Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier will battle for the title of Baddest Man on the Planet in the main event of UFC 226 July 7 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The historic matchup of the heavyweight champion and the light heavyweight champion is a true superfight, which has been a rarity of late. On one hand you have the most successful heavyweight champion of all time, with three title defenses to his name. On the other, you have the man who moved down to light heavyweight after almost five years as an undefeated heavyweight.
It's the kind of fight that gets debated in bars across the country, but it will now be settled in the Octagon.
The heavyweight appetizer leading up to the main course should be delicious as well. Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou will meet up in the co-main event in a collision of knockout artists.
It all caps a night of solid bouts, with plenty of fighters looking to take the next step in their quest for UFC gold.
Here's a look at the evening's schedule, along with some of the biggest questions that will be answered throughout the event.
Odds via OddsShark in moneyline form (+110 wins $110 on a $100 bet)
Main Card (10 p.m. ET, PPV)
- Stipe Miocic (-210) vs. Daniel Cormier (+170), heavyweight championship fight
- Derrick Lewis (+270) vs. Francis Ngannou (-360), heavyweight
- Paul Felder (-160) vs. Mike Perry (+130), welterweight
- Michael Chiesa (-160) vs. Anthony Pettis (+130), lightweight
- Gokhan Saki (-140) vs. Khalil Rountree (+110), light heavyweight
Preliminary Card (8 p.m. ET, FS1)
- Uriah Hall (+300) vs. Paulo Henrique Costa (-400), middleweight
- Raphael Assuncao (-165) vs. Rob Font (+135), bantamweight
- Drakkar Klose (+150) vs. Lando Vannata (-185), lightweight
- Max Griffin (+150) vs. Curtis Millender (-185), welterweight
Preliminary Card (7 p.m. ET, Fight Pass)
- Daniel Hooker (-135) vs. Gilbert Burns (+105), lightweight
- Jamie Moyle (-200) vs. Emily Whitmire (+160), women's strawweight
Can Stipe Miocic Negate Daniel Cormier's Wrestling?
Throughout his heavyweight career, Stipe Miocic has put away elite strikers and heavy hitters. Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski have found out the champion's boxing difficult to beat.
The one area he hasn't really been challenged in is wrestling.
Here's the list of Miocic's six wins since losing to Junior dos Santos in 2014:
- Mark Hunt—fifth-round TKO
- Andrei Arlovski—first-round TKO
- Fabricio Werdum—first-round TKO
- Alistair Overeem—first-round TKO
- Junior dos Santos—first-round TKO
- Francis Ngannou—unanimous decision
That's essentially a list of five strikers and a jiu-jitsu ace (Werdum) who chose to run face-first into a Miocic counter before ever plying his grappling trade in that bout.
That will change when Miocic steps into the Octagon with Cormier. DC is a former Olympic wrestler who has successfully brought his clinch game and takedowns to MMA. He's a relentless distance-closer and is more than willing to play a game of attrition.
The deciding factor in this fight is going to be what happens in the distance Cormier covers to get into clinching distance. At 5'11" he'll be giving five inches to his opponent in height, while Miocic has an eight-inch reach advantage.
If Cormier is able to safely cover that distance, this fight is going to get interesting.
That's tricky against one of the best counter-punchers in the division, though. Miocic can be pinpoint accurate with his boxing, and that's how this fight could be won for the heavyweight.
If he can control the distance and land big counters to Cormier's clinch attempts, the champion will retain.
Prediction: Miocic via third-round TKO
Is Francis Ngannou Still the Future of the Heavyweight Division?
The last man to try to pry the title away from Stipe Miocic's hands was Francis Ngannou.
The hype backing the Cameroon native's ascent to the top of the contender list made him a -175 favorite, according to OddsShark.
It didn't take long for Miocic to make those odds look silly, though. The champion went to work with a takedown-heavy game plan, and it soon became clear there were holes in Ngannou's game that were ready to be exploited.
The result was a lopsided decision loss for The Predator.
Now Ngannou will look to gain back some of that momentum. This time he feels like he can apply some things he learned about himself.
"Instead of going forward, we will be smarter and go back to the Francis before the last fight," he told MMAJunkkie. "Watch my opponent, leave it, come to me, and as soon as he gives me the opportunity, I take it."
The impressive thing about Ngannou before his fight with Miocic was just how quickly he adapted and grew from fight to fight. The first loss on the big stage can have a psychological impact on a relatively young fighter, so whether he still has the confidence to capitalize on opportunities will be worth watching here.
If he does, the hype for Ngannou to get another crack at the champion will be back shortly.
Prediction: Ngannou via first-round TKO
Is Gokhan Saki the Real Deal?
Kicking off the pay-per-view portion of the card is a potential Fight of the Night candidate in Gokhan Saki vs. Khalil Rountree.
Saki is making just his second appearance in the Octagon. He started fighting in MMA after a lengthy, decorated career in both Glory and K-1 kickboxing.
The 34-year-old made waves in his UFC debut, knocking out Henrique de Silva during a wild, fast-paced first round.
Now he'll take on uber-athletic prospect Khalil Rountree in what should be an exciting bout. Rountree typically likes to wait on his opponent and counter, and the approach has netted him knockout wins over Andrew Craig and Daniel Jolly.
He likely won't have to wait long for Saki to engage. He's a high-output striker who firmly believes that Rountree isn't on his level in striking.
"For me, he doesn't bring anything to the table," Saki told MMAjunkie. "Nothing special. So there is no seat for him here next to me. It's only me."
The light heavyweight division is in need of new talent. Rountree has shown that he's a questionable commodity. He has a 2-3 record in the cage if you include his latest decision loss against Michael Oleksiejczuk, which was overturned after Oleksijczuk tested positive for a banned substance.
However, if Saki can put on a show to open up the card, the division will have a new name to throw into some entertaining action fights and potentially even more down the line.
Prediction: Saki via first-round TKO