Good luck finding a UFC heavyweight fighter more accomplished than Stipe Miocic.
The two-time title holder possesses the record for most title fight wins in the division’s history (6), knocking off 4 former champions en route to solidifying himself as the “baddest man of the planet.” Miocic has also tallied more strikes than any UFC heavyweight, combining impeccable timing with diverse weaponry. The Ohio native adds a suffocating wrestling prowess, tied for the third most takedowns landed in heavyweight history at 25.
Anyone who has followed Miocic’s career knows the slew of danger he’s prevailed through. Daniel Cormier, Junior Dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, and Fabricio Werdum is a resume in itself. But Stipe’s career-defining win came in January of 2018, when he defeated the UFC’s premiere knockout artist.
Francis Ngannou bulldozed his way into UFC 220 having finished all 6 of his UFC opponents in a two year span. However, Ngannou’s greatest ally proved his ultimate downfall. The 34-year-old specimen spent the entire first round attempting to send Stipe’s head into the rafters, depleting his gas tank along the way. Miocic took advantage, landing 6 takedowns and adding over 15 minutes of control time. Although impressive, the dominant unanimous decision victory is a feat of the past as Ngannou is back for blood in the main event of UFC 260.
A wise man once said that “timing beats speed, and precision beats power.” For Ngannou, bone-shattering power conquers all.
Ngannou has finished 11 of his 15 career wins by knockout. There isn’t much technique to his game, but the lethality in his punches has been enough. The Cameroon native possesses the highest knockdown rate in the division, averaging 3.4 per 100 significant strikes landed. He’s clocked just under 3 minutes of octagon time in the past two years, knocking out four straight opponents in the first round.
“The Predator” exemplifies his nickname, stalking his prey with vicious intent. Ironically, he lands the second least significant strikes in the division per round at 10.75 with just 38% accuracy. The numbers don’t favor the challenger, but one punch can change the course of any fight.
You won’t find a lack of volume or accuracy from Miocic, who lands almost 25 strikes per round at 53% accuracy. In 23 professional fights, he’s turned in 14 wins by knockout, successfully trading blows with some of the most dangerous fighters in heavyweight history. Miocic offers a diverse striking prowess, targeting the head, body, and legs. As polished as he is on the feet, single leg takedowns are his best friend going into Saturday’s headliner. Expect Stipe to implement a grappling-heavy attack, as chain wrestling has proven to be Ngannou’s kryptonite.
Inside Z’s Corner
Of all his attributes, Miocic’s fight IQ might be his greatest. Weathering Ngannou’s storm is a challenge many have tried and failed, but the champion’s veteran craftsmanship shined its brightest in their first fight. The UFC’s most storied heavyweight showed incredible elusiveness and durability, evading 93 of Francis’ 126 strike attempts. Francis was dragged into deep waters he’d never tread, but that was 3 years ago.
Since, Francis has trained at XTREME COUTURE, owned by UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Couture was known as a wrestler with neverending cardio. It’s safe to assume Couture and his team have identified Ngannou’s weakness in those departments and have trained accordingly.
That being said, I expect Ngannou to reserve his gas tank throughout the fight with an understanding of the consequences that come with expending too much energy early on. Despite whiffing on most, the shots Ngannou was able to land on Miocic had a significant impact. Don’t let the numbers fool you; Stipe felt the power.
Call me crazy for betting against the greatest heavyweight of all time, but what’s life without being a little bold? I’m predicting Francis Ngannou by 2nd round knockout. Let’s remember, Miocic got knocked out cold just a few months after the first meeting by a punch far less powerful than what Francis hit him with. That loss has been credited to a vulnerability in Stipe’s chin, and he’s been in 2 grueling wars with Daniel Cormier since. With Jon Jones waiting in the wings, a new era dawns on the heavyweight division. We are in for a war.