UFC 260: Previewing Stipe Miocic-Francis Ngannou 2 and Other Matches on the Card

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IMarch 23, 2021

UFC 260: Previewing Stipe Miocic-Francis Ngannou 2 and Other Matches on the Card

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    UFC 260, the promotion's second pay-per-view of the month, goes down Saturday in Las Vegas.

    The card will be headlined by an Octagon-shaking heavyweight title fight between champion Stipe Miocic, who is widely considered the greatest fighter in the division's history, and challenger Francis Ngannou, who is arguably the scariest fighter in combat sports.

    This UFC 260 headliner will mark the pair's second meeting. They first collided in the Octagon in January of 2018. Miocic won that fight by unanimous decision, but Ngannou has since reasserted himself as the division's top contender with a string of dazzling first-round knockouts. 

    The UFC 260 card was originally going to be co-headlined by a featherweight title fight between champion Alexander Volkanovski and challenger Brian Ortega, but that fight fell through because of COVID-19 protocols. 

    Thankfully, the card features a number of other compelling attractions to soften the blow, chief among them being a welterweight showdown between Tyron Woodley and Vicente Luque, and a bantamweight scrap between Sean O'Malley and Thomas Almeida. So, even after losing its original co-main event, UFC 260 looks like a must-watch for fight fans. 

    Here's everything you need to know about this compelling card out of Sin City.

UFC 260: Miocic vs. Ngannou Fight Card and Info

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    UFC 260 Main Card (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View)

    • Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou
    • Vicente Luque vs. Tyron Woodley
    • Thomas Almeida vs. Sean O’Malley
    • Jamie Mullarkey vs. Khama Worthy

    UFC 260 Prelims (8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN)

    • William Knight vs. Alonzo Menifield
    • Hannah Goldy vs. Jessica Penne
    • Jared Gooden vs. Abubakar Nurmagomedov

    UFC 260 Prelims (6:15 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

    • Modestas Bukauskas vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
    • Miranda Maverick vs. Gillian Robertson
    • Omar Morales vs. TBA
    • Abu Azaitar vs. Marc-Andre Barriault

Main Event: Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou

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    Stipe Miocic (20-3) has established himself as the heavyweight division's apex predator, but his place atop the food chain is far from safe—not as long as Francis Ngannou (15-3) is part of the ecosystem.

    As we discussed at the top of this article, Miocic has already successfully defended the heavyweight strap against Ngannou, defeating the hulking Cameroonian with a combination of takedowns and high-volume striking at UFC 220 in early 2018.

    Unfortunately for the champion, Ngannou has since reasserted himself as the division's top contender by doing what he does best: knocking people senseless.

    While Ngannou followed his loss to Miocic with a snooze-inducing decision setback against Derrick Lewis—a fight that saw the two knockout artists land just 31 combined strikes—he has been a juggernaut ever since. First, he bulldozed top-five contender Curtis Blaydes in 45 seconds. Then, he shut the lights out on former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in just 26 seconds. Next up, he took out another former champ in Junior dos Santos, this time in 71 seconds. That catches us up to his most recent win: a 20-second knockout victory over a top-five talent in Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

    To summarize, that's four first-round knockouts over a procession of top contenders and former champions—all in less than three minutes combined. It takes longer to cook a frozen pizza.

    Ngannou's recent blitzkriegs have been impressive enough to all but erase the memory of his hype-deflating losses to Miocic and Lewis and convince vast swaths of the MMA community that he's destined for gold. However, his meeting those expectations is far from certain. 

    The reality is that, while Ngannou has looked incredible in his last four fights, his wins have been so abrupt that he hasn't been able to show any real improvements to his game.

    Can he stop the Miocic takedowns that foiled his first bid at gold? Is he prepared to fight for five hard rounds if a quick knockout fails to materialize? Or will he once again wilt in the face of Miocic's wrestling, volume and cardio?

    These are the questions on the minds of fight fans everywhere ahead of UFC 260, and the questions that will be answered when these two are locked in the cage together in the card's main event.

Co-Main Event: Tyron Woodley vs. Vicente Luque

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    While this Woodley (19-6-1) vs. Luque (19-7-1) fight isn't quite as compelling as the Volkanovski vs. Ortega fight we lost, it's still an excellent fight and a hugely important one for the welterweight division.

    Woodley is the division's former champion. In fact, after winning the title with a first-round knockout win over Robbie Lawler in 2016 and defending it against Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, Demian Maia and Darren Till, he was beginning to develop a reputation as one of the best welterweights ever.

    Then came the fall from grace.

    After looking as dominant as ever in his title defense against Till—a submission win—Woodley was soundly beaten by Kamaru Usman, who still holds the division's title. He then experienced a similarly lopsided decision loss at the hands of Gilbert Burns before losing via TKO to Colby Covington in his most recent appearance. 

    Now on a tough, three-fight skid, Woodley is in desperate need of a win. Not only is his status as an elite welterweight in jeopardy, but his job with the UFC could be too. The promotion has recently been downsizing its roster, and several former champs have already found themselves on the chopping block. Unfortunately for Woodley, avoiding those outcomes means getting through Vicente Luque, one of the hottest young contenders in the welterweight division. 

    Luque, 29, has experienced losses to top-flight foes like Wonderboy and Leon Edwards, but he's looked incredible otherwise, picking up wins over notables like Belal Muhammad, Niko Price (twice), Mike Perry and Randy Brown.

    While Woodley actually has one fewer pro fight than Luque, make no mistake about it: he's representing the old guard in this veteran vs. prospect fight. Will his big-stage experience carry him to victory against his hungry young foe? Time will tell.

Fight to Keep an Eye On: Sean O'Malley vs. Thomas Almeida

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    The UFC 260 lineup features a number of interesting fights, but Sean O'Malley (12-1) and Thomas Almeida's (22-4) main card bantamweight scrap is clearly one of the best.

    Until recently, O'Malley was an unbeaten prospect and widely viewed as a future bantamweight title challenger—maybe even a future champ. Then he ran into Marlon "Chito" Vera.

    O'Malley and Vera met at UFC 252 in August. Despite entering the cage as a significant underdog, Vera banged up O'Malley's leg early and ultimately stopped him with a shower of first-round ground strikes.

    Since then, O'Malley has repeatedly suggested his loss to Vera was a fluke—the result of an unfortunate leg injury and nothing else. If he hopes to reassert himself as one of the brightest young stars in MMA, however, he needs a win—and those don't come easy against Almeida. 

    Like O'Malley, Almeida was once viewed as a future star at bantamweight. Some fans even expected him to win the belt. While his stock has taken a hit thanks to a series of recent losses and prolonged stretches of inactivity, he remains one of the most lethal finishers in the division.

    If O'Malley is anything short of perfect in this fight, he could be in for another rough night. 

Best of the Rest

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    William Knight vs. Alonzo Menifield 

    On the UFC 260 undercard, streaking light heavyweight prospect William Knight (9-1) will face the biggest test of his career against the slightly more established Alonzo Menifield (9-2). Both men entered the UFC through Dana White's Contender Series, and both possess ridiculous fight-ending power. All signs point to this one ending quickly, so don't blink.

                         

    Hannah Goldy vs. Jessica Penne 

    Jessica Penne (12-6) was once viewed as one of the best strawweights on Earth and even challenged Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the division's ultimate prize in 2015—though that fight certainly didn't go her way. Today, however, she's on a three-fight losing streak and riding a layoff of more than four years thanks to a long and complicated tie-up with the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

    On the UFC 260 undercard, Penne will finally return to the Octagon, where she'll look to get back on track against 28-year-old prospect Hannah Goldy (5-1). It's not the biggest fight on the card, but the storyline alone makes it an interesting one.

                          

    Abu Azaitar vs. Marc-Andre Barriault

    In the first bout of the UFC 260 undercard, German middleweight Abu Azaitar (14-2-1) will look to make it six wins in a row. Standing across from him will be Canada's Marc-Andre Barriault (11-4), who has flaunted some ridiculous power in previous fights and sharpens his weapons alongside Lethwei legend Dave Leduc. This one's not getting as much hype as the fights further up the card, but it's a definite frontrunner for Fight of the Night honors.