When Francis Ngannou landed a flush Shoryuken on the jaw of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem (watch it), the mixed martial arts (MMA) community sent a collective prayer to reigning division champion Stipe Miocic.
Return to sender.
Miocic acknowledges “The Predator” hits hard, but isn’t going to fawn over the Cameroonian’s skills as a fighter, simply because most sluggers in the heavyweight division know how to land a knockout punch.
“I’m excited, man. Listen, he’s a good, tough dude. I mean, he can bring the pain. So will I. But unfortunately I’m not walking out without that belt. I’m still the champ. It’ll be ‘and still.’ Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, his punching power.’ Listen, there’s a lot of guys who hit hard. There’s no question, he does hit hard, but I’m not going to be stupid and put myself in a position where I’m going to get hit. I’m going to do things that make him feel uncomfortable, and I’m going to do what I’m going to do. I’m not going to sit there and let him do what he wants. I’m going to dictate what I want. I think Overeem really was just kinda being a little sloppy (against Ngannou) and then put his face right in the lane.”
Miocic is no stranger to heavy hitters.
En route to his title shot against Fabricio Werdum — which he won by first-round knockout — Miocic (17-2) stopped Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski, then creamed Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos in consecutive title defenses.
While those stats are impressive, all of those fighters are widely considered to be past their prime, whereas Ngannou is just hitting his stride and seems to get better in every successive fight.
We’ll find out who rules the 265-pound roost at UFC 220 next month in Boston.