UFC 260: Who Will Reign Supreme Between Miocic and Ngannou?

Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou, UFC 260 face-off
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 25: (L-R) Opponents Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou of Cameroon face off during the UFC 260 press conference at UFC APEX on March 25, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The two best heavyweights in the world today will collide as champion Stipe Miocic looks to turn away premiere knockout artist Francis Ngannou again at UFC 260.

Has there ever been a champion quite like Stipe Miocic?  He has eliminated the best of an era with finishes of Daniel Cormier, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, and Andrei Arlovski.  Along the way, he set the record for most consecutive title defenses by a UFC heavyweight champion.  All this, and he continues to work as a firefighter in his home of Cleveland, Ohio (as he has for over 10 years) as well as grow his gaming community on Twitch.  For all the attention and changes being a celebrity has brought him, his occupation continues to keep him as a humble man of the people.

It begs the question, what is there left for Miocic to achieve?  If it is a fistful of ruby red gems for his UFC title belt, then there are plenty who would willingly help him in return for a chance to topple him from the throne.  Beyond Ngannou, names like Derrick Lewis, Alexander Volkov, and Curtis Blaydes all have cases for a shot the title.  Of course, the shadow of pound-for-pound great Jon Jones looms over Saturday’s contest.  With a resume unlike any of Jones’ previous opponents, a showdown between the two is amongst the biggest that can be made in the sport today.

Similar things can be said for title challenger Francis Ngannou.  “The Predator” has delivered on the promise he showed from the early days of his UFC career to become arguably the most feared knockout artist in the history of mixed martial arts.  In the last two years alone, he has needed less than a round to defeat former champions Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and top contenders Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.  In the world of MMA, his name in today’s game is as respected as any contender.  The only thing missing is a victory in a mainstream high profile fight to propel him to similar heights as boxing’s knockout artist Deontay Wilder after he faced Tyson Fury for the first time.

Nostalgia is one of the most insurmountable opponents an athlete can deal with.  LeBron James’ GOAT status is always competing against the numbers and aura of Michael Jordan, and so on and so forth.  The promotional machine often promotes Ngannou as the Mike Tyson of today’s MMA.  The Cameroonian does not play into such a notion, but he has taken the steps to build his brand in today’s increasingly digital world.  Since his last shot at the title, he has not only continued to perform in the cage but also made the rounds on social media.  Not the least of which taking body shots from the likes of featherweight contender Dan Ige and Ryan Garcia.  It is a tall order, but Ngannou is positioned for historical ascension to the championship level like few others.  Should he manage to turn away Miocic and Jon Jones back-to-back, a Fighter of the Year award would be a lock regardless of anything else that happens in the lower weight classes.

Common sense would dictate that a short fight will see Ngannou claim gold, but Miocic has criminally underrated abilities to finish fights early as well.  Assuming the fight becomes a longer test of skills and wills, Miocic has proven his output and gas tank across five rounds.  Should he remain disciplined with his defense, it is expected that he will be able to outmaneuver the challenger for the victory.  Ngannou’s gas tank has not been pushed since the last fight with Miocic.  To be frank, he has not needed to be tested after dispatching recent opponents in the opening minutes.  Assuming the fight goes longer, it is expected Ngannou will choose his moments to surge forward and look to counter-punch Miocic in exchanges as to not lose too much of his explosiveness early.

The winner on Saturday is expected to face Jon Jones in their next outing, with a summer collision likely being the hope of the UFC and the former light heavyweight champion.  Should Jones be unable to make it to the fight for any reason, it is expected that surging contender Derrick Lewis will likely step in.