UFC 260 – Miocic vs. Ngannou 2
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The hardest puncher in the UFC faces off against the most decorated heavyweight ever.
The heavyweight division has been at a somewhat crossroads in the past few years. Although the belt has changed hands between the current heavyweight champion and his former rival, the since-retired Daniel Cormier, many have felt that the next wave of talent was rising to upset the establishment. Stipe Miocic is the most decorated heavyweight in the history of the promotion, having an impressive record of 15 wins and only 3 losses inside the organization since first joining the outfit back in 2011.
Having first secured the championship belt 11 matches later in the backyard of Brazilian hall-of-famer Fabrício Werdum, he has since gone on to defend that title 5 times, 2 being the most recent back-to-back wins against two-division champion Cormier, securing the record of most heavyweight title defenses ever. Even though he has secured his place in the history books, this achievement hasn’t stopped criticism of Stipe’s heavyweight tenure, as he’s often accused of inactivity and holding up the division, unlike the vocal star of last weekend’s fight night, Kevin Holland who in 2020 set a record of his own by joining the ranks of Roger Huerta and Neil Magny by having 5 fights in a calendar year.
The negative remarks about his activity aren’t completely unjustified, as Stipe only made one title defense in 2017 against Junior dos Santos, then only fighting twice the following year, against his opponent this weekend in Francis Ngannou. The two originally met at UFC 220 in January of 2018, where Stipe comfortably defused the inexperience of Ngannou over 5 rounds. To the surprise of the champion, many sportsbooks actually had him as the underdog going into the fight, which only seemed to ignite the fire within him to come out victorious.
The predator’s power
Although the assumption by the sportsbooks is that Ngannou would beat Stipe in their first fight was somewhat disrespectful to the champion, UFC president Dana White is guilty of adding to the pre-fight hyper surrounding the Cameroonian powerhouse by divulging the details of Ngannou’s power at the pre-fight press conference. White said:
“Francis Ngannou has the world record for the most powerful punch. His punch is the equivalent to 96 horsepower, which is equal to getting hit by a Ford escort going as fast as it can. It’s more powerful than a 12-pound sledgehammer getting swung full force overhead”.
This wasn’t completely unfounded, as Ngannou had knocked out 5 of his previous 6 opponents in a truly devasting fashion, notably Alistair Overeem whose head was smashed backward with arguably one of the strongest punches the organization has ever seen. This one-shot knockout power got a lot of attention from the promoter, the fans, and the media which propelled Francis to stardom. This fight-changing power though wasn’t enough to secure the victory for Ngannou, as Stipe showed why he is a veteran of the game by negating the power shots by largely taking Francis down and controlling the fight from the ground.
How much has he improved?
Since that first loss against Miocic in 2018, Francis has been slowly clawing his way back to the top of the contenders by doing what he does best – knocking out his opponents! Francis has finished 4 out of his past 5 opponents, most recently Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249, within 20 seconds of the first round no less. Sadly, this doesn’t give much indication as to how much Francis has improved the other aspects of his game, as we’ve always known that he carries one-punch, fight-ending power, but it was that very limitation that cost him the first fight.
It is without question that Miocic will look to replicate his success from the first fight by trying to take Francis down at some point across the five rounds on Saturday night, so the real question is has Francis improved enough to dethrone the greatest heavyweight to ever compete in the UFC and start his own legacy? Given Stipe’s extensive background in the sport, coupled with his adaptability, we’re going to back him to be victorious on Saturday and retain his belt.