Miocic vs Ngannou II
Stipe Moicic (20-3-0) vs Francis Ngannou (15-3-0)
Headlining UFC 260 is a rematch between Francis Ngannou and reigning heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic. These two fought back in 2018 which saw Miocic nullify Ngannou’s power by putting on a wrestling clinic for 25 minutes. A lot has happened since their first match up: Miocic fought Daniel Cormier three times in a row (losing the belt with a KO loss before winning the rematch by TKO and then taking the trilogy tiebreaker with a unanimous decision), and Ngannou followed up his first UFC loss with one of the most disappointing fights of all time against Derrick Lewis. Luckily, he regained his form and went on to slaughter four heavyweights in the first round (Blaydes, Velasquez, dos Santos, and Rozenstruik).
“The Predator 2.0”
There’s a lot of similarities between Ngannou’s first journey to a title shot and his second. On his first run, we saw him burn through the lower heavyweight ranks, finishing 6 fighters all in the first or second round. As mentioned, his second run saw him score four first-round KO/TKO’s to secure the rematch. Going into his first fight with Stipe, the burning question was what would happen if Ngannou was forced into the championship rounds for the first time. Well, we saw it and it was ugly. In fact, Ngannou was absolutely gassed after the first round. He has since admitted that he had some missing parts in his MMA game going into that fight and he has used it as a learning experience. So now the question is whether he added those parts to his game to avoid history repeating itself or not. The bookies sure think so as Francis has opened at a sizable favorite at -225 (although that line shrunk consistently down to -135).
If it Ain’t Broke…
On the flip side, one of the big questions leading into their first match was whether Miocic would be able to handle Ngannou’s power and aggression. In that first round, we got the answer as Miocic did end up eating some huge shots while Ngannou was still fresh. He then executed a game plan to perfection, landing half a dozen takedowns, while also grinding the African fighter against the cage, making him carry all of Stipe’s weight. He mixed in just enough striking on the feet to increase the efficiency of his single and double leg shots. Over the next few years, he’s only shared the cage with one other fighter (Daniel Cormier). It would be hard to imagine Stipe doing anything other than trying to repeat that same gameplan. It’s also worth noting that the Ohio native has been to the championship rounds several times in his career and seems to look great in them (even getting a couple of TKO finishes along the way in the late rounds). This is a feat that is even more impressive in the heavyweight division where the fighters carry more weight and power. He’s shown the ability to follow a game plan as well as make changes to the game plan on the fly when instructed.
This is certainly a two true outcome sort of fight. Either Ngannou catches Stipe with a big right hand and puts him out, or Stipe takes Ngannou into deep waters and drowns him on route to a decision again (or possibly late finish). Do we think Ngannou has grown enough as a mixed martial artist, and specifically improved his cardio and defensive wrestling? There’s a very small sample size but Ngannou has in fact stuffed every takedown attempted on him since his first loss to the champ (although he finished 3 of those fighters in under a minute). He also has the benefit of training with and being cornered by Welterweight champion (and wrestling expert), Kamaru Usman for this fight. Certainly not enough evidence to answer the question confidently by any stretch but it does tell us he’s taking measures to fix that glaring weakness. He’ll have the small cage which could prove beneficial and also won’t have an arena packed with a screaming crowd (the place was going nuts during their first fight and certainly could have expedited that adrenaline dump last time). It certainly could go either way but we are going to back Ngannou to catch Miocic with a monster punch early.
WINNER: FRANCIS NGANNOU
Side bet: A bit of a no-brainer but if betting Ngannou, then tacking on “by KO'' is pretty obvious. Very little chance he wins by decision or even club and sub.