In what is being considered one of the best heavyweight title fights in years, who will walk away as ‘The Baddest Man Alive’ at UFC 220?
What is it about a heavyweight fight that generates genuine excitement? Is it the idea that the competitors are so much bigger than the general population? Is it the idea of the sheer power they can generate in just their hands? There’s no question, watching heavyweights compete is as close to a battle of giants as you will ever see in the present day. When Stipe Miocic faces Francis Ngannou at UFC 220, they will check every box for what you could want when they collide for the world championship.
Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is the most unique anomaly in the sport of MMA. Hyperbole is a common tool in promotion; every fighter is touted as the “most dangerous” something or other leading up to critical bouts. And yet, “The Baddest Man Alive” somehow escapes any such categorization. Former foe Fabricio Werdum was heralded as the most dangerous submission artist in the sport who dispatched legends with his skills on the mat. Alistair Overeem was the world-beating knockout machine who was the most decorated heavyweight striker in the world. But Miocic, by all accounts, is the everyman. His impressive victories all accompanied by the fact that he will go back to work in Cleveland the following week as if nothing happened.
In a manner all his own, the trait Miocic appears to exude the most leading up to fights is charm. Despite being on the verge of possibly defending the title more than any other heavyweight champion in UFC history, Miocic continues to work as a firefighter. Reportedly, he continues to commit the same amount of time that he did before ever wearing championship gold. While his work is commendable for a professional athlete of his caliber, it’s also an odd move on behalf of the UFC to not be vocally against it. For example, would they be as supportive if it were an asset like Max Holloway or Rose Namajunas who put their health at risk by participating in such an activity?
Regardless of how he is regarded outside the cage, there can be no question that he is the best heavyweight in the world inside of it. He is on a five-fight win-streak going back to 2015, recording finishes against the divisions elite. Each victory was made all the more impressive when considering how highly touted his foes were. Werdum was on a six-fight win streak when Miocic stopped him to win the title. Overeem was on a four-fight run when Miocic stopped him as well. Junior dos Santos was one of the few former heavyweight champions still active, but Miocic appeared to face little adversity in stopping the Brazilian powerhouse.
— The People's MMA 🦈 (@ThePeoplesMMA) December 21, 2017
Which brings us to his latest foe. Francis Ngannou is on a ten-fight win streak comprised of all finishes, none coming later than the second round. Furthermore, he has not lost a bout since his second professional fight back in 2013. While his performances are reminiscent of when Junior dos Santos blazed his way to the belt, he has done so with a brutality that has generated an excitement for this bout that we haven’t seen for a heavyweight title fight in several years.
The two have crushed the competition as if they are the metaphorical monsters of the division, as was brilliantly illustrated above by BossLogic. But, Ngannou carries the momentum of recording the consensus knockout of the year following his devastating finish of Alistair Overeem several weeks ago in December. Despite the conclusion being far from surprising, the manner in which he delivered the blow was so devastating that it has become the focus of the much-scrutinized promo leading up to UFC 220.
Ngannou has accomplished the incredible feat of breaking into the heavyweight title picture, and done so in electrifying style. However, he would only be the latest in the list of highly regarded opponents to step in front of champion Miocic. Stylistically, the bout figures to be a matter of which fighter leaves an opening first. Both Miocic and Ngannou will be looking to counter the other in the center of the Octagon or to pressure the other into the fence where they can easier cut off the cage and unload with combinations.
The only X-factors in the fight are Ngannou’s ground game and gas tank. He’s been in control of most of his bouts and recorded one submission on the ground. Miocic could look to tie up Ngannou against the fence where he can force “The Predator” to carry his weight and expend energy. He can also use the position to drag Ngannou to the ground and test his unknown prowess on the mat.
A victory for Miocic would put him in a league of his own in the heavyweight division. His resume alone would put him as arguably the best of all-time. The only opponent left is the specter of former champion Cain Velasquez, although Miocic would be heavily favored in such a contest at this stage. Ngannou would open the year with an upset of a dominant champion and would begin the difficult task of defending his throne with an iron fist.
There is always hyperbole in sports. But, the intrigue behind this spectacle is that the everyone involved knows that “Baddest Man Alive” is no exaggeration.