The Complete Guide to UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou
If 2017's somewhat lackluster slate of UFC pay-per-view events put you in a fugue state, the way UFC is kicking off 2018 might be the perfect salve.
UFC 220 Saturday night features not just one but two title fights. And they aren't just any title fights; they are in the top two weight classes in the UFC. On top of that, the main event features one of the UFC's biggest potential stars challenging for the heavyweight championship, which also means he's challenging for the title of Baddest Man on the Planet.
Let's run down the entire card, from Fight Pass prelims to the main event.
Fight Pass Prelims
Gleison Tibau (33-12) vs. Islam Makhachev (14-1)
Gleison Tibau, somehow, is only 34. This seems impossible. He has been in the UFC for 12 years—the man made his debut way back in 2006. And it was against Nick Diaz, of all people. It seems like Tibau's more accurate age is, like, 44. But here we are.
In this fight, Tibau is a gatekeeper, and never have the UFC's intentions been more obvious. Tibau is coming off two straight losses, while Makhachev is 14-1 and is coming off a win over Nik Lentz. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a setup fight to boost Makhachev to the next level, and that's exactly what will happen.
Makhachev by decision.
Matt Bessette (22-7) vs. Enrique Barzola (13-3-1)
This was supposed to be Arnold Allen vs. Enrique Barzola, but Allen had some visa issues and Bessette replaced him on short notice. Bessette, a former Bellator veteran, got his shot at the UFC via Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series on Fight Pass last summer but was knocked out by Kurt Holobaugh. But Holobaugh used an IV and was caught, which is a no-no in today's MMA world. Therefore, it's like Bessette never lost the fight. And so here he is, in the UFC.
It may be a short run. It's likely Barzola keeps him on his back and does quite a bit of damage here.
Bessette by decision.
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)
Dan Ige (8-1) vs. Julio Arce (13-2)
Hawaii has been on a roll lately in the Octagon, and Dan Ige looks set to continue the trend.
Both of these men fought their way into the UFC via Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. Ige has won more than half of his fights by submission, while Julio Arce is a better striker by some margin.
This is a closer fight than many predict it will be, and it won't go to a finish. Ige takes home the decision in a close and possibly boring fight.
Ige by decision.
Dustin Ortiz (17-7) vs. Alexandre Pantoja (18-2)
This is a fight between flyweights on the margins. Neither is remotely considered a contender, but in a division as Mighty Mouse-depleted as flyweight, all it takes is a couple of emphatic wins to put you right into the mix. Dustin Ortiz got just such a win in August with his 15-second knockout of Team Alpha Male's Hector Sandoval; Alexandre Pantoja is coming off consecutive wins, including his most recent over the grizzled Neil Seery.
Expect lots of scrambling here as both fighters engage in a razor-thin battle to the final bell.
Pantoja by decision.
Abdul Razak Alhassan (8-1) vs. Sabah Homasi (11-7)
Abdul Razak Alhassan ran off a streak of seven consecutive knockouts to start his pro career until running into a split-decision loss to Omari Akhmedov last May. The Ghanaian striker picked up where he left off with a TKO win over Sabah Homasi in December, but a weird and awkward stoppage led them here, little more than a month later, to a rematch.
Truth be told, this will look a whole lot like the last time around, except it won't be a contested stoppage.
Alhassan by KO.
Kyle Bochniak (7-2) vs. Brandon Davis (8-2)
This one is weird. Kyle Bochniak is likely in a loser-leaves-town fight, as he's barely scraped by in the UFC and was on the receiving end of a gifted decision against Barzola in August 2016. Brandon Davis is looking for an effective and successful UFC debut, and he will get it done.
Bochniak by decision.
Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font
Thomas Almeida (21-2) vs. Rob Font (14-3)
Remember Thomas Almeida was the next big thing at bantamweight? That didn't pan out quite the way we expected. He's lost two of his past three fights; that the losses were to Cody Garbrandt and Jimmie Rivera is of some consolation, at least.
Rob Font and Almeida are both exciting fighters, which makes this a smart kick-off fight for the event. It will likely set a violent tone.
Almeida by TKO.
Gian Villante vs. Francimar Barroso
Gian Villante (15-9) vs. Francimar Barroso (19-6)
Gian Villante has a 5-6 record with the UFC, which leads me to wonder how he's still with the promotion. But he's been fortunate enough to avoid stringing together the kind of losing streak that leads to being cut; as long as you're alternating wins and losses, chances are good that you will be fine.
Villante is facing Francimar Barroso, another middling light heavyweight with a less than spectacular record. This bout is what they call a nothingburger; it's a fight, and nothing more. There's no reason to care, it's not likely to be exciting and it's probably going to a decision.
Villante by TKO.
Calvin Kattar vs. Shane Burgos
Calvin Kattar (17-2) vs. Shane Burgos (10-0)
This is more like it. Calvin Kattar and Shane Burgos don't have the kind of name value usually required for placement on a UFC pay per view card. But they are elite fighters and potential featherweight contenders, and this is the kind of high-visibility contest that will help push the winner to the next level with a great performance.
Kattar stepped in on short notice to fight Andre Fili in July and took home the biggest win of his career. Now, The Boston Finisher has a fight in front of his hometown fans, and he's taking on a New York native in Burgos. If there's one thing we know about fans in Boston, it's that they are forgiving and accepting of New Yorkers.
This one should be heated and is the pick for Fight of the Night. Burgos goes in and beats the hometown kid to keep his undefeated record.
Burgos by decision.
Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Light Heavyweight Championship
Daniel Cormier (19-1) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (15-1)
That Volkan Oezdemir was able to waltz into a title fight here is a testament to the thin nature of the UFC light heavyweight division. With Jon Jones in purgatory and Alexander Gustafsson recovering from injury, Oezdemir is the only option for Daniel Cormier's next title defense.
Plus, Oezdemir has that cute "time" gimmick; it hasn't exactly caught on like wildfire, but it's OK. The biggest thing here is the major difference between Cormier's 19-1 record and Oezdemir's 15-1 record, which isn't limited to the number of fights. Cormier has consistently fought the best fighters in the sport, and outside of losing to Jon Jones, nobody has been able to beat him. Heck, nobody else but Gustafsson has even come close, and that was still a fairly sizable win for Cormier.
Oezdemir is a serviceable fighter, but this is plainly an opportunity for Cormier to get back to his winning ways and solidify his reign with the title that was returned to him after the whole Jones fiasco last summer. He'll walk through Oezdemir with ease.
Cormier by submission.
Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou
Stipe Miocic (17-2) vs. Francis Ngannou (11-1)
Francis Ngannou is the scariest dude in the UFC. He's a contender for scariest dude on the planet.
Can you believe it was as recently as December that we saw Ngannou dispatch Alistair Overeem's soul from this mortal coil? Now he's here, challenging Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title and the moniker of Baddest Man on the Planet.
It would be easy to get caught up in the Ngannou hype train. But it's easy to envision a path to victory for the challenger: punching Miocic in the face and melting him to the canvas. That outcome wouldn't surprise anyone. But Miocic is so much better than we give him credit for. He's a fantastic boxer, a great wrestler and not the kind of guy who's going to get arrogant enough to leave his chin where Ngannou can crush it.
Simply put, the champion is the better all-around fighter; we haven't seen much of Ngannou outside of his soul-destroying punching power.
This is the best UFC heavyweight title fight since Cain Velasquez faced Junior dos Santos on the first UFC on Fox card in 2011. Miocic and Ngannou will end up fighting each other more than one time, and they are likely to trade the title back and forth. It starts here, and that's not because Ngannou is better at Miopic at anything except pure punching power. It's just the nature of heavyweight fights; the first big punch landed is often the last punch landed.
Ngannou survives Miocic on top of him in the first round and knocks out the champion in the second.
Ngannou by KO.