Francis Ngannou stands between Stipe Miocic and UFC history

Justin Faux Columnist

By Justin Faux, Justin Faux is a Roar Expert

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    Francis Ngannou, left, hits Alistair Overeem in the first round during a UFC 218 heavyweight mixed martial arts bout, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez, File)

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    Stipe Miocic, one of the most improbable UFC heavyweight champions in history, aims to do what no man has ever done tomorrow afternoon (AEST).

    Defend the slipperiest title in combat sports for a third consecutive time, that is.

    It might sound hard to believe but since its inception in 1997, the heavyweight crown has been passed around like a hot potato.

    Over the past two decades, 18 different men have staked their claim as the baddest man on the planet. Of them, only five – Randy Couture, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar and Miocic – have defended the heavyweight strap more than once.

    Nobody has ever hit lucky number three.

    Miocic, a firefighter by day and cage fighter by night, looks to buck that trend this Sunday in the main event of UFC 220 at Boston’s TD Garden.

    In his history-making fight, the Cleveland-based knockout artist draws Francis Ngannou, the most terrifying fighter on the UFC roster.

    And if you ask almost anybody outside of Miocic’s immediate friends and family, they’ll tell you he’s bitten off more than he can chew this time.

    Ngannou, who as a youngster dreamed of following in the footsteps of Mike Tyson, has knockout power that would make his idol blush.

    At 6’4″, and 255-pounds, the 33-year-old is easily the most intimidating figure to ever step into the Octagon. Oh, and he can fight too.

    The Cameroon-born hitter joined the UFC roster at the tail end of 2015, knocking Brazil’s Luis Henrique loopy in under 10 minutes. Then he knocked off another one. And another one. And another one. And another one.

    The Frenchman, who now calls Las Vegas home, cemented his position as the undeniable number-one contender for the heavyweight title a few weeks ago by hitting Alistair Overeem so hard it almost separated his head from his shoulders.

    “His toes are locked up like he’s just been electrocuted,” commentator Joe Rogan said of Overeem, as he sat in awe after the scariest knockout in mixed martial arts history.

    “He’s still stiff as a board. That’s how scary Francis Ngannou is — it was like a scene from a movie.”

    It’s blatantly obvious that the UFC has hand-chosen Ngannou as its next big superstar. Everyone knows it, even the champ.

    “For sure,” Miocic said on the MMA Hour when asked if he felt his promoter was rooting for him to lose on Sunday.

    “Listen, I feel a little bit disrespected, but I’m not going to dwell on it.”

    Miocic has every right to feel disrespected. After all, nobody in their right mind would argue that he isn’t the better fighter in tomorrow’s main event.

    The 35-year-old Ohioan is a better wrestler and a more accomplished striker, with the ability to seamlessly blend those two skills unlike any other fighter in the division.

    He has far more experience fighting under the bright lights and has faced a murderer’s row of top heavies, tearing through the competition like a hot knife on butter.

    But when the cage door closes, none of that will matter if Ngannou lands one thudding punch.

    Just one, and Miocic will hit the canvas, ushering in a brand-new era of the heavyweight division.

    Justin Faux
    Justin Faux

    Justin Faux is a seasoned combat sports scribe. Covering mixed martial arts and boxing since 2007, Justin has been published on NineMSN Australia, Fox Sports, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and dozens of other outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @justinfauxmma.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • Roar Guru

      January 20th 2018 @ 8:47am
      BigJ said | January 20th 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Morning Justin, i think that the UFC Heavyweight championship will change hands quickly on Sunday with Ngannou knocking out Miocic in the second round. I dont see how Miocic can stay away from Ngannou any attempt to grab him wont work, so unless he plans to leg kick him the whole fight a change in the winds. Plus the Baddest man on the planet is and always will be Mike Tyson.

      • Columnist

        January 20th 2018 @ 1:56pm
        Justin Faux said | January 20th 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

        I am inclined to agree with you. I see an obvious path to victory for Stipe Miocic – striking at range, setting up takedowns and using his ground-and-pound to tame the beast, but he is far too willing to take punches.

        He did against JDS, Overeem, and Hunt and stayed on his feet, but I think Ngannou is a different animal.

        • Roar Guru

          January 20th 2018 @ 3:10pm
          BigJ said | January 20th 2018 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

          We will just have to wait and see

    • January 20th 2018 @ 1:45pm
      Kavvy said | January 20th 2018 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

      Didn’t Cain defend twice after he won the belt back from JDS?

      Stipe needs to find a safe way to close the distance then go to work with his short range boxing which has been so effective so far in his title reign. Avoiding one of those missiles Ngannou dropped on Overeem and Arlovski will be tough though. Stipe is a much better fighter than 2017 Arlovski and has a much better chin than 2017 Overeem but being on the wrong end of an Ngannou punch would put any man to sleep.

      The Rumble v DC fight seems the closest parallel but I don’t know Stipe’s wrestling is on DC’s level and I don’t know how easy getting Ngannou to the ground will be, I remember Curtis Blaydes got a take down on FN but I think he got back up pretty quick and Francis has evolved since then.

      Both great guys and should be a great spectacle as long it lasts.

      Looking forward to the co-main too, see if DC can replicate the aforementioned Rumble fight against the similar Volkan.

      • Columnist

        January 20th 2018 @ 2:05pm
        Justin Faux said | January 20th 2018 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

        Good eye, Velasquez did defend the crown twice against Bigfoot Silva & Juinor dos Santos. I stand corrected.

        One thing that troubles me about Miocic in this fight is that he does his best work in the phone booth. I just cannot see him staying conscious if he plays in close with Ngannou.

        As for Cormier-Oezdemir, I personally don’t think it’s a very competitive match-up. Oezdemir is a good fighter, but also a guy that (in my opinion) lost to Ovince St. Preux just a year ago.

        Assuming DC is still the same caliber of fighter he was last time we saw him, he should make easy work of Oezdemir in ‘No Time’.

    • January 20th 2018 @ 2:26pm
      Akari said | January 20th 2018 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

      I am not really a UFC fan given the damage that these fighters could do to each other. But you’ve stirred and captured my interest in this fight, Justin, and much thanks for that. I may even watch it. I certainly will await for your report on it in any case.

    • January 20th 2018 @ 2:29pm
      shirtpants said | January 20th 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

      Ngannou has had his opponents hand picked because hes got the story to be the next big draw. Sure, he can fight but i haven’t seen enough to justify the ufc and media banging on like he’s the champ. Its insulting but its business.

      Miocic for me, but Ngannou will have his time to shine

      • January 20th 2018 @ 5:12pm
        damo said | January 20th 2018 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

        Not sure it matters who the opponent is, hand picked or not, Ngannou looks to have the power to land one & done.

        i really like Miocic & hope his ‘superior’ fight skills shine through or at the least, we see how well rounded Ngannou is in beating him.

        All in all, Stipe has done very well & should deserve a re-match if he loses, which is what I think will happen. Too much KO power from Francis, especially against a guy that as Justin said, is willing to be hit to get in close to do his best work.

        • January 21st 2018 @ 9:54am
          shirtpants said | January 21st 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          Stipe has fought the divisions biggest and best. There’s guys with a higher KO percentage than Ngannou so hes fought some big heavy hitters. Ngannou may be the heaviest hitter but Stipe is smart and will negate it. Of course either fighter could win. All it takes is one punch but Stipes rounded game and experience takes the money imo.

          • January 21st 2018 @ 5:20pm
            damo said | January 21st 2018 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

            Well you summed it up very well!
            I followed the fight on Sherdog play by play & thought the first round was where Ngannou was in with his chance to smother Miocic with big blows & catch him but as you said it seems Miocic had a very good plan & it worked.

            Reading that Ngannou had gassed pretty much at the end of the first was also pretty much game over against a guy like Miocic.

            • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:18am
              shirtpants said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

              Yeah Ngannous inexperience cost him. His conditioning was poor. You can’t put everything into a round one KO or you diminish your probability of winning. He was overly hyped.

              After his performance, he is a lot further from the title than people thought. The division is incredibly weak at the moment. Cain needs to get back ASAP.

              The post fight press conference was interesting. Stipe was pissed at Dana and rightfully so. I hope he starts getting the respect he deserves.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 20th 2018 @ 9:15pm
      Rocky X said | January 20th 2018 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

      I think Miocic is in serious trouble tomorrow. Ngannou by ko in the first

    • Roar Guru

      January 23rd 2018 @ 8:15am
      Bones506 said | January 23rd 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      I tipped Miocic in a second round KO.

      What a fight – the fact that both men went for 25 minutes is incredible.

      Miocic nailed the perfect game plan – he took the bigger man down and continually used Ngannou’s size against him.

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