Being big is relevant again in fighting. Over the last year or so, both boxing and MMA have seen somewhat of a rebirth in the heavyweight divisions with Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Stipe Miocic rising through the ranks as the best in the world. And with top champions brings out some of the best competitors, and on Saturday night in Boston, Miocic will be the first to answer a truly tough test.
The current UFC heavyweight champion is set to take on perhaps the scariest puncher in MMA when he squares off against Francis Ngannou in the main event at TD Garden. Ngannou (11-1, 7 KOs) has won all five of his fights since joining the company and all coming via KO/TKO with none getting past the second round. His brutal knockout of top contender Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 might have been the most vicious knockout of the year.
But Miocic remains his calm and collected self ahead of his newest challenge. Miocic (17-2, 13 KOs) is also on a five-fight knockout streak and sits just one win short of being the longest reigning heavyweight champion in company history.
"I'm so used to it by now," Miocic said during his open workout on Wednesday. "I love being the underdog because I shut everyone up. That's what this sport's all about -- it's like 'The Jerry Springer Show' … I'm walking out 'and still.' No one (else) is going to be champion until I leave.
"I'm going to go out there and do my job. That's what I do every time. I know he's a big, tough guy, and he hits hard, but so do I. I pack a little punch. I might be smaller than him, but it's all good."
Not to be outdone, but light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is set to defend the title he was granted back after Jon Jones failed a drug test after their fight last summer. He faces one of the fastest rising stars in the company in Volkan Oezdemir.
It's a loaded card to say the least, so let's check out the full card, including prelims, ahead of UFC 220 with the latest odds from Bovada.
UFC 220 fight card
Francis Ngannou -175
Stipe Miocic (c) +145
Daniel Cormier (c) -335
Volkan Oezdemir +255
Shane Burgos -200
Calvin Kattar +160
Gian Villante -170
Francimar Barroso +140
Thomas Almeida -120
Rob Font -110
|Brandon Davis -135|| Kyle Bochniak +105||Featherweight|
| Abdul Razak Alhassan -225||Sabah Homasi +175||Welterweight|
|Alexandre Pantoja -145|| Dustin Ortiz +115||Flyweight|
| Julio Arce -150||Dan Ige +120||Featherweight|
| Enrique Barzola -225||Matt Bessette +175||Featherweight|
|Islam Makhachev -240||Gleison Tibau +190||Lightweight|
With a big card on tap, our experts took a crack at picking each of the main card fights. Here are your pick makers: Brian Campbell (combat sports writer), Matthew Coca (producer), Michael Mormile (producer), Jack Jorgensen (editor) and Brandon Wise (editor).
Miocic (c) vs. Ngannou
Cormier (c) vs. Oezdemir
Burgos vs. Kattar
Villante vs. Barroso
|Almeida vs. Font||Almeida||Almeida||Almeida||Almeida||Almeida|
Campbell on why Ngannou will win: There are plenty of reasons not to give in to the intoxication that is Francis Ngannou's hype. The raw slugger made his UFC debut just two years ago and has yet to fight past the second round. He has also yet to fully prove he is comfortable on the ground or in any situation that doesn't involve him turning out the lights of his opponents. Let's not forget that Stipe Miocic is battle-tested and dangerously powerful in his own right. But this is still heavyweight mixed martial arts, where the unproven hot hand can stay hot if he can keep landing that fight-altering blow. Until someone proves they can disarm the hulking Ngannou or test his cardio to levels not yet seen, the hype is justified. Ngannou is a next-level type of scary human being who has been installed as the betting favorite for a reason.
Mormile on why Miocic will win: It's a five-round fight for a reason, and Ngannou hasn't gone past two rounds in his pro MMA career. I think Miocic will be able to stay out of Ngannou's reach, and drag him into deep water. The second note that got me was Ngannou's wins in his last three are definitely his most notable, but if you take a deeper look, all three fighters combined for a 3-6 record in their last three fights. I think it might be too much too soon for the knockout artist.
Coca on why Cormier will win: No matter how you look at it, the only person that can beat DC is Jon Jones. It's that simple. If not for Jones, Cormier would likely be the greatest light heavyweight fighter in MMA history. The two fighters who have given DC the biggest trouble inside the Octagon were "Bones" and Alexander Gustafsson because of their height. Oezdemir doesn't have that going for him. Look for DC to go back to rely on his wrestling and get the fight to the ground. If he gets Oezdemir down, the fight's over.
Wise on why Oezdemir will win: Ever since his shocking stoppage of Misha Cirkunov, I have been on the Oezdemir train. Whenever he is able to get within range of his opponents, they suddenly collapse from his powerful punches. It is almost a story out of fiction, but the power he currently possesses is almost unheard of in the sport. Expect Oezdemir to put the pressure on Cormier as soon as he can to finish this fight off before it gets into the later rounds where DC is known for grinding out victories on the ground.