This Saturday night, Stipe Miocic will defend the UFC heavyweight title against Francis Ngannou at UFC 260.
He’ll be doing so for the second time after previously defeating ‘The Predator’ at UFC 220.
On that night, composed striking and impeccable takedowns were the key to victory for a man who never really cared all too much about the hype Ngannou was receiving. He knew what he was capable of and in front of a lively Boston crowd, he delivered.
One step beyond
Now, three years later, things have changed. Miocic has lost and reclaimed the belt in a trilogy with Daniel Cormier whereas Ngannou lost to Derrick Lewis before absolutely tearing through the division with four vicious knockouts.
Heading into this weekend it feels like there are two key elements at play – speed and power.
Both men are quick and both men pack a punch, but Stipe relies moreso on the former with Ngannou putting emphasis on the latter.
Miocic has been able to trim down an awful lot throughout the Cormier series to the point where he seems to be in the best shape of his life. His aim is to see every shot from Francis coming a mile away – just like in 2018.
On the flip side, Ngannou’s game only works when he’s building off of confidence. It’s all well and good being able to time your punches but against Jairzinho Rozenstruik last year, there was little to no strategy behind his knockout combination other than “I’m pretty sure this fella is going to sleep if I land”.
Logic dictates that Miocic should be the favourite in the rematch even if the bookies disagree, but there’s cause for optimism and hesitation on both sides of the coin.
Which style will prevail?
Stipe Miocic is 38 now and even though heavyweights tend to get better with age, father time catches up with us all. In all three fights against DC, he was either knocked out or took quite the beating. Nobody actually knows the impact that’s going to have, and Ngannou is going to test it.
For Francis, he’s assumed that bringing Kamaru Usman into his camp will help with the wrestling side of things. It’s a great idea, but let’s not forget about the statistics.
All four of Ngannou’s wins since the first Miocic fight have added up to less than three minutes of octagon time. Sure, he can go through drills and an in-depth training camp, but nothing can prepare you for the deep waters unless you’ve actually experienced it.
All it takes at this level is one shot that can change the world. In a fight like this the likely outcomes are either Miocic winning by decision or Ngannou securing an early KO – but this is MMA we’re talking about here.
Perhaps Francis lays a beating on him for five rounds and exhibits great takedown defence. Maybe Miocic does to Ngannou what he did to Werdum, Overeem and Cormier by putting his lights out.
The land of the heavyweights is about to become a lot clearer – but who will be standing tall at the end of the night in Las Vegas?
Featured image credit: Getty