On Saturday night from the TD Garden in Boston, in the main event of UFC 220, Stipe Miocic defends the UFC heavyweight championship against Francis Ngannou.It is the most anticipated heavyweight title fight since Brock Lesnar faced Frank Mir at UFC 100 in July 2009. With the futures of top attractions Conor McGregor, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey in limbo, Miocic vs. Ngannou will be the pinnacle for the UFC in 2018.
Ngannou’s (11-1) taken the MMA world by storm since he made his UFC debut 13 months ago. He’s gone undefeated in six fights, winning all of them by stoppage (5 KO’s, 1 submission). His knockouts have been one “SportsCenter” highlight after another, the ferocious uppercut which sent Alistair Overeem crumbling to the canvas in his most recent fight at UFC 218 seven weeks ago.
Miocic (17-2) looks to make history in defending the title for the third time which would set a record for the UFC’s heavyweight division. Heading into UFC 220, the 35-year-old has won five consecutive fights, all by knockout, four coming in the first round.
After he sent the Overeem flying back to the Netherlands, the question was no longer if the 6-5, 250-pound Ngannou was ready for a title shot — it was when the Miocic fight would happen.The UFC has been criticized in the past for not making the obvious fights fans want to see. Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre didn’t face each other when they were in their primes, among countless other matchups being passed up on.
This flipped the UFC’s narrative. Knowing the momentum Ngannou had after UFC 218, the company pushed for the fight right away. The hype is rampant: Miocic and Ngannou have been featured in more media outlets than a usual title fight. The fights promotional material is among some of the best in company history.
Simply put, Miocic vs. Ngannou is worthy of all the hype coming its way.Ngannou has “star” written all over him. His MMA journey is a unique one: he bounced from home to home in his native Cameroon when he was younger, and at age 22, he restarted in Paris with no money, no family and no place to live. He’s well-spoken and isn’t afraid to show his personality. His Mike Tyson-like knockout power and finishing ability combined with the personality of someone you wouldn’t mind your daughter dating make for a unique superstar-in-the-making.
“When you look at him, he looks like the heavyweight champion of the world,” White said at the UFC 218 presser. “He looks like the heavyweight champion of something. The guy is a monster. He continues to get better. Wow, just wow. I’ve always believed in this guy since I met him that he could be the man, but he looked like the man tonight.”
Miocic lets his actions inside the Octagon do his talking, and that angered a lot of MMA fans who aren’t accustomed to that approach. The mild-mannered champion wanted to stay true to himself and not get caught up in the spotlight of being at the top. Part of doing that is still working part-time as a firefighter and paramedic at the Valley View Fire Department in Cleveland.
The method to Miocic’s madness worked. He’s a bigger star than he was when he first captured the title. He’s sold-out arenas in his title defenses, with UFC 220 well on its way. A win over Ngannou would not only give him a record, but he could be catapulted into the discussion of greatest heavyweight of all time.
This isn’t to say that the UFC doesn’t have important fights and events in the coming months. UFC 221 features an interim middleweight title fight between Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero. Max Holloway defends the featherweight title against Frankie Edgar at UFC 222. On April 7, UFC 223 goes down at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and boasts Tony Ferguson battling Khabib Nurmagomedov for either the interim or undisputed lightweight title.Those fights on paper should be very good, but do they appeal to the casual fanbase the UFC is looking to grab? The answer is no. Great fights don’t sell pay-per-views.People want to see devastating knockouts, especially by the heavyweights. And no one does it better than Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou.