The most anticipated UFC heavyweight matchup in years goes down Saturday in Boston as Stipe Miocic puts his title on the line against Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC 220.
In a contest featuring two of combat sports’ hardest hitters, the fight could serve as a defining moment for the careers of either of the participants, as the bout pits the red-hot veteran champion against the surging up-and-coming star. Miocic (17-2) has been enjoying a dominant title run since capturing the crown in June 2016. Using great counter punching and footwork skills, Miocic has relied on his talent as a boxer against some of the premier names in the heavyweight division.
The accuracy in his punching along with a credible amateur wrestling background make Miocic not only dangerous, but one of the more well-rounded fighters in the plus-170-pound divisions. His most recent bout, a rematch with Junior Dos Santos, also demonstrated the killer instinct of Miocic, as he aggressively landed a huge overhand right to finish off the former champion and the last opponent to defeat Miocic.
While Miocic has enjoyed a storybook reign as heavyweight king, Ngannou (11-1) has concurrently destroyed any opponent put in front of him in the same span of time. Packing some of the most devastating punching power ever seen in the sport, the 31-year old Cameroon native sent shockwaves through the fight game with his knockout of heavyweight mainstay Alistair Overeem at UFC 218.
One of the most impressive knockout artists seen in quite some time, Ngannou uses his size and strength to his advantage by controlling distance, and opponents who find themselves in his range tend to not remain standing for too long. This physicality matches up interestingly with the title holder’s punching timing and hand speed.
Picks: Miocic (plus-155) by 3rd-round TKO; Over 1.5 Rounds (plus-135)
Given the two fighters involved, the magnitude of the bout, and the simple fact it is a heavyweight fight, it is easy to assume this one will finish quickly as so many of both competitors’ fights have. But the technique and stylistic tendencies of Miocic should push this one a little further than many expect and allow the 35-year old champ to catch the challenger with his counter striking.
Miocic’s use of circular movement and ability to slip punches in tight windows pays dividends against the bigger, stronger Ngannou, leading to a third-round stoppage and a pump of the brakes on one of the UFC’s fastest rising stars in a fight the division desperately needs.
Brett Lawson is a VSiN producer and UFC handicapper. Follow on Twitter: @BrettLawsonLV