We made it.
I know, I shouldn’t jinx it, but most heavyweights don’t have to cut weight so we’re not in danger of a scale fail, and I find it hard to envision either headliner doing anything stupid enough to get injured this close to fight night.
So let’s celebrate.
To kick off the UFC 220 party, we’ll do some main card predictions for the pay-per-view (PPV) action this Sat. night (Jan. 20, 2018) in Boston, Mass., where Stipe Miocic will defend his 265-pound strap against streaking menace Francis Ngannou.
Also of note, UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier has once again bounced back from a loss to Jon Jones and, once again, will have to prove he deserved it opposite a top contender, this time against the heavy-handed Volkan Oezdemir.
Before we deconstruct the fights you’ll have to
illegally stream pay for, take a look at what our “Prelims” guru Patrick Stumberg had to say about some of the action on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass by clicking here and here.
UFC 220 odds and betting lines can be crunched here.
Shall we? We shall!
265 lbs.: UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic (17-2) vs. Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (11-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is miffed at MMA fans for not giving him the respect he deserves as king of the 265-pound mountain, because they instead chew on the burgeoning hype of Francis Ngannou, spoonfed from the marketing muscle at UFC.
He may have it wrong.
I don’t think many (if any) fans are discounting Miocic’s abilities or accomplishments as champ. He’s won his last five fights by knockout and fought whoever the promotion put in front of him. Working against him is the fact that he hasn’t been seen since May 2017, where he swept up the mummified remains of Junior dos Santos.
“Cigano” has not been a factor since Cain Velasquez ate his soul in late 2013.
While Miocic was on the bench working through his contract issues, Francis Ngannou slowly but surely started to make headlines, built on his murder-death-kill of Andrei Arlovski at UFC on FOX 23.
UFC was right to back the Cameroonian, who has a great look and can speak intelligently, though to be fair, it didn’t have much choice. What else could the promotion do, put all its considerable clout behind ... Marcin Tybura?
The heavyweight division is so thin you can floss with it.
Then came Ngannou’s Shoryuken against Alistair Overeem and not surprisingly, he’s the toast of the heavyweight town. But is he as good as advertised? Miocic’s argument against “The Predator” is that he already knocked out Overeem and Arlovski in equally devastating fashion.
While that’s true, Miocic was also in all sorts of peril against “Demolition Man” when they went to war in Cleveland. He was also put away by Stefan Struve in the prime of his career, whereas I’ve never seen Ngannou tested or in any kind of trouble.
At age 35, I believe we’ve already seen the best version of Miocic and he remains a tough, durable striker who is both athletic and agile. Ngannou, 31, is all of these things as well, except he’s much, much faster.
And hits much, much harder.
Add to that a three-inch reach advantage and I just don’t see where Miocic comes out on top without turning this into WrestleMania. Championship experience? Maybe. But thinking about his past victories ... Fabricio Werdum was sprinting at him with his chin up and hands down while the portly Mark Hunt was basically anchored to the ground like one of those playground spring rockers.
Miocic is a good fighter, just not good enough (or fast enough) to beat Ngannou.
Final prediction: Ngannou def. Miocic by technical knockout
205 lbs.: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel “DC” Cormier (19-1, 1 NC) vs. Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir (15-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: It might be time to start worrying about Daniel Cormier. You can scrub UFC 214 from the record books, based on the Jon Jones-USADA drama, but you can’t erase the fact that “DC” got knocked out by a head kick from a fighter who earned his nickname by having chicken legs.
How does Cormier eat flush punches from Anthony Johnson, then get put away by a flying femur? At age 38, there is a solid chance that Cormier has flipped; meaning, that point in a fighter’s career where they transition — hastily -- from wrecking ball to cracked wall.
It’s usually caused by a knockout late in the game.
The answer may depend on what gameplan Cormier employs against Volkan Oezdemir, a powerful puncher with surprising speed and agility. What made “DC” successful as a tiny heavyweight — gorilla strength notwithstanding — was his ability to transition from grappling to striking.
He shoots when you think he will strike and strikes when you think he will shoot.
Oezdemir doesn’t have much to show us outside of his devastating knockouts and usually that’s enough, like in the case of the UFC 220 main event. “No Time” crushed No. 4-ranked Jimi Manuwa after taking out former top prospect Misha Cirkunov.
He’s also in the prime of his career at age 28.
But I don’t want to go crazy over his 15-1 record when it’s bolstered by international can crushing. Sorry, I’m not breaking out the party hats for knockout wins over the 0-4 Ronilson Santos or the 2-6 Mamadou Cisse.
I need to see more, especially after his performance against Ovince Saint Preux.
While this light heavyweight title fight has upset written all over it, we really have very little to go on aside from a knockout loss to Jones. Outside of that, we reveal the hard data: Cormier has exceptional fight I.Q. and finds a way to beat everyone outside of “Bones,” while Oezdemir is an unproven commodity with heavy hands.
Final prediction: Cormier def. Oezdemir by unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Shane “Hurricane” Burgos (10-0) vs. Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar (17-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: Shane Burgos made his Octagon debut roughly three years back and quietly put together three straight wins in the promotion’s crowded featherweight division, including last April’s technical knockout win over Charles Rosa.
At 26 and 3-0 for UFC, it felt like the right time for “Hurricane” to rain on the top 10 of the division. Instead, he gets another budding 145-pound prospect in Calvin Kattar, likely attached to the PPV portion of this card because he hails from the “Beantown” area.
Burgos is from New York, so there’s your rivalry.
Kattar has captured nine straight but is just 1-0 under the UFC umbrella. The fact that he’s gone to the judges’ scorecards in seven straight fights is concerning, particularly when you consider that Burgos has finished eight of 10.
Burgos also holds a three-inch reach advantage and counters effectively, so I expect him to control the stand-up for the majority of the fight. Unless Kattar lives up to his nickname of “The Boston Finisher,” he’s going to be the one finished on fight night.
Final prediction: Burgos def. Kattar by technical knockout
205 lbs.: Francimar “Bodao” Barroso (19-6, 1 NC) vs. Gian Villante (15-9)
Nostradumbass predicts: Countrified comedian Jeff Foxworthy once said if you cross raw sewage with pond scum, you ain’t getting Evian. I’m not sure who decided this fight warranted a spot on the PPV portion of the fight card, because Francimar Barroso and Gian Villante are A) unranked at 205 pounds and B) awful at just about everything.
I know that sounds like harsh criticism, but Villante is a barroom brawler whose idea of defense is blocking punches with his face. He’s 5-6 since crossing over from the Strikeforce ranks in 2013 and is unexceptional in every possible way.
Villante is a tough, athletic bruiser who’s best friends with former UFC middleweight champion and that folks, are the best things you can say about him.
Not that I have a ton of accolades for Barroso. The Brazilian turns 38 next month and hasn’t made much of his time inside the Octagon. 17 of his 18 fights ended with stoppages on the local circuit, then he joined UFC and couldn’t finish any of his four wins. In addition, his gas tank is comparable to that Briggs & Stratton push mower I owned back in 1989.
I do not have high hopes for this fight.
What I can say for certain is that Villante will come out throwing bombs and that will force Barroso to either fire back or shoot for the takedown. I’m hoping for the former, so we can get this over with post-haste and move one fight closer to the main event.
Yes, I’m salty.
Final prediction: Villante def. Barroso by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Thomas “Thominhas” Almeida (21-2) vs. Rob Font (14-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: There was a time in the not-too-distant past when Thomas Almeida was pegged as the future of the bantamweight division, thanks to a remarkable 20-0 record with 19 finishes.
Then Cody Garbrandt smashed him at UFC Fight Night 88 and fans jumped ship like he was a Brazilian Titanic.
Attempts to win them back were thwarted by another loss, this one to top contender Jimmie Rivera, proving that much to learn “Thominhas” still has. That doesn’t make him any less dangerous and you don’t rack up 17 knockouts by getting lucky. Three or four, maybe ... but 17?
You don't often see that kind of power at 135 pounds and that makes this a tough fight for Rob Font, who also saw an impeccable record soiled by a pair of losses. After John Lineker snapped an 11-fight winning streak, Pedro Munoz tapped him out at UFC Fight Night 117.
While this has the potential to be “Fight of the Night,” both Almeida and Font are slow starters, so there may be a lull in the opening minutes. But once someone lands and lands hard, this thing is going to fly off the rails, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Final prediction: Almeida def. Font by knockout
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 220 fight card on fight night (CLICK HERE), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
To see the rest of the UFC 220 fight card and line up click here.