On the eve of NFL conference championship Sunday, MMA set the tone from the nation’s two biggest promotions delivering spectacular and record-breaking performances. UFC 220 broadcasted lived on PPV in Boston, Massachusetts, was headlined by two title fights in the promotion’s heaviest two weight classes. Bellator 192 in Los Angeles, California, was highlighted by a welterweight title fight along with the opening leg of the 2018 heavyweight Grand Prix.
Let’s start by recapping UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou.
Cleveland’s finest and heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic, answered the bell against MMA’s biggest hype train since Conor McGregor and he lost a lot of people some money tonight while doing so. Oddly, Miocic was the underdog coming into the fight. The challenger,
The challenger Francis Ngannou, is a Cameroonian native by way of Paris, France, had a fast track to his title fight. Ngannou fought just five weeks ago against all-time striking great, Alistair Overeem, winning in an explosive fashion that was likely the KO of 2017.
Make no mistake, Stipe Miocic is the champ for a reason. Miocic has now defended his title successfully in a row more than any other heavyweight in history making the UFC 220 performance his third successful defense. The game plan for the champ was to keep the distance tight, press the action up against the cage, and take the fight to the ground and Miocic did just that in exemplary fashion. He flat-out dominated and outclassed Ngannou; including an more than an 80 to zero strike ratio effort in the 4th round.
Miocic’s domination begs the question: do they have cardio equipment at the UFC Performance Facility in Vegas? Much less qualified wrestling coaches? Ngannou looked nearly Dada 5000 vs Kimbo level gassed after the first round and he proceeded to get absolutely rag-dolled by Miocic for four more rounds. Miocic was able to withstand a very evenly exchanged first round that dealt a lot of punishment to both fighters, but the fireman’s granite chin and iron-lung endurance allowed him to take Ngannou to uncharted territory and drug him into deep water. By the time the 5th round started, the champ had worn out the challenger by using his expert-level wrestling to pace the action so much that Ngannou could barely lift his arms.
To close the fight, Ngannou looked like he had recharged to explode with about :20 left, but the seasoned veteran, Miocic, wisely clinched the Cameroonian phenom to ride the bout out to the final bell for the unanimous decision.
Moving on to the UFC Light Heavyweight title fight, champion Daniel “DC” Cormier returned to action in his first fight since getting KO’d against former champion Jon Jones; a bout that was later ruled a no contest following Jones failed drug test.
DC outclassed challenger Volkan Oezdemir. Traditionally speaking (though that seems to matter less and less after the company sold for $4 billion to WME-IMG), Volkan had no place in that fight with DC and at no point in the fight did he present any resemblance of a serious threat to champ and his strap as DC had no time for his opponent dubbed “No Time”. However, let it be noted that he did have a meteoric rise filled with four fights in 2017 highlighted by a show-stealing knockout against Jimi Manuwa back at UFC 214 in July. Don’t let tonight fool you. Volkan is the future of this division and his time will come — his time is just not now. He’s only 28, folks. DC is 38. Cormier out struck the Swiss KO artist and then used his Olympic-level wrestling skill-set to ground and pound Oezdemir. The contest was stopped by the referee at the 3:00 mark in the 2nd round due via TKO by Cormier after a slew of punches were delivered in the crucifix.
DC for so long has so much been the guy that you love to hate, and full disclosure, I’ve never been a big fan and at times an outright hater especially following the Jon Jones saga. Cormier is that damn good though, he really is. He’s one of the best light heavyweights ever in the sport and has triumphed in victory against every challenger not named Jon Jones. However, with Jones out of the picture for the foreseeable future and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson’s retirement following his second loss to Cormier, the light heavyweight is as empty of a cabinet for quality challengers as it gets.
It is crazy to believe how unfortunately bleak the list of future opponents for the champ within the division is, considering this is the division that once oozed talent and boasted the likes of all-time greats and Hall of Famers such as “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, Rampage Jackson, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, “Suga” Rashad Evans, “The Natural” Randy Couture, and many more. It will be interesting to see in the following weeks what is next for 205 lb. champ.
Given his announcement in the post fight show, UFC President Dana White concurs with my assessment. How? White mentioned a possible match-up between DC and Miocic, but DC shied away at that potential opportunity despite his well-known battle with cutting weight (Olympics, Towelgate, etc.). Cormier also responded to the potential super fight rumors by saying he has a hard time seeing himself obliging since his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Cain Velasquez has been in the gym more and more following his recovery from injury. DC originally moved to the light heavyweight class in recognition of his friend and teammate, Velasquez, who is also widely recognized as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time. It has been recently rumored that Velasquez will be making his long awaited return to the octagon in 2018 with his sights set on reigning champion Stipe Miocic for what on paper could be one of the biggest clashes of heavyweight titans in the history of the UFC.
It was a great night for the Boston fighters with everyone bringing home a victory, two of which by finish in a deciding fashion and presenting their case for the KO of the night bonus purse. The underdog Rob Font showed out in front of his hometown crowd with a barrage of strikes that had Thomas Almeida in trouble all night. Almeida has not looked like the same fighter since he lost by KO to Cody “No Love” Garbrandt back in 2016; Almeida has now dropped three of his last four contests and is currently on a two fight losing streak.
Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar put on a performance that displayed crisp boxing combinations, timely head-movement, and precise footwork working in and out of exchanges with his opponent, Shane Burgos. Burgos and Kattar gave fans an exciting performance with both fighters looking very comfortable in the pocket trading punches. Burgos landed more total strikes and more significant strikes than Kattar, but Kattar was able to find the mark in the 3rd round and sent Burgos buckling to the canvas. On the eve of the NFL AFC Championship, the New England Patriots love was in full effect with Kattar citing his support for TB12 in the post fight conference and adding that he will be glad to indulge in some wings now that he is no longer dieting.