UFC 220 Preview: Stipe vs. Ngannou - "Someone Is Taking A Nap"
The 2000 PSI punch. It will break you. Unless, of course, you're made of pure American moxie and recently cut some logs in the depths of a Russian winter while an 80's soundtrack played.
The UFC has recently opened its Performance Institute – a centralized athletic center for UFC athletes to train, recover, and hone their skills in an environment tailored to the needs of world-class MMA fighters. News coming out of the UFC Performance Institute states that Heavyweight challenger Francis Ngannou possesses the hardest punch in the world. He put that power on display when he gave Alistair Overeem the ol' Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot treatment a few months back. On Saturday night, he'll go for the UFC Heavyweight title against defending champ Stipe Miocic.
Comparisons between Ngannou and 'Rocky IV' bad guy Ivan Drago pretty much end at the somewhat cheesy “punching power” data. Ngannou is by all accounts, a really great guy. After his victory over Overeem, he used his mic time to decry slavery in the world. He is using his new found platform to elevate others. He isn't some symbol of communism fighting the evil American. And most importantly, he didn't kill Carl Weathers.
As if the highly anticipated Heavyweight bout wasn't enough, UFC 220 will also feature Daniel Cormier defending his Light Heavyweight Title against Volkan Oezdemir. As you'll recall, Cormier regained the title after Jon Jones was hit with another USADA suspension. Further down the card are a couple “filler” fights with matches featuring mostly unranked fighters. We won't be looking at those.
Stipe Miocic v Francis Ngannou
Stipe took control of the Heavyweight division at UFC 198 when he stopped an overly-aggressive Fabricio Werdum with a right hook in the first round. Since then, he has defended his belt twice, winning both bouts by first round KO. Miocic has brought some stability to a Heavyweight division that had been churning the same names at the top of it's ranks for years. He'll face his toughest test yet when he squares off against the surging Francis Ngannou.
Ngannou only started fighting professionally in 2013 and boasts an undefeated record in the UFC (11-1 overall). The man is pure power. Only one of his UFC bouts hasn't ended by knockout, a fight which saw him secure victory via submission.
Miocic has shown an uncanny ability to win despite being the smaller man in the Octagon, a disadvantage he'll certainly be facing again on Saturdaynight, as Ngannou will have an advantage in both reach and weight. In his recent victories, Miocic has proven himself a very capable counter-puncher, punishing his opponents when they miss or leave openings. It will be worth a watch to see what kind of openings are there against a fighter in Ngannou, that is barely 4 years into his career.
It's hard to get a gauge on Ngannou outside of his earth shaking power, as he hasn't had much main stream exposure and, frankly, his fights don't last very long. If he's to take the title, I'd think it's safe to say it will be by KO.
The UFC Heavyweight division has people talking again, and as I said a few months back, a strong Heavyweight division makes for a strong UFC. People love to watch the big guys go at it and knockouts are a near guarantee. Ngannou is the Vegas favorite at -175. I'm going out on a limb here and taking Stipe. I think his experience defending the belt will keep him calm and collected while Ngannou goes head hunting. Either way, someone is taking a nap.
Daniel Cormier v Volkan Oezdemir
We are all well aware of DC's talents at this point. A more than capable striker with world class wrestling and an unmatched drive. The man loves the fight game and he is great at it. He'll defend his regained Light Heavyweight belt against Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir. Oezdemir has seen his star rise over the past year, doing it the old fashioned way, by fighting his way up the Light Heavyweight Ranking rankings with victories over Ovince Saint Preux and Jimi Manuwa in 2017.
This fight, to me, has a sneaky chance to be the better of the two headliners. Oezdemir loves to stand and trade, and while DC shows ability on the feet, he's a smart fighter and will be best served using his wrestling. Oezdemir boasts a 100% take-down defense (sample size not given) and I would look for DC to add a blemish to that by the end of the night. Fans that already show disdain for DC will be quick to jeer any attempt to take the fight to the ground, but look for it to happen.
A wild card in this fight is the mindset of Cormier. Last we saw him in action, he was in tears during a hard-to-watch post fight interview after taking a Jon Jones shin to his temple. The man was a mess, having dropped his title to his arch-enemy (again) and going so far as to contemplate retirement. DC is ten years older than Oezdemir and there's a lot of wear on the treads.
Vegas has DC a big favorite at -325. Though it always tends to blow up in ones face when they question a Vegas line, I have to do so here. DC is the better fighter and he has as much experience under the bright lights of the UFC as anyone, but the intangibles I'm looking at seem to be pointing to Oezdemir. However, intangibles can't beat you by submission, DC can. I'm taking the champ.
Elsewhere around the UFC...
Conor McGregor may be getting stripped of his Lightweight belt. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, the two top Lightweight challengers, will be squaring off at UFC 223. Tony Ferguson holds the Interim belt and Dana White may look to make this a title fight in the ridiculously long absence of his title-holding superstar.
Fan favorite and legend killer Max Holloway will be in action at UFC 222 when he looks to give Frankie Edgar yet another title shot defeat. The man is the Buffalo Bills of the UFC. Further down the card, most likely on the free FS1 portion, is Sean O'Malley. This kid is fun as hell to watch. He looks to weigh about as much as a sack of potatoes and has a ridiculous brown mop of hair on his head. Watching him in the first rounds of his TUF finale appearance was beyond exciting. He petered out towards the end but held on for the win. Sounds like another fighter we know that the UFC propelled to stardom...
Until next time!