Ngannou has been the talk of the town ever since he rattled off one of the most jaw-dropping finishes in recent memory with his first-round knockout over Alistair Overeem at UFC 218, and now he’ll get his shot at the title. As for Miocic, this fight gives him the opportunity to become the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history based on consecutive successful title defenses if he can get past Ngannou.
Also on the card, Daniel Cormier will look to defend his light heavyweight title against upstart contender Volkan Oezdemir after “No Time” burst onto the scene last year with three huge wins in the UFC. Oezdemir not only defeated former title contender Ovince Saint Preux on short notice, but then he earned two first-round knockouts against top 10 ranked opponents Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov.
Now Oezdemir will attempt to do the same to Cormier when they clash in the co-main event this weekend.
In today’s fantasy preview, we’re going to break down these two title fights and several more bouts to see who has the edge and if somebody might be primed for an upset at UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou.
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Daniel Cormier is no stranger to facing off with power punchers, and that’s exactly what he’s going to face this weekend in top-ranked contender Volkan Oezdemir.
Oezdemir has shown some of the best knockout power in the light heavyweight division since his teammate Anthony “Rumble” Johnson retired last year. Perhaps the scariest part about Oezdemir’s ability to scored the knockout is that his power is very deceptive and comes from odd angles, both from a distance and even when he’s close to an opponent in the clinch. Oezdemir doesn’t really try to uncork big, looping punches, but he’s precise, and when he lands it’s absolutely deadly. The fact that Oezdemir is so comfortable landing those shots in close bodes well for him against a wrestler the caliber of Cormier, who probably won’t give him much room to breathe.
Cormier is an incredible grappler, but perhaps his best weapon is being able to grind his opponents against the cage before putting them on the ground and taking over. Cormier is a bear when he grabs on to an opponent in the clinch and it’s nearly impossible to shake him loose once he gets a hold of somebody. Cormier is relentless with his takedown attempts as well, and he’ll look to put pressure on Oezdemir from the start of this fight until the finish.
Of course, Cormier has to be wary of those short, stunning punches that Oezdemir keeps finding a way to land. Cormier has given up some punches to past opponents when he’s diving inside to get the clinch or takedown but that’s not something he can afford to do much with Oezdemir. Instead, Cormier would be wise to bait Oezdemir into an exchange before leaping inside to get a takedown, and once the fight hits the ground, he should remain in control. Cormier has also shown off his submission skills on the mat, and he may have the chance to do that in this fight against Oezdemir.
Cormier is the champion for a reason, and as good as Oezdemir has looked thus far in his UFC career, this is a big step up in competition on Saturday night.
Prediction: Daniel Cormier by submission, Round 3
In a matchup at bantamweight that has Fight of the Night written all over it, local favorite Rob Font takes on the always-exciting Thomas Almeida.
After starting out his career with a long undefeated run, Almeida has faced a couple of bumps in the road lately, but he still remains one of the most dangerous fighters in the world at 135 pounds. Almeida is like a tornado unleashed in the Octagon, with an old school, wild style where he throws with power and volume from the start of the fight until the final bell. Almeida is also very creative, as he will often launch a flying knee or look to land a nasty inside elbow, so there’s nowhere that an opponent is safe when he’s launching an attack.
What Font will depend on is past experience against a similar opponent when he faced John Lineker. While Font lost that fight, he found out what it’s like to take on a dynamic, power-punching machine who always moves forward and throws with reckless abandon. The key for Font will be weathering that storm and then firing back with precise combinations. Font has to stay composed in the face of a potential firefight with Almeida. If Font gets drawn into a big exchange where he’s just winging punches against Almeida, he’s going to have a bad night.
That being said, Font is a very strong technical striker, and as long as he can maintain his composure while displaying some solid defense against those big barrages from Almeida, he has a great chance to win this fight. Font just needs to stick to his game plan and refuse to allow Almeida to just throw wild combinations without any sort of recourse on the feet. If Font can make Almeida pay for his lackluster defense, he can land better shots over three rounds to get the win.
Prediction: Rob Font by unanimous decision
Another contender for Fight of the Night will be this featherweight matchup between undefeated prospect Shane Burgos and Boston native Calvin Kattar.
Kattar made quite a splash in his UFC debut when he stepped up on short notice and dealt veteran fighter Andre Fili a convincing loss over three rounds. Kattar showed off great composure for his first fight inside the Octagon while landing with solid volume and good accuracy throughout the three-round affair. Kattar even managed to throw in a couple takedowns for good measure, which proves he’s a very well-rounded fighter with plenty of experience to draw upon in his fights.
As for Burgos, he’s looked like a real threat to become a top 10 fighter one day as he’s won his first three fights in the UFC, including a knockout against Charles Rosa and a decision win against always tough Brazilian competitor Godofredo Pepey. Burgos is best known as a strong striker who lands six significant strikes per minute, which is great output, and he also showcases very good defense on his feet. That could be a perfect weapon in this fight, as Burgos will look to outland Kattar in what should be a tremendous striking battle, but not getting hit in return will earn him higher scores from the judges.
Burgos may not get the finish, but he should be able to dish out enough punishment over three rounds to get the win. Don’t count Kattar out, however, because he will definitely give Burgos everything he can handle over all 15 minutes.
Prediction: Shane Burgos by unanimous decision
Flyweight veteran Dustin Ortiz will look to hand former Ultimate Fighter competitor Alexandre Pantoja his first UFC loss in this matchup on the preliminary card.
Ortiz has been a stalwart in the flyweight rankings since he first arrived in the UFC, and while he’s faced some ups and downs, he remains one of the toughest outs in the division. Ortiz is very well rounded, with a good grappling base to go along with knockout power on his feet, as he displayed in his last fight against Hector Sandoval. Ortiz isn’t afraid to mix it up on the feet or on the ground, and while he’s suffered setbacks during his UFC career, he’s only lost to top 10 ranked opponents, including three former title contenders.
As for Pantoja, he’s looked like a future contender through his first two fights in the UFC, showcasing great striking as well as his grappling on the mat. Pantoja has landed with outstanding volume on the feet with just under six significant shots landed per minute while also mixing in some takedowns when the opportunity presents itself. Pantoja is tough to deal with on the feet or on the ground, which is why he’s become one of the top prospects to watch in the 125-pound division.
While Pantoja has definitely shown flashes of brilliance, Ortiz has faced the tougher competition throughout his career and still seems like a very solid pick here. Ortiz has largely feasted on fighters from outside the top 10 and he’ll look to do the same against Pantoja on Saturday night. Look for Ortiz to vary his attacks from a striking-based offense to start the fight mixed in with a few takedowns to keep Pantoja guessing. The end result should be Ortiz picking up his second straight win in a row.
Prediction: Dustin Ortiz by unanimous decision
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can – and usually does – happen.
Any time two light heavyweight sluggers start throwing punches, it’s impossible to say anyone would be a lock, but Gian Villante seems like a very solid pick to pull off the knockout against Francimar Barroso this weekend.
Villante definitely lives or dies by the sword in most of his fights, as he consistently looks to outgun his opponents with massive power on the feet while always managing to put on some of the most exciting fights in the division. Villante is a forward pressure fighter who loves to overwhelm his opponents with a barrage of shots until the fight is finished.
Now Barroso is no stranger to exchanging strikes with an opponent and he definitely has the kind of power to counter Villante on the feet. Unfortunately, Barroso will be giving up height, reach and power in this fight, and while he has averaged over two takedowns per fight, it’s tough to see him getting Villante to the mat before he’s eaten a lot of punches. Villante usually starts strong and it’s not likely this fight will be any exception, as he’ll gun for the knockout from the first second until the last. Given Villante’s knockout power, he may not need more than the first round to get it done.
Prediction: Gian Villante by knockout, Round 1
Top 15-ranked strawweight Maryna Moroz will look to get back in the win column against former Ultimate Fighter competitor Jamie Moyle at UFC 220.
Moroz has faced a laundry list of top fighters since first arriving in the UFC, picking up a string of impressive wins over the likes of Joanne Calderwood and Danielle Taylor. She’s also gone three hard rounds with former champion Carla Esparza, so she’s definitely faced a tough group of opponents in the Octagon. Moroz is best known for her incredible submissions on the mat, including an armbar that has earned her wins in five fights throughout her career. But in recent fights, Moroz has shown off her overall mixed martial arts game.
Moyle will definitely be a tough fight because she’s like a spark plug in the Octagon, as she starts and never stops until the final horn sounds. Moyle lands with more volume and accuracy than Moroz while also taking less damage in return. Where Moyle may struggle in this fight is with the reach advantage she’s giving up, with Moroz having six inches in height and two inches of reach on her.
Look for Moroz to feed Moyle a steady diet of straight punches from the outside to pepper away at her over all three rounds. If Moyle switches up her attack and goes for the takedown, Moroz will gladly show off her submission skills to make the former Ultimate Fighter competitor play defense on the mat as well. It all adds up to a lot of ways for Moroz to win this fight and that’s why she remains a very solid favorite at UFC 220.
Prediction: Maryna Moroz by unanimous decision
Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou
Despite earning five knockouts in a row over several opponents who could be future Hall of Fame candidates, Stipe Miocic will walk into his third title defense as an underdog to No. 1-ranked contender Francis Ngannou.
Now it’s not a shock that Ngannou is being so highly rated considering the way he’s stormed through the heavyweight division en route to getting this shot at the title. His last fight solidified him as the top contender as he demolished Alistair Overeem with a one-punch knockout at UFC 218.
The book on Ngannou is well known and it’s doubtful he’s going to change his plan of attack in this matchup. Ngannou has arguably some of the most devastating punching power the heavyweight division has ever known. A glancing shot from Ngannou does as much damage as some flush punches from other fighters just thanks to the tremendous force he generates with each shot thrown. Ngannou isn’t in the business of wasting his punches either, as he averages just under four significant strikes landed per minute with over 47 percent accuracy. Ngannou is also very strong in the clinch, as he showed in his fight with Overeem when he shrugged off the former title challenger on a couple occasions in their meeting last December.
For all the punching power that Ngannou possesses, there are still a lot of unknowns about him, especially when matched up against a very well rounded heavyweight like Miocic, and that’s why this main event is primed for an upset.
Miocic has no problem throwing his hands with anybody in the heavyweight division thanks to his knockout power and background in Golden Gloves boxing, which makes him technically proficient as well. Add to that, Miocic is a former Division I college wrestler who averages just over two takedowns per fight. Perhaps Miocic’s biggest weapon in this fight could be his off the charts conditioning because he’s a heavyweight who can truly push the pace for five rounds. Miocic has a string of first-round finishes under his belt, but he’s also gone deep into the championship rounds a couple times in the past and he’s shown no signs of slowing down.
While Miocic will be giving up size and power in this fight, his footwork and defense will play a big part in hitting Ngannou and then getting out of the way before he gets tagged with a counter punch. Miocic doesn’t typically stand in front of his opponents for too long and that will be a key to avoiding Ngannou’s incredible power. Miocic might try to make Ngannou chase him in the opening round while perhaps attempting a couple of takedowns. Miocic doesn’t even have to land them to be effective as long as he’s making Ngannou work to get free of his grappling, which will continue to eat away at his conditioning.
By the late second or early part of the third round, Ngannou may find out what it’s like to go deep into a fight for the first time in his career while Miocic will just be getting warmed up. That’s when the heavyweight champion will likely go for the kill and either take this fight to the ground for a finish or perhaps polish off another knockout on the feet. Either way, Miocic has a great chance to pull off this upset because he simply has more ways to win.
Prediction: Stipe Miocic by knockout, Round 2