Francis Ngannou's coronation as the UFC's next big thing will to have to wait. Stipe Miocic delayed that with a convincing unanimous-decision win to defend his title in UFC 220's main event Saturday in Boston's TD Garden.
MMA Fighting passed along the scorecards:
Miocic came out looking to employ a heavy wrestling strategy, attempting multiple single-leg takedowns while making Ngannou miss. Once the challenger created space, he took to swinging wildly but couldn't connect.
Miocic made Ngannou pay for the wild strikes with crisp counters. The UFC passed along some of the Round 1 highlights:
The most dominant portion of the frame came when Miocic secured a takedown. He held a tired Ngannou down, flattened him out and landed hard shots.
The second round was more of the same. The fighters' experience difference was evident as Miocic imposed his will on the feet and mat. Ben Fowlkes of MMAjunkie noted the lopsided affair:
Ngannou found a brief moment of life in the third round. He connected with a powerful punch, but the champion followed with a successful takedown, and the process repeated itself. As Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting noted, Miocic's ability to win in tight spaces was the difference:
The champion's ground skills were on point in the fourth round. He took Ngannou down and went to work on delivering punishment throughout the frame. As Yahoo's Kevin Iole pointed out, it led to a vast differential in ground strikes:
The fifth round was nothing more than a formality as neither fighter put up much resistance. A tired Miocic spent much of the round leaning on the challenger to cement a clean sweep and defend his belt.
Miocic is now the most successful heavyweight champion in the history of the promotion. In a division marked by its unpredictability and massive power, Miocic has successfully defended his title three times since winning it with a first-round knockout of Fabricio Werdum in May 2016.
The Ohio native hasn't been given the biggest spotlight, but he's delivered as champion. According to OddsShark, he wasn't the favorite to win, but he handed the 31-year-old Ngannou his first UFC defeat.
It's just the latest in a string of impressive wins for the champion. He brought a five-fight victory streak into this fight with all coming by knockout. Still, he doesn't feel like he's getting the promotion or respect he deserves.
"I feel like they don't want me to win; they want him to win," Miocic said regarding the hyped Ngannou, per Mike Bohn of Rolling Stone. "They don't talk about everything I've done, but I'm not going to dwell on it or get upset about it. I don't care. I'm going to go in there and prove everyone and get my hand raised and it's going to be 'And Still.'"
Now, the champ has heard the phrase more than any other champion in the division.
It's a streak he might be able to continue, though there aren't many options left for Miocic to defend his belt against.
The top five outside of Miocic and Ngannou is thin. Miocic already beat Alistair Overeem. Fabricio Werdum is 40 years old, and Cain Velasquez hasn't fought since July 2016.
It also puts a pin in the idea that Ngannou is the next big thing in the division...for now.
The Cameroonian-French fighter's rags-to-riches story is well-known. Within the last five years he has gone from homeless to fighting for a world title, but that feel-good story didn't end with a belt around his waist.
With that rapid of a learning curve, his future is still bright. For now, it's still Miocic's division.