyweight bout - No. 15 Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick
Lightweight bout - Jamie Mullarkey vs. Khama Worthy
Prelims on ESPN at 8 p.m. EST
Light heavyweight bout - Alonzo Menifield vs. Fabio Cherant
Welterweight bout - Jared Gooden vs. Abubakar Nurmagomedov
Light heavyweight bout - Modestas Bukauskas vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Featherweight bout - Shane Young vs. Omar Morales
Early Prelims on UFC Fight Pass
Middleweight bout - Marc-Andre Barriault vs. Abu Azaitar