UFC 260 Preview & Prediction: Miocic vs Ngannou
By Cathal Geeney
Francis Ngannou looks to avenge his previous defeat to Stipe Miocic this weekend as they clash for the UFC heavyweight title.
Their first meeting was a steep learning curve for the Cameroonian born fighter as he was comprehensively outclassed in a decision loss (50-44 across all three scorecards).
This defeat seemed like it may leave a lasting impact on Ngannou, as he followed this up with a disappointing loss to Derrick Lewis, where he looked completely gun shy.
Since this however, there has been a return to form for the thirty-four-year-old, who has fought his way back into title contention with four consecutive first round knockouts.
‘The Predator’ hails from a boxing background and looks to follow his jab up with huge strikes. In his last outing it was a loose overhand right followed up with successive hooks, until one finally landed clean, that stopped Jairzinho Rozenstruik on the spot. His striking is often wild and unorthodox. It can appear as if he is off balance and has completely forgotten about defence as he comes forward throwing punch after punch.
This unique mix of power and pressure is overwhelming and has been very successful for the most part.
The big question going into this weekend is as to whether the challenger has improved his cardio and grappling skills. In their prior match up, Ngannou came out swinging early and looked completely exhausted after just one round.
Miocic was able to land numerous take downs and Ngannou had no answers. For the final twenty minutes of the fight, the challenger looked slow and sluggish and the fight was all but over as a contest.
Ngannou has been so dominant in his last four victories that it has been impossible to determine how he has worked on the glaring holes in his game since they last met. He has spent only two minutes and forty-two seconds competing in the octagon across this period.
Miocic will be hoping for much of the same this time around. The Ohio native is considered by many as the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history and his performances over the last number of years have justified this for me.
His last meeting against Ngannou showed just how well rounded he is. Defensively, he relied on his movement to avoid getting caught by a heavy shot that could potentially finish the fight. And coming forward he had the perfect mix of striking and grappling.
The thirty-eight-year-old has crisp boxing skills and does the basics well, setting up combinations with a jab and often relying on a clean one two down the middle. He packs both power and speed in his punches.
The part-time firefighter also works the body and legs with kicks. In addition to his striking, Stipe is an accomplished grappler. The NCAA Division 1 college wrestler has demonstrated this throughout his career whether it be landing takedowns or using his defensive wrestling to keep the fight standing.
Miocic possesses a high fight IQ and has the ability to adjust during and between fights. His last two victories over Daniel Cormier are perfect examples of this. In their second meeting, it was an adjustment in the fourth round of the fight to go to the body of DC which resulted in the stoppage. While in their last meeting, Stipe and his team looked to control the clinch up at the cage, keeping it tight to prevent the takedown and any dangerous hooks from DC on the break. This was something which was clearly premeditated and brought a lot of success.
Ngannou is undoubtedly the more dangerous striker, with unique knock out power. Nobody will be in the least bit surprised if the title challenger connects early and scores a first round knockout. The uppercut could be a particularly important strike as Miocic looks to shoot for a single leg takedown.
In all other areas, Miocic is the superior Martial Artist. Miocic has demonstrated better conditioning, grappling, movement, technical striking and fight management in his career to date. Coming in as a slight underdog, I believe the defending champion is the smart pick for this one.