Stipe Miocic may be the defending two-time heavyweight champion, but Francis Ngannou is the prohibitive favorite in UFC 220’s title fight on Saturday night.
The Cameroon-born Frenchman, whose only loss came in his second career bout, hasn’t tasted defeat since December 2013. Zoumana Cisse beat him in a unanimous decision. He’s overpowered his opponents and won 10 straight since then. He will put that streak on the line at Boston’s TD Garden Arena.
Ngannou (11-1-0) is listed in the betting odds at -185. That means a bettor would have to wager $185 to make a profit of $100. Miocic (17-2-0) is +150 on the money line. In this case, a bettor would have to wager $100 to earn a profit of $150 (odds provided by bovada.lv). Obviously, oddsmakers are confident Ngannou will win.
The 35-year-old Miocic, who does most of his training in Ohio, is a former Cleveland State wrestler. He left that sport to take up boxing, where he became a Golden Gloves champion. Now, he enters the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon for the 20th time, having won his last five fights by knockout. The native of Croatia gained some revenge in his last bout in May in UFC 211 when he beat Junior dos Santos in a first-round technical knockout. Santos was the last fighter to beat the champ in December 2014.
The 31-year-old Ngannou, who only began training in MMA a short four years ago, is revered for his ferocious punching style. The Predator, as he is known, knocked decorated veteran Alistair Overeem out cold in his last fight in early December in Detroit.
The power display earned him a spot in the Knockout of the Year list for 2017, joining Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva and Ronda Rousey as the only fighters in the modern era to start their UFC careers with six stoppage wins.
In his two fights before the Overeem victory, Ngannou was tagged with the Performance of the Night label. He defeated Andrei Arlovski in a TKO in January 2107 and Anthony Hamilton by submission in December 2016. UFC commentator Joe Rogan compares Ngannou to a former heavyweight boxing champion.
“Now they’ve got a star,” Rogan said after the fighter’s last victory. “I think Ngannou, one or two more fights, you’re going to be looking at Mike Tyson days. “That could be their big, breakout star.”
Both fighters in UFC 220 are six-foot-four. Ngannou weighs in at 250 pounds, while Miocic is a few pounds lighter at 240. This will be the champ’s first fight in eight months. This is The Predator’s third bout in a year.
In Miocic’s 19 career fights, he has received Fight of the Night three times, Performance of the Night four times and Knockout of the Night once.
With Miocic’s boxing and wrestling background, the longer the fight lasts, the more it works in his favor. His years of training will also give him an endurance advantage the deeper the match goes. If he can defend his title for a third time, it would be a UFC record in the heavyweight division. But The Predator has other ideas.
“I think this is probably going to be a knockout,” Ngannou told the media recently. “My prediction is knockout in under two rounds.”
The way Ngannou has been destroying opponents, how can you not believe him?