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UFC 220 card: Stipe Miocic vs Francis Ngannou full fight preview

MMA: UFC 211- Miocic vs Dos Santos Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight knockout artists Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Jan. 20, 2018) at UFC 220 inside TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

It’s been little more than 1.5 years since Miocic first captured the Heavyweight crown, yet he’s already set to break a UFC record for Heavyweight title defenses at three. That’s a massive accomplishment on its own, made more impressive by the fact that Miocic scored a first-round knockout in each of those title fights. Meanwhile, Ngannou has been both active and violent, quickly rising through the Heavyweight ranks in the last two years. He enters this title bout with more momentum than any challenger since Conor McGregor, and it’s hard to deny that the Cameroonian fighter is a special athlete.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:

Stipe Miocic
Record: 17-2
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 198), Alistair Overeem (UFC 203), Junior dos Santos (UFC 211), Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 65), Andrei Arlovski (UFC 195)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC on FOX 13), Stefan Struve (UFC on Fuel TV 5)
Keys to Victory: Miocic is a man who thrives on the fundamentals. A strong wrestler with a sharp jab-cross and the smarts to make the most of his skills, Miocic has quickly placed himself among the Heavyweight greats.

In this bout, Miocic faces an opponent with many mysteries to his game, which does make strategizing a bit more difficult compared to a challenger like Overeem, who has dozens of fights to watch. However, Miocic definitely knows at least one thing not to do, which is hang back and leap forward into an uppercut.

Luckily, lunging with punches has never really been Miocic’s game. Instead, Miocic should look to work from the edge of his own range, which is quite similar to Ngannou’s distance. Unlike “The Predator,” however, Miocic is cleaner with his jab and should be able to control exchanges behind it. In addition, I’d love to see Miocic return to his low kicks — so long as he sets them up. If Miocic is stinging Ngannou with jabs and low kicks, it will motivate Ngannou to advance, giving Miocic easier takedown opportunities.


Francis Ngannou
Record: 11-1
Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (UFC 218), Andrei Arlovski (UFC on FOX 23), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Fight Night 86), Luis Henrique (UFC on FOX 17)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Ngannou has hype behind him for a reason. He’s a physical specimen with dynamic power who’s quickly growing from a technical aspect. Unlike many up-and-comers with knockout power, Ngannou is also quite patient and does not force the finish.

Ngannou is all about the counter punch, so it’s up to him to motivate Miocic into moving forward. If he hangs back, Miocic will happily sit back behind the jab and give him few opportunities to land his brutal counters.

However, Ngannou cannot march forward sloppily for fear of the takedown as well as Miocic’s own punches. Instead, I’d like to see Ngannou focus on jabbing himself, as he does have the longer reach and punishing power even with straight shots. Furthermore, Ngannou has a better kicking game than he’s fully made use of inside the Octagon. Like Miocic, it’s important that he sets those kicks up well, but hammering Miocic’s lead leg or mid-section with a couple well-timed kicks will definitely motivate his opponent to change things up.

Bottom Line: It’s an intriguing Heavyweight title fight quite likely to end in knockout.

This is definitely an important bout for Miocic’s legacy. Not only does he have a chance to break the aforementioned title defense record, but he can do it as an underdog. This is Miocic’s chance to remind everyone that he’s the champion for a reason, and that he’s more decorated than any other UFC Heavyweight. Meanwhile, a loss leaves Miocic in the odd position of having beaten all the other top contenders. He probably won’t receive an immediate rematch, but the firefighter would not be far off, either.

It’s obviously a huge moment for Ngannou as well. Each of his six UFC victories has led to this moment, and Ngannou has the potential to be a fascinating champion. Young and active, there is no limit to what Ngannou could accomplish if he captures the belt. That is definitely a big “if,” though. Ngannou is early enough in his career to challenge for the title again the future, but he only gets one opportunity to do it while undefeated inside the Octagon with this much momentum behind him.

At UFC 220, Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou will duel in the main event. Which man will leave as champion?

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