Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight power punchers Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou clashed last night (Jan. 20, 2018) at UFC 220 inside TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
It’s always a bit odd when the champion seeks to defend his title yet is listed as an underdog. The situation is particularly weird when you consider just how dominant Miocic has been, ending each of his three title fights inside the first round via brutal face-punching. It all becomes a bit more clear after just watching Ngannou shadowbox, let alone when he actually decapitates people inside the Octagon. “The Predator” came into his first title match with an immense amount of momentum behind it, and the Cameroonian athlete only needed to score one more victory to become a star.
Miocic opened up with an early single-leg takedown that briefly brought his foe to the mat. Ngannou broke away and smacked Miocic with a couple hard shots, forcing some poor shots out of the champion. Miocic looked uncomfortable for a minute, but he was able to get the fight back in the clinch and slow things down.
For some reason, Miocic looked a bit off-balance, but he was still able to land a pair of heavy crosses. Moments later, he ducked into a double leg and firmly placed his opponent on the mat. Miocic landed some hard shots with his top position, but Ngannou returned to his feet with some time remaining.
The round ended with a massive exchange that saw both men get their chin checked.
Both men were fatigued to start the second, with Miocic throwing quick low kicks while Ngannou tried to crack him with single shots. Miocic landed more, but a couple of Ngannou’s shots landed clean and a few more were dangerously close. Miocic landed a big takedown with about two minutes remaining in the round, but he was too tired to really open up with his punches. Instead, he hung on Ngannou and tried to wear him out further, controlling Ngannou along the fence until the end of the round.
Miocic was likely up two rounds, but nothing was over just yet.
Miocic began the third with another takedown attempt, but this time Ngannou was able to stop the shot. He briefly ended up planted on the mat anyway, but the two were back in the center of the Octagon with half the round remaining. Ngannou gathered some energy and cracked Miocic with a big right, but his follow up left missed and allowed Miocic to land another takedown. From half guard, Miocic postured up and landed some decent shots until the bell.
Heading into the championship rounds, Ngannou was incredibly fatigued and in need of a knockout win.
Miocic opened with another takedown, one which Ngannou barely tried to defend. The Frenchman was truly exhausted, as he had a couple opportunities to stand but was unable to gather the energy. Miocic wasn’t all that offensive, but he eventually advanced into a turtle and dropped some heavy shots. However, Miocic never gathered quite enough energy to really push for a finish.
Frankly, Ngannou looked like he wanted to die between rounds.
For the final time, Miocic opened the round with a takedown attempt. However, Ngannou was able to muster the energy to defend, which saw the fight move into the clinch. Ngannou actually attempted a guillotine at one point, but Miocic was able to avoid the choke.
Ngannou was able to take the center of the cage with two minutes remaining. Unfortunately for fans of “Predator,” Ngannou was too tired to do much offensively, and Miocic had no real interest in trading with him while so far ahead on the scorecards.
It wasn’t the prettiest fight in Miocic’s career, but he stuck to the game plan. Miocic did a great job of avoiding the uppercut counters of Ngannou and drew him into a wrestling match, where Ngannou’s inexperience really ended up costing him. In the first half of the fight, Miocic also did an excellent job of feinting the jab in order to land his right hand.
To be honest, Miocic really should have finished his foe. If at any point, Miocic had truly taken the back and tried to flatten him out, Ngannou did not at all have the energy to defend himself. At the same time, Miocic was seriously tired, so it’s not all that surprising he didn’t take many risks on the mat.
Congratulations to the champion, who set a record by defending his title for a third time.
As for Ngannou, he made a pair of critical mistakes. Most importantly, Ngannou did not manage his energy well early on. He clearly expected the knockout in the first, chasing Miocic around the ring recklessly. Like Volkan Oezdemir before him, when the knockout didn’t emerge, he set himself up for failure.
Aside from that — which should be an easy fix for the usually patient athlete — Ngannou showed his wrestling inexperience. In prolonged wrestling exchanges, Ngannou made basic mistakes like turning away or failing to fight for underhooks. If he can develop that area, it will go a long way in earning him a title.
Last night, Stipe Miocic used his wrestling to dominate another contender. Who should Miocic face next?
For complete UFC 220: “Miocic vs. Ngannou” results and play-by-play, click HERE!