There are three ways of generating popularity among the fans: having an entire
nation to support you, possessing the gift of gab or the most important way to gain
quick popularity is to simply be scary!
Being scary is what Khabib Nurmagomedov and Francis Ngannou are really good at.
They both obliterate, dominate and manhandle their opponents. With their sheer
intensity and power, they don't just defeat their opponents but they take their souls
away as well. The UFC has quickly recognised them as potential superstars and has
been quick to jump the gun in marketing them. In fact, in terms of marketing
Ngannou, the company has even thrown the Heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic
under the bus.
UFC 220 is being headlined by a heavyweight bout between Miocic and Ngannou.
Miocic has emerged as a decent draw and Ngannou is currently riding the hype train.
Hence, this fight is being touted as potentially the biggest fight in the division's
history. However, it’s strange how almost everyone has already ruled out the
champion. People have forgotten how brutal and vicious he is and many are already
claiming how Ngannou is the greatest MMA heavyweight of all time.
Let's not jump the gun on the potential outcome of this fight and try to understand
and analyse how both these behemoths function.
Striking: Aggressive high-pressure vs. Passive-aggressive high-pressure
Miocic is a knockout artist and at 76%, he has an even better knock-out rate than
Ngannou. However, unlike most heavyweights Miocic never follows through with his
punches. He instead relies on short yet powerful hooks to get the knock-out. This
highlights that the American possesses a very deceptive power in his hands and is
more of a precise puncher.
Miocic has defensively sound striking with great reactions and decent head
movement. Due to his amateur boxing background, his basic stand-up technique is
quite refined. He has the second highest striking defense (61.6%) in the division.
This is partly because he tends to put his weight on the back foot which in turn helps
him to pull his head away from the punches thrown by an opponent. He pre-
dominantly utilises a piston like jab and hooks, while occasionally using elbows and
leg-kicks to hurt his opponents.
It’s often claimed that the most dangerous place to fight inside the octagon is inside
an opponent’s “pocket”. The pocket is the distance between two fighters where a
strike can be thrown without utilising the full reach. Once inside the pocket, both
fighters are in reach to hit each other. It is the place where fans get to witness
powerful hooks and the most brutal uppercuts. Most fighters do not fancy fighting in
the pocket. However, Miocic absolutely cherishes fighting inside the pocket. His high
intensity, in your face approach to fighting makes him a dangerous opponent for
fighters who prefer fighting from the outside such as Ngannou.
He often closes the distance to get into the pocket and then uses his most
dangerous combination in which he hits his opponent with a left jab followed by a
powerful right-hand over the top. He executes this combination from a close range
and at a really awkward angle. Thus, it makes it almost impossible for opponents to
counter this combination. This combination always leaves his opponents either
knocked-out or badly hurt.
The biggest weakness in the former wrestler's stand-up game is that he sometimes
gets a bit reckless after hurting his opponents which lead in his getting clipped.
The champion has a highly aggressive, high-pressure style of fighting. On the other
hand, Francis Ngannou has more of a passive-aggressive style of pressurising his
opponents. He doesn't directly rush inside the pocket to put pressure on his
opponent and instead utilises his great footwork and movement to cut off the
octagon for his opponents while still maintaining his long-reach. Thus, after cornering
his opponent towards the cage he then starts unloading with jabs, hooks and mostly
The French-Cameroonian has great boxing skills to compliment his other-worldly KO
power. He often throws professional boxing inspired combinations such as a double
jab or hook followed with a big right hand or an uppercut by zoning out the
opponents with footwork. This often creates a fake sense of security for his
opponents until they get hit by that overhand right. For instance, in his fight against
Luis Henrique, he hit the Brazilian with two devastating left hooks while deliberately
leaving space for him to move outside towards his right. He then turned the lights out
for Henrique with a big uppercut. Ngannou brilliantly disguises his powerful
uppercuts behind hooks.
Ngannou's biggest weapon is not his power but it's his fight IQ, footwork and how he
instinctively adapts. He is also probably ambidextrous as he seems equally
comfortable in both stances and has knock-out power in both his hands as well.
Another thing which should be noted is that he never overextends his punches which
highly minimizes the chances of him being successfully countered with a big punch.
Ngannou seems invincible. However, his kryptonite is aggressive high-pressure.
Whenever pressured aggressively Ngannou's technically sound striking skills go out
of the window and he, begins lunging wildly. In this state of panic, he leaves his chin
out and his wild strikes hardly hit the opponent. This is exactly what happened in his
only MMA loss against Zoumana Cisse, Cisse is naturally a high-pressure fighter like
Miocic and continuously fought inside the pocket. This made Ngannou throw wildly
swinging strikes and thus got easily out-struck. Even in his fight against Overeem, as
soon as Overeem tried to clinch, Ngannou panicked and started throwing wild,
Grappling: NCAA Wrestling vs. Strength and Power
Miocic has a collegiate wrestling background and is a former NCAA division 1
wrestler. The champion hardly utilises his wrestling but he possesses phenomenal
wrestling pedigree which is enhanced by his power and impeccable timing. Miocic
mostly shoots for single-leg takedowns and rarely for double-legs. Against Ngannou
this will play a great factor as the challenger usually puts his weight on to his front
foot. Hence, it will make Ngannou susceptible to single-leg takedown attempts by the
Ngannou hasn't got any formal grappling experience. Though, he still has four
submission victories to his credit. He also boasts a high takedown defense rate of
75%. This is purely based on his athletic abilities and his high-level of strength. He
simply uses his power and size to stop takedowns. In a grappling situation, he
manages to out-muscle his opponents and also uses his strength to submit
opponents like he did in his fight against Anthony Hamilton.
VERDICT: This fight will mostly be a striking battle with little grappling involved.
Stipe's high-pressure style of fighting makes him a bad match-up for Ngannou as he
panics whenever pressured with aggression. Stipe will often grapple trying to clinch
and secure single-leg takedowns not particularly to hurt Ngannou but to make him
work and to tire him out. At distance, Ngannou will try to establish his reach and
throw some shots but Stipe will likely pull his head out and will either look to get into
the pocket or will look for a single-leg. The single-leg takedown will be used a lot in
this bout as Stipe will often use it as a defensive measure as well if Ngannou tries to
rush forward. Ngannou might use his superior athleticism and footwork in his
advantage but he will find it hard to do so against Stipe's constant pressure.
All the big muscles that Ngannou has, the weight he will put on by the time of his
fight and by Stipe often forcing him to grapple, he will likely gas out by second round.
Hence, I expect Stipe to connect and drop a gassed-out Ngannou with his trademark
jab and big right-hand over the top combination in the third round. He will then
ground-and- pound his way to victory.
Hence, I expect Stipe to win via TKO in the third round.