There is a brand new baddest man on the planet and his name is Francis Ngannou.
The Cameroon-born Parisian fighter showed just how far he has come in the last three years as he managed to keep the consensus greatest heavyweight of all-time to just 12 significant strikes en route to a second round knockout victory.
It was a sign of just how much improvement the 34 year old has made since the first meeting between the two, as he was patient and dangerous while showing improved grappling skills.
Ngannou landed some heavy shots early on and when Miocic did shoot for a takedown, ‘The Predator’ was not only able to lift him back up and sprawl down to stuff it but he floated and was able to take the former champion’s back and land some heavy ground and pound of his own.
As soon as that moment happened, Miocic looked like a deer in the headlights and just wasn’t able to get going. Ngannou was so much bigger, so much stronger, so much more powerful and just seemed more game throughout.
Miocic deserves some credit though, as he ate some of Ngannou’s biggest shots including a flush head kick and was durable early until Ngannou went for the kill. A short left hook from Ngannou was the final nail in the coffin of Miocic’s title reign, with the punch while he was unconscious was the exclamation point on what is now the era of the African champion in the UFC.
He becomes the third African champion in UFC history, alongside welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Speaking in the post-fight press conference, he gave some inspirational words about his rise from the streets of Paris and spoke positively of the defeat he suffered three years ago in his first title fight – essentially calling it the biggest lesson of his career so far.
“I’ve never been shy about it. I think it was just so tough for me, I didn’t like to think about it. At some point I felt like it was a moment I want to erase from my life but you know, moving on, I understood that this also made me who I am today.
“A lot of people also go through that, the same struggle as me, you know, didn’t have a chance. Every kid should at least have a chance to enjoy his childhood then become an adult who is in charge of his life so he can take action and be responsible for his life.
“But for those who are in the same situation, I mean I can’t do anything but if I can tell somebody something it’s you know, keep moving. Believe. It’s not fair, I know, but it’s not your fault. Sometimes you feel like it’s your fault as a kid but it’s not your fault that you can’t afford a scholarship. It’s not your duty… Just keep moving and try to do your best. That’s what you can hold yourself accountable for, for not trying. But if you try and still don’t succeed, that’s not your fault.
Elsewhere on the card, Tyron Woodley fell to a fourth consecutive defeat in the welterweight division since losing his title back in 2019 when he was submitted by Vicente Luque in the first round.
Woodley was true to his word and came out very aggressively, attempting to use his wrestling skills before landing heavy strikes with his hands to rock the Brazilian. But as he loaded up a big, looping right hand to try and finish the fight, Luque was able to return with a right hook of his own that essentially put Woodley out on his feet.
He was able to keep landing big punches before eventually locking up a d’arce choke to force the tap out win. After the fight Luque moved to call Nate Diaz for a big clash at 170lbs while UFC president Dana White hinted that it could be time for the former champion to retire. Woodley said after the fight on Instagram that “it was going well until it wasn’t,” but he doesn’t regret his approach.
“Sh*t was going really well until it wasn’t. My camp pushed me in ways I haven’t been pushed in a while. I committed, and swore to myself I would bring the tiger out that earned me gold. I saw the opportunity for the KO and got too excited. Paid a big cost.
“I don’t regret my aggression as that’s what God created me to do. [Luque] is a tough and humble fighter. Was an honor to share the cage with you tonight.”
Marc-Andre Barriault def Abu Azaitar via Knockout, Round 3 (4:56)
Fast start to the bout for Azaitar as he comes out with some powerful hooks to begin but they miss the target for the most part. Barriault throws a hook back that makes Azaitar lose his balance and the two clinch up against the cage but Barriault accidentally lands a low blow for a short pause in the action. Azaitar comes forward very aggressively once more, with flurrys that end with a nice knee to the body before another clinch. Nice elbow in the clinch from Barriault but Azaitar responds with a big knee in the clinch that lands flush. Azaitar working the body well as they clinch up once again and staying very busy as we enter the final 90 seconds of the round. More knees to the body in the clinch from Azaitar but Barriault stay in there and eating, while returning with shots of his own. Nice counter left from Barriault lands in an exchange but Azaitar should take that round. 10-9.
Barriault takes the centre at the start of this round and is landing his jab well early on as Azaitar looks considerably slower than the first round. Barriault landing the better shots but then Azaitar comes forward with a nice leg kick. Azaitar throws a big hook that lands and wobbles Barriault, but he continues to come forward and continues to push a fast pace. Azaitar looks for a takedown, which his corner isn’t happy about, but Barriault defends it well to keep the fight standing. Big one-two lands from Barriault as Azaitar takes a big deep breath and is slowing down a lot. Nice uppercut lands from Azaitar and then a front kick lands but he’s very lathargic with his strikes and Barriault is walking him down now with big right hands. Barriault slips a left hook and lands three strikes in a row that wobble Azaitar but he’s staying in there and survives the round! 19-19.
Barriault takes the centre at the start of the third round and eats a big leg kick to make up ground and start landing big right hands. Azaitar is stiffened up and is fighting purely off instinct right now. Barriault lands a big right hand that drops Azaitar but the referee doesn’t stop it. Azaitar spits out his mouth guard with Barriault on top landing ground and pound and the referee stops the fight to allow him to put it back in and then the ground and pound continues, with Barriault landing huge shots. Azaitar continuing to move but it’s pure instinct and he’s taking a battering right now. This fight could be stopped at any moment but Azaitar is trying to move away. Barriault keeps landing huge strikes on the ground but the referee is letting them go with 30 seconds to go. Barriault is battering him and somehow Azaitar is surviving but the referee ends the bout with four seconds remaining! Huge win for the Canadian.
Omar Morales def Shane Young via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Slow fight to this bout as both men engage in a feeling out process, both circling and flicking jabs but not going too hard. Young checks a leg kick from Morales and then both continue to just throw out feelers. Young pushes forward for a takedown against the cage but Morales defends well, puts in a body lock and reverses the position before picking up and dropping Young. Young gets back to his feet quickly and they clinch up against the cage to a stalemate as we enter the final minute of the round. Morales lands a nice uppercut as Young tries to enter for another takedown and they clinch up once more as the round ends. 10-9 Morales, but close.
Second round starts and Morales throws a leg kick pretty early that gets caught and Young immediately moves into top position. Morales defending off his back and as Young moves for a leg lock, Morales is able to stuff it and get back to his feet quickly. Morales doing well on the feet with a nice jab and some good leg kicks too, but Young is checking them well and closing the distance well. Young shoots in for a takedown again but Morales defends it well, then throws a knee that just misses. Morales takes the centre well and forces Young backwards then lands a nice leg kick, followed by an uppercut that Young just eats. Two jabs and then a one-two from Morales lands clean and forces Young backwards again. Morales pours on the pressure towards the end of the round with his right hand and a knee attempt as they end in a clinch. 20-18 Morales for me.
Morales looks to take the centre early in the third round and throws his jab well, but Young does well to change it around and they clinch in the centre. Morales is able to get a trip and gets into a dominant position in side control, but Young is able to scramble and chase a single leg takedown of his own to get back to his feet. They clinch against the cage again and Young shows a physical strength advantage, but Morales lands a couple of nice leg kicks as they separate and fighting well behind his jab. Nice right hand lands from Morales as we enter the final minute, but Young keeps coming forward and then ducks a high kick to look for a takedown but Morales defends well to end the fight and likely take the win. 30-27 Morales.
Michal Oleksiejczuk def Modestas Bukauskas via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Bukauskas opens the fight with a spinning heel kick that misses by a matter of inches, before Michal steps forward and lands a big left hand early. BUkauskas lands a decent right hand but Michal is walking him towards the cage well. Bukauskas shoots for a takedown but it’s well stuffed, before a clinch exchange allows Bukauskas to show his strength advantage as he powers him all the way across the octagon. Bukauskas lands a nice right hand flush and then steps forward with a nice flurry that hurts Michal! He goes for a finish but Michal defends well and recovers. Bukauskas throws a straight that Michal slips and throws a big overhand left that lands clean! Michal starts walking Bukauskas backwards again and misses with a left hand but then lands a nice right hand. Bukauskas throwing lots of kicks to try and maintain the distance but Michal continues to step forward and close it. Both men land a few more shots and Bukauskas ends the round with a head kick that is partially blocked. Really competitive round, I lean 10-9 to Bukauskas.
Second round is more of the same, as Michal comes forward and throws lots of hooks but Bukauskas continues to circle on the outside and uses his length well to keep a distance. Michal keeps marching forward and lands a nice left hand but Bukauskas eats it well. Michal throws it again and lands flush on the chin, but Bukauskas continues to move well and then throws a nice front kick to the body. Bukauskas lands two straight rights nicely then misses a wild overhand, as Michal looks to grab a leg but does nothing with is. Bukauskas lands a nice lead elbow but Michal clinches up and eats it, before Bukauskas shows the physicality advantage again and is able to reverse the position and then separate. Bukauskas lands a head kick and then ends with a round with a big flurry of hooks that land, but Michal still there and probably takes that round. 19-19 for me but it’s close.
Bukauskas and Michal in the final round following a similar pattern to the previous two, with Bukauskas circling on the outside. Both men throw a right hook but it’s Bukauskas who lands better and then he follows it up with a straight and an uppercut too. Michal goes in for a body lock looking for a takedown but Bukauskas defends it really well and uses the cage well to keep the fight standing. Michal throws a couple of knees but nothing that troubles Bukauskas who is able to separate and is starting to land some good strikes of his own. Michal continues to march forward but Bukauskas is happy to trade with him now as we enter the final 90 seconds. Big right hook lands from Michal but Bukauskas eats it and throws a right hand of his own. Michal throws a huge uppercut to the body that has really hurt Bukauskas but Michal hasn’t noticed how hurt he is and both men go out swinging as the fight goes the distance. Great fight, 29-28 Bukauskas for me.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov def Jared Gooden via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Gooden opens up the round super relaxed, carrying his hands down by his hips ready for any takedown attempts and throwing some jabs that immediately redden the eye of Nurmagomedov. Gooden has a big speed advantage and is able to get in and out quickly but Nurmagomedov not rushing for any grappling and is throwing his jab very well too. Nurmagomedov closes the distance and lands a big one-two flush on Gooden’s chin that rocks him! He closes the distance and looks to take the fight down but Gooden is able to escape quickly. Nurmagomedov throws a strong leg kick and then a big knee in the clinch too. Another jab from Nurmagomedov has Gooden backing up and he’s now started to carry his hands a bit higher in respect of Nurmagomedov’s strikes. A big left hook from Nurmagomedov lands again and he just misses with a follow up head kick, then ends the round with a nice jab. 10-9 Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov takes the centre in the second round and lands his jab well once again as Gooden starts to throw his right hand some more. Nurmagomedov steps back and slips the punches brilliantly before landing a nice right hand of his own. Nurmagomedov is piecing Gooden up on the feet right now, completely dominating the striking exchanges. Big right hand lands and then throws a huge head kick that lands and hurts Gooden! Nurmagomedov backs Gooden against the cage and looks for a clinch, throwing elbows and a nice left hand. Gooden can’t get near him right now as he eats another jab flush to the nose. Big left hand lands clean on Gooden whose chin is holding up well right now as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov using his jab once again early on, completing in control of the striking exchanges. Gooden takes the centre and loads up a nice uppercut but Nurmagomedov shoots in for a takedown and ends up with a body lock on the back. He picks him up and drops him down, but Gooden does well to get back to his feet before Nurmagomedov shoots in for a takedown once again and ends up on top. Gooden throwing great elbows from the bottom but Nurmagomedov eating them well and controlling the position before landing some ground and pound of his own. He steps over into half guard and starts setting up an arm triangle, but Gooden is aware and defending it well. Both men throwing body strikes on the ground as we enter the final minute of the round. Nurmagomedov controls the position for the remainder of the round and should take a comfortable decision win.
Menifield comes out flying with a big one two and then goes for a takedown early. Cherant looks to lock up a guillotine but Menifield is able to turn him and slam him down with a big takedown into side control. Cherant keeps hold of the neck, all the while Menifield is synching in a Von Flue choke. He gets it tight and heavy and Cherant has no choice but to tap out! What a win for Menifield!
Jamie Mullarkey def Khama Worthy via Knockout, Round 1 (0:46)
Fast start to the round for both guys as Mullarkey lands a nice left hand early before Worthy responds with a couple of jabs. Mullarkey fakes a couple of shots and then throws a big, tight left hook that catches Worthy on the chin and gets him wobbling and faceplants! Mullarkey rushes in with a few ground and pound strikes and the referee steps in the wave it off! Huge win for Mullarkey!
Miranda Maverick def Gillian Robertson via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Nice active start to the fight from both ladies, with Maverick throwing nice combinations early and staying out of range of Robertson’s attacks. Maverick holding the centre well and and landing the better strikes in the exchanges on the feet, but Robertson not backing up too much and throwing some strikes of her own. Maverick lands a nice short-right hook and lots of leading leg kicks to the body. Maverick pushes Robertson onto the ground and then jumps on top with really heavy top pressure, then lands a couple of ground and pound strikes as Robertson looks to get back up to her feet. Maverick shoots a power double leg and gets the fight down with ease as the round comes to an end to take the opening round. 10-9 Maverick.
Busy start to the second round for Maverick as she seems to be more aggressive, landing some heavy punches and coming forward with more intent. Nice superman punch lands from Maverick then Robertson changes levels and shoots in for a takedown, then secures top position. Maverick tries to escape by kicking out and swinging her hips, but Robertson adjusts perfectly and looks to take the back now. Robertson sticking to her like glue and trying to find submissions, but Maverick is doing well to keep moving and not settling for positions. Robertson keeps looking for the positions but Maverick is eventually able to get back to the feet with about 45 seconds remaining in the round. Maverick spends the rest of the round walking Robertson down and landing big shots against the cage but should still be a Robertson round. 19-19.
Maverick comes out swinging in this third round and is walking Robertson down, landing some big straight punches. Robertson shoots for takedowns but Maverick defends them twice and then is able to take Robertson’s back herself. She switches into full mount and then side control and is landing some big ground and pound strikes, but Robertson is threatening with an armbar. Maverick is able to escape the armbar and gets back on top to land more ground and pound. Robertson tries to sweep her but Maverick too strong and gets back to the feet. Maverick lands a couple of straights against the cage then shoots for a takedown of her own and sees out the round in a dominant position to take a decision.
Sean O’Malley def Thomas Almeida via Knockout, Round 3 (3:52)
Good start to the round for O’Malley as he opens with a clean one-two on Almeida’s chin. O’Malley switching stances well and landing kicks to the body and legs, with Almeida seeming quite hesitant early on. O’Malley lands another one-two and then a nice spinning back kick to the body before Almeida lands a big hook of his own. O’Malley throws a big head kick that seems to land with the knee and then a big left hand drops Almeida! O’Malley walks away but the referee doesn’t wave the fight off and he goes back in with a spin kick that misses. O’Malley looking for style points for a finish but Almeida has recovered now and O’Malley sees the round out with some more clean striking. 10-9 O’Malley for sure.
O’Malley opens up with some front kicks to the body and a calf kick, but Almeida coming forward still and lands a couple of leg kicks of his own. O’Malley landing with his left hand in a one-two quite cleanly and often, but Almeida refusing to go away. Some knee stomps from O’Malley and kicks as he continues to switch stances, showing great speed to be first in the exchanges. O’Malley goes for a flying knee towards the end of the round and misses, falling onto his back. Almeida lands a big shot on the ground but O’Malley uses his long legs to defend really well and sees out the round. 20-18 O’Malley.
O’Malley opens up the round with a huge calf kick that takes Almeida’s balance away, before a knee stomp once again makes Almeida very uncomfortable. A few more leg kicks land and then O’Malley throws a nice one-two, but Almeida continues to come forward. Exchange near the cage and Almeida lands a decent left hand, but O’Malley continues to slip the majority of the shots and landing well himself. Beautiful one-two from O’Malley lands and Almeida just can’t get near him. Huge left hand as he moves backwards catches Almeida and drops him and O’Malley tries to walk off again but the referee doesn’t stop it again! O’Malley strolls over and lands one nasty ground strike that puts his lights out and that’s that! The ‘Suga’ show is back!
Woodley comes out and immediately goes for a body lock and takedown against the cage. Luque defends it well and is able to rotate Woodley against the cage, but they fight to a stalemate and eventually separate. Woodley lands a big overhand right and then a couple of one-twos before going back to his wrestling, where Luque is able to steady him and get him back against the cage. Luque throwing punches to the body while Woodley looks for knees as they clinch up before separating. Woodley throws a huge right hand that wobbles Luque and he goes for the kill with big punches, then Luque fires back with a huge right overhand that lands on Woodley’s chin and wobbles him! Luque comes forward and throws bombs and Woodley is in trouble! He throws a hook that lands on Luque and wobbles him back then goes for a takedown but his legs give out on him. Luque drops down and locks in a d’arce choke and despite fighting it against the cage, Woodley is forced to tap! Huge win for Luque!
Francis Ngannou def Stipe Miocic via Knockout, Round 2 (0:52)
Ngannou opens the round with a heavy low kick that Miocic eats and continues to circle on the outside. Miocic lands a couple of leg kicks of his own before Ngannou explodes with a big right hand that lands clean and Miocic just eats. Ngannou explodes again and Miocic shoots in for a double leg takedown but Ngannou defends it brilliantly, sprawls and is able to take Miocic down himself! He takes the back of Miocic and starts throwing some heavy shots but the champion eats them and separates. Ngannou then throws a head kick that lands clean but once again Miocic eats it. A couple more leg kicks from Miocic in the remainder of the round, but it’s a Ngannou round. 10-9.
Miocic comes out and knows he needs to be a bit more aggressive. Ngannou being patient in the middle once more and lands a nice leg kick. Ngannou throws a big left hand that rocks Miocic and drops him! He goes for the finish and lands some big shots but Miocic gets back up and eats an uppercut. Miocic lands a massive left hand of his own but Ngannou eats it and then lands a short left hook that puts Miocic’s lights out! He lands one more huge shot before the referee gets there but this is all over! NEW CHAMPION!
It’s the big one, as the baddest man on the planet is decided in the main event of UFC 260 when Stipe Miocic defends his heavyweight championship against Francis Ngannou.
The two met previously during Miocic’s first reign as champion, and he dominated to a victory but yet he is still the underdog coming into this fight. Overlooking Miocic seems crazy, but it’s happening again and not least because of the sheer power of his opponent.
Last week at UFC Vegas 22, we went 6/10 with three perfect picks to move to 262/416 (62.98%) with 118 perfect picks (45.04%).
There are scheduled to be ten bouts on this card and having already predicted the prelims here, lets look to improve it with the main card also.
Jamie Mullarkey (12-4) vs Khama Worthy (16-7) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A really fun lightweight fight between two guys looking to get back in the win column to open up this main card. Mullarkey has lost his last two bouts, dropping decisions to Brad Riddell and Faras Ziam most recently at UFC Fight Island 6. Worthy had a seven fight win streak snapped in a little over 90 seconds when he was put away but Ottman Azaitar at UFC Vegas 10 back in September.
Mullarkey is a wrestler who is capable of standing and striking, but he’s often a sitting target when it comes to the stand-up game. Worthy is a powerful striker with nine knockout wins in his career. If Mullarkey can’t get the fight to the ground, he is in big trouble. He’s got a granite chin but with the power that Worthy hits at, plus the fact that Worthy isn’t a sloppy wrestler himself, ‘The Death Star’ should be able to get himself a hard-fought victory. PICK – Khama Worthy via Knockout, Round 3
Gillian Robertson (9-5) vs Miranda Maverick (10-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Two very highly rated women’s flyweight prospects go head-to-head in this one.
Robertson is a strong wrestler who’s main aim is always to get the fight to the ground, with her six submission wins standing out on her record. Maverick is a great, technical striker with good wrestling of her own. Robertson’s striking is iffy at best, while Maverick often leaves herself open for takedowns by coming forward. Both can attack the weaknesses of their opponent but Maverick is the better all round fighter and I think she can come away with a wide decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Sean O’Malley (12-1) vs Thomas Almeida (22-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
O’Malley is a super-technical striker who can work off either stance and has legitimate one-punch knockout power. Almeida is a great technical striker himself, but his biggest issue is his durability. Almeida has been knocked out whenever he’s been hit clean and O’Malley is one of the most accurate strikers in the 135lbs division. This is certainly a favourable match up for O’Malley to get back on track towards a title shot with a height, reach, technique and power advantages and he should get an impressive win. PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 1
Tyron Woodley (19-6-1) vs Vicente Luque (19-7-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Woodley is known for his fantastic wrestling defence and impressive knockout power, but in his last three fights he’s been gun shy when it comes to striking and has been taken down with ease. Luque is a boxer who pressures his opponents and walks them down, happy to take a shot to give one in the belief he will knock them out. Luque hits harder than any of Woodley’s last three opponents and is a long-time training partner of both Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. If Woodley comes back in this fight and shows his old self where he throws heavy punches and threatens with his wrestling, he could very well get the win. But it’s hard to expect that from a guy who’s lost his last 14 rounds in a row and was finished in the 15th. Luque has youth on his side, is confident and has great pressure, work-rate and power, so I think he is able to get a win in this fight. PICK – Vicente Luque via Decision
Stipe Miocic (20-3) vs Francis Ngannou (15-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The baddest man on the planet will be decided as the greatest heavyweight of all-time makes the second defence of his second reign as champion against ‘The Predator’ Francis Ngannou. Miocic beat Ngannou back in 2018, before going 2-1 in a trilogy with Daniel Cormier which came to an end at UFC 252. Ngannou lost his next fight after that loss to Derrick Lewis, but has since won four-in-a-row against Curtis Blaydes, Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez and Jairzinho Rozenstruik all via first round knockout.
Miocic is one of the most well-rounded heavyweights ever, with fantastic wrestling skills but also legitimate knockout power himself. Ngannou is a banger, who comes in with explosive power and one-punch knockouts. The first fight was incredibly one-sided, with Miocic wrestling his way to a dominant win. Since then, Ngannou has become “obsessed” with grappling but it’s not something we’ve been able to see in the cage yet. Miocic is quicker, the better wrestler and in the first fight he was able to eat Ngannou’s punches that landed. He’s taken a lot of damage since then, being KO’d by Cormier so whether he can take the punches this time is questionable but he is so much better than that first fight too.
Ngannou’s skillset is limited despite his success, but his power is absolutely unreal. The issue is that he’s so big his cardio just can’t go for 25 minutes. Miocic can and has several times. It only takes one punch from Ngannou, but it’s hard to see this fight going much differently to the first one – except this time I think Miocic gets the stoppage on an exhausted, grounded Ngannou. PICK – Stipe Miocic via Knockout, Round 4
Imagine being the consensus greatest heavyweight fighter of all time in the UFC and the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, and still being overlooked when it comes to defending your crown.
That’s the situation that Stipe Miocic finds himself in as he heads into UFC 260 to take on Francis Ngannou in a rematch from over three years ago. He will be making the second defence of his current title reign, and the sixth in his career – more than any other heavyweight champion has ever managed.
So how on planet Earth is he the betting underdog going into this fight?
Now, credit where it’s due, Ngannou is an absolute animal. He has 12 UFC fights under his belt, with ten wins – all by stoppage, including nine knockouts and a kimura finish. He is now into his sixth year with the company and Miocic remains the only man to outclass him in the octagon. His only other defeat came immediately after that title fight, to Derrick Lewis, in a bout where both men just basically refused to throw any strikes.
Since that Lewis defeat, Ngannou has won four fights in a row by knockout in a combined time of 2:42 – just over half a round to beat four different ranked opponents. But this is remarkably similar to the run he went on before he fought Miocic the first time.
When that fight happened, Miocic took Ngannou’s shot right on the chin and then wrestled him to the ground and completely beat him up for 25 minutes. As every minute passed by in that fight, it became more and more clear that there were several levels between the two fighters and since Miocic could take the punch that nobody else could he’d win the fight.
Now they meet again and Miocic is in a similar position to what he was in back then. After a brilliant trilogy with Daniel Cormier, where he not only recovered his defeat but got his knockout back and then won the final bout handily, Stipe is moving on.
He’s beaten the greats of the division, knocking out Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum. In fact the only person that’s ever beaten him that he hasn’t beaten is the ‘Skyscraper’ Stefan Struve way back in 2012 – but I think it’s safe to say he’s come a long way since then.
So when you look at the career of Miocic, his fighting style, the way he’s developed over the last few years in terms of his fight IQ as well as physically it’s crazy to think that people still go against him when it comes to betting or predicting.
Ngannou has reach, height, size and power on Stipe, and yet he had all those things the first time they fought too. We’ve not seen anything from Ngannou since that fight that suggests he will have improved on the ground – although rumours from his camp suggest he is now “obsessed” with grappling in training.
That’s all well and good, but it takes more than three years to beat a lifelong wrestler the calibre of Miocic. Ngannou without a doubt has a chance in this fight, simply because he hits so God damn hard, but that’s all it is. He’s not going to outwork Miocic, he’s not going to out-grapple Miocic, he won’t beat the volume of Miocic and he won’t outlast Miocic.
He’s got a puncher’s chance, and it’s one hell of a punch, but it’s absolutely time to put some respect on the name of the Cleveland fire fighter’s name.
Take two for this huge heavyweight clash as Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis finally meet in the main event at UFC Vegas 19 this weekend.
The fight was originally scheduled for back in November, but was cancelled just hours before the weigh-ins after ‘Razor’ tested positive for COVID-19. The fight was scrapped, with Anthony Smith and Devin Clark stepping into the main event slot on short notice in a five round fight that was won by ‘Lionheart’.
After being planned for January, Conor McGregor’s return to the fight game meant that their prospective date was turned into a pay-per-view card and they were moved back even further once again but it has seemingly worked in their favour.
With Volkov’s win, he moved into the conversation about title contention once again but both of these men have already beaten Volkov in the past. So a fight for him against one of them is unlikely, and he will likely fight the winner of Gane’s fight against Jairzinho Rozenstruik which takes place at UFC Vegas 20.
Jon Jones has already been guaranteed the next shot at heavyweight against the winner of that title fight, and with Volkov likely to get paired up with Gane or Rozenstruik that would leave the winner of this fight to take on the loser of the title fight to earn themselves a shot at the strap.
Lewis has fought for the title before, being dominated by Daniel Cormier in a second-round submission defeat back in 2018. He lost his next fight too, being knocked out by Junior Dos Santos but has since won three in a row. A win over Blaydes followed by a win over Ngannou or Miocic would almost guarantee him a shot at the crown next.
For Blaydes, the story is different though. He has lost only twice in his career, both times to Ngannou, with the first due to a doctor’s stoppage for a cut and the second via knockout in under a minute. Since then he has won four in a row and had it not been for Jones’ move up to heavyweight, he’d probably be next in line for a title shot.
Winning alone simply isn’t enough for Blaydes, after coming under fire for his style by Dana White after he beat Volkov back in June. He needs to win emphatically and make a statement in the process. With Jones’ title fight pencilled in for the summer, a win here for Blaydes could see him either wait out until the end of the year for a shot at the belt that he definitely would have earned – or take out the loser.
Whatever happens, the heavyweight title path is very clear for all involved right now. It’s a waiting game mostly unless your name is Miocic, Ngannou or Jones – or you can make a statement to try and jump the queue.
The first UFC event at the APEX in 2021 lived up to the hype as both co-main events delivered with spectacular knockout finishes.
Cory Sandhagen fought Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division while Alexander Volkov took on veteran Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC Vegas 18, with both of the elder statesmen on what is likely to be their final run at UFC gold.
The 135lbs clash was widely accepted to essentially be a number one contender bout, with champion Petr Yan set to defend his belt against Aljamain Sterling next month at UFC 259. While many were expecting a close fight between the rising star Sandhagen and legendary figure that is Edgar, that is far from what we got.
It took just 28 seconds for ‘Sandman’ to finish the fight, landing a flying knee flush on Edgar’s chin and leaving him lying unconscious with a walk-off KO.
While some, including the champion Yan himself, have suggested that former champion TJ Dillashaw should get an immediate rematch following the end of his suspension, Sandhagen disagrees. In his post-fight interview he made it very clear what his plans are, calling out the winner of the upcoming title fight.
“I heard Yan doing an interview, saying he wants to fight TJ [Dillashaw] after. TJ’s coming off some of the most dangerous PED’s you can do in the sport. That seems disrespectful to the sport, and I’ve been working. I’ve been working for the belt and I think I’m better than Yan, so if he wins I want Yan, same as Sterling too.“
Sandhagen’s last defeat came at UFC 250, when Sterling submitted him in just 88 seconds to earn himself a title shot against the winner of the fight between Yan and Jose Aldo at UFC 251 the following month. ‘Sandman’ is confident that if they fought again for the belt, that it would be a different outcome.
“You guys have seen I’m a different animal since that fight with Sterling. I’m grateful he taught me a lesson but the next time we fight I’m gonna hurt Aljamain. I want to fight the winner of that fight in July, or whenever they want really, but I’ve got to be next for the title. There’s no-one else even in the conversation, especially after a performance like that.”
In the main event, Overeem was blasted by ‘Drago’ and knocked out in the second round after a super display of power striking from the Russian.
An early jab rocked Overeem and his strikes throughout the first round ended up breaking the nose of Overeem and causing a lot of blood and problems for the Dutch fighter. He came out for the second round but Volkov was too strong physically and too accurate with his punches and put him down several times before the referee waved it off.
While it marked the end of Overeem’s final run towards UFC gold, it marked the beginning of serious conversations around Volkov’s road to the belt.
Dana White won’t want him to be inactive in the hope he can get a title shot, especially while the likes of Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and co are all fighting still.
While Lewis and Blaydes will meet later this month at UFC Vegas 19 in a rescheduled bout from last year but the fight that Volkov should be keeping an eye on is March’s bout between Rozenstruik and Cyril Gane.
The two are looking to build up some momentum to join in the title picture themselves and with Lewis and Blaydes already having wins over Volkov, his best bet is a fresh opponent. If Volkov can get a quick turnaround to fight the winner of Rozenstruik and Gane before the halfway point of the year, a win could see him position himself to take on the winner of Miocic/Ngannou vs Jones at the end of the year.
The title pictures of two more UFC divisions are starting to become a little clearer, which can only lead to positive match making.
He will take on Ngannou, who he defeated in January 2018 with a comfortable decision, in a rematch for the title. Ngannou has won his last four fights in a row, all via first-round knockout in a combined time of just 2:42. He smashed through Curtis Blaydes before knocking out former champions Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, before his last win against Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just 20 seconds at UFC 249.
There had been worries from Ngannou’s camp that the UFC would overlook him in favour of giving Jon Jones an immediate title fight upon his move to heavyweight, especially considering the way the first fight went against Miocic, but it’s now a done deal according to Dana White.
Also on the same card, Volkanovski will defend his title for the second time when he takes on ‘T-City’ Brian Ortega in the co-main event.
He was previously known for his incredible submission game on the ground, but he stood toe-to-toe with one of the most powerful strikers in the featherweight division and picked him apart on the feet to show a new side to his game.
As 2020 comes to an end, the UFC hasn’t seen much change at the top of each of its weight divisions this year.
Stipe Miocic retained his heavyweight title by defeating Daniel Cormier in their trilogy fight in August, while Israel Adesanya successfully defended his middleweight crown twice against Yoel Romero (UFC 248) and Paulo Costa (UFC 253).
At flyweight, if Figueiredo can navigate the rematch against Moreno then it’s hard to see anyone beating him. Garbrandt would likely be next in line, moving down from 135lbs, but with a 10lbs cut and with how easily he gets hit it’s hard to look past Figueiredo knocking him out and reigning supreme for years to come. FLYWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO
At bantamweight, Aljamain Sterling has a great chance of taking the belt in 2021. He is scheduled to take on Petr Yan at some point and stylistically has a great chance of taking Yan to the ground and securing a submission. On the feet he can hang too with his range management and it should be a great fight.
The returning TJ Dillashaw will also have a say in where the belt goes in the new year. The former champion has been suspended for two years for a failed drug test, but is available again from January to return. He has been linked with a fight against Jose Aldo in his comeback and a win in that fight could put him right back into title contention.
Cory Sandhagen, Frankie Edgar and Rob Font could all also potentially be just one win away from a title fight too in what should be a stunning year for the 135lbs division. BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ALJAMAIN STERLING
At featherweight, Alexander Volkanovski has moved on from Max Holloway for now and is expected to make his next title defence against Brian Ortega. T-City showed a new and improved striking game when he dismantled ‘Korean Zombie’ and is a genuine threat to Volkanovski’s reign. Zabit Magomedsharipov is also waiting in the wings and another win in 2021 will likely see him enter title contention, while the chances of Max Holloway re-entering the frame are possible too.
Overall, I think that Volkanovski has all the tools to hold on to his strap for as long as he wants to. He has striking and wrestling and a durability that makes it hard to stop him. Unless he gets back in there with Holloway for a third time, expect Volkanovski to retain throughout the year. FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI
My money is on a return to the top for McGregor. The fight against Poirier is huge, but the fact he has beaten him before is a big advantage for him. A win guarantees him the next title shot, whether it’s against Khabib or not. If it is, he’ll lose again. But if it isn’t, he has a skillset that can cope with almost anyone else except possibly Charles Oliveira. LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: CONOR MCGREGOR
At welterweight, the division is stacked but it’s firmly in Kamaru Usman’s hands. The Nigerian Nightmare has defended his belt successfully twice since dethroning Tyron Woodley and is set to defend against Gilbert Burns next. His skillset is so dominant though, and he is so strong and powerful that I don’t see a 170lber in the world, never mind the UFC, that beats Usman any time soon. WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: KAMARU USMAN
Should he end up vacating the 185lbs title, Robert Whittaker will step into any title fight as the favourite. Paulo Costa, Darren Till, Marvin Vettori and Kevin Holland could all end up in the title picture with him with one more win in the new year although I would expect ‘The Reaper’ to come out on top against them all. MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ROBERT WHITTAKER LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ISRAEL ADESANYA
At heavyweight, Stipe Miocic has reigned supreme now for four of the last five years and has lost just once since 2014. He will fight Francis Ngannou for a second time in the first quarter of 2021 and should he get through that bout, which isn’t a given by any stretch, a fight against Jon Jones awaits.
As good as Miocic is, Jon Jones is undefeated but for a dodgy disqualification and has done nothing but fight for titles since 2010. A move up to heavyweight could cement him in the conversation as the greatest of all time if he is successful and he certainly has the skillset to defeat anyone in the world.
Jones’ wrestling, striking, range management, durability and experience could see him reign supreme among the big men for a long time and I think that starts in 2021. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: JON JONES
Reports emerged a few days ago that Chimaev had been forced to withdraw from his hotly anticipated fight with Edwards due to failing to recover properly from COVID-19.
Edwards had publicly called for someone to step in on short-notice to fight him, having gone without a bout since July 2019 due to several fights falling out. Dana White however confirmed that Edwards would not be on the card anymore, instead with the fight against Chimaev being pushed back.
Adesanya has already beaten Robert Whittaker, who is considered the number one contender, and has instead opted for a super-fight to become a double champion just over three years after making his debut with the company.
Blaydes is currently on a four-fight win streak with wins over Alexander Volkov, Junior Dos Santos, Shamil Abdurakhimov and Justin Willis since he was knocked out in the first round by Ngannou back in November 2018.
Lewis himself is on a three-fight win streak having beaten Aleksei Oleinik, Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi since back-to-back defeats to Junior Dos Santos and Daniel Cormier in his heavyweight title shot in November 2018 also.
It’s a true match up of opposing styles too. Blaydes is a wrestle-heavy fighter who holds the record for the most takedowns in heavyweight history. Once opponents hit the ground with Blaydes on top of them, they rarely get back and often get blasted with some of the most violent ground and pound in the sport.
On the feet though, Lewis is one of the most powerful punchers the heavyweight division has seen. He carries that power throughout an entire fight, as his knockout win over Volkov with 11 seconds left of the final round proves.
While Blaydes has never been afforded the chance to fight for the title, Lewis knows what that feels like. He also knows, that against a wrestler as dominant as Blaydes he will have his work cut out.
We’ve seen on several occasions that Lewis can’t fight off his back and often looks to explode to his feet using raw power rather than technique. Against the best wrestlers, that’s unlikely to be effective though. Daniel Cormier was able to dominate Lewis for a a round-and-a-half before submitting him and Blaydes is as good as wrestler and arguably more aggressive with his style.
Lewis will take encouragement from the fact that Blaydes’ two defeats in the UFC were to power puncher Ngannou, who Lewis defeated in one of the worst fights ever. But it was the big power of Ngannou that sopped Blaydes in just 45 seconds of their second bout, while a cut opened up by his striking is what stopped their first fight.
Both fighters know that while the fight is on the feet, it’s Lewis’ to lose but should Blaydes get the fight down it’s as good as over for the ‘Black Beast’.
Regardless of how the fight goes, a win for either fighter throws them up to the head of the queue to fight either the winner of the Miocic/Ngannou bout or be the fighter to welcome Jon Jones to the division.
That’s not only where the money is but it’s also where the challenge and the legacy lies too.