UFC 220

Miocic x Ngannou / Cormier x Oezdemir

Picks, Pahhlays, and Predictions

Top Heavy Cahhd in the Gahhden

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PICKS

Ngannou x Miocic
Cormier x Oezdemir
Burgos x Kattar
Villante x Barroso
Font x Almedia
Alhassan x Homasi
Ortiz x Pantoja
Bessette x Barzola
Makhachev x Tibau

PAHHLAYS

“More Than a Feeling” EDITION
Ngannou (-180)
Cormier (-300)
Burgos (-150)
Ortiz (+145)
$2.19 to win $16.36

“Wicked Smahht” EDITION
Barroso (+155)
Font (+100)
Homasi (+196)
$2.19 to win $30.87

PREDICTIONS

Big Boys in Beantown

Stipe Miocic x Francis Ngannou for the Heavyweight Championship

Heavyweight is MMAs most fickle division. Champions have a hard time hanging on to the belt because most humans have a hard time recovering from a flush punch delivered by a 265 pound man. Only five fighters in the past 11 years have managed to defend this belt more than once. The current champ, Stipe Miocic, is one of them. Unbeaten since 2015, Stipe is known for his wild back-and-forth brawls that usually end in a matter of minutes. He’s currently tied the record for heavyweight title defenses at two, and, as history has shown, this third defense probably won’t be a walk in the park.

Francis Ngannou is, in every way possible, heavyweight’s next big thing. Sporting a statuesque physique and freakish power, the Cameroon native has been impossible to ignore. Despite only training in the sport for the last five years, Ngannou has a perfect 6-0 record in the UFC and has only tasted defeat once, via decision, early in his career. His latest pair of knockout wins, over heavyweight greats Arlovski and Overeem, were especially stomach churning. Both of them were dispatched in a combined three minutes. If you get hit by Francis, you’re going to get hurt by Francis. His name is by far his least intimidating quality. With a limited training background he’s managed to stop all of his recent opposition and two of the very best in the weight class.

Stipe Miocic’s grit, determination, and uncanny similarity to Al Bundy have won over the majority of MMA fans. For comparison’s sake, Miocic was also able to dispatch of both Arlovski and Overeem with first round finishes. His boxing is sharp and the champ has shown impressive power, especially when he knocked out Werdum while moving backwards. Stipe is also a former NCAA Division I wrestler, which has afforded him options in a division filled with heavy hitters. Most heavyweights don’t work well off their back and Miocic has the ability to put them there. The part-time firefighter entered the UFC way back in 2011 and has battled his way past a veritable who’s who of big-name fighters.

Dissecting a heavyweight matchup is messy. Very few fighters in this weight class have a diverse set of skills and it usually comes down to who is able to implement their gameplan first. Or who hits the other guy in the face first. In this scenario, Stipe wins points for durability. We’ve seen him dropped and recover, we’ve seen him escape moderately dangerous submission attempts, and he’s been an underdog in just about every fight he’s been in. This match is no different. Even with the belt around his waist, oddsmakers love to count Miocic out. Even if they’re constantly proven wrong. Considering his opposition this time, the trepidation is warranted. Ngannou is new but not unproven.

Francis’ toughest fight in the UFC was against Curtis Blaydes in 2016. Although he ultimately ended the fight via doctor’s stoppage, Ngannou had issues navigating past Blaydes’ stiff jab, was taken down more than once, and started to fade heavily in the second round. We’ve seen Miocic go a full five rounds and exploiting his opponents cardio may be the most obvious path to victory – especially when he has a solid jab/single leg of his own. That is, of course, if he can survive the early onslaught. The freakishly long forearms of Ngannou make judging distance a dangerous task and, as we’ve all seen, it only takes one mistake to end the night.

While the champion packs a punch, I don’t think he wants to roll the dice on the feet. Putting Francis on his back instantly takes away everything that makes him so terrifying. If Stipe is able to wrestle Ngannou to the ground, he wins. Zapping the challenger’s energy should be the priority. There’s no way Francis has been able to put enough hours into grappling to be a threat on the mat. If it stays standing, which it probably will, I put all my chips on Ngannou. In a heartbeat. Stipe has solid offensive boxing but his defense often looks careless. In almost every exchange, you can find Miocic’s chin hanging out in the breeze. With a win, Stipe becomes the greatest heavyweight champ of all time. If Ngannou takes it, the UFC marketing machine will get kicked into high gear to promote their new muscle-bound heavyweight monster. The organization wins either way, as usual. I’m pulling for Stipe because in MMA you don’t always want to see the bigger guy win. In some ways that’s the whole point. Fortunately, it wouldn’t be an impossible feat on Saturday night. Just not at the measly +140 odds. Ngannou is my official pick because of the nature of heavyweight. He’s the definition of dangerous and Miocic loves to throw caution to the wind.

 

Daniel Cormier x Volkan Oezdemir for the Light Heavyweight Championship

Light heavyweight is in a sad state and it’s all Jon Jones’ fault. For the last three years, the top ten has been a jumble of the same up-and-down competitors, except for two staples. Jon Jones was the champ, even if he wasn’t around, and Daniel Cormier was the number one contender. New talent has been few and far between and the tumultuous relationship between Jones, Cormier, and USADA has left fans frustrated. Currently, we have a champ that we’ve seen lose the belt twice to a man who has been suspended for multiple doping violations. Technically, that means Cormier is the best we have. The problem is we know him as second best. It can be surprisingly hard to root for a champion who, in his last outing, lost the belt.

Fans have always had a hard time getting behind Daniel Cormier. Even worse, there’s nothing not to like about him. He’s funny, he’s endearing, he’s a family man, he’s got a personality, he works hard, he can cut a promo, and he’s incredibly talented. He might as well be bulletproof. As a NCAA Division I All American who competed in the Olympics, Cormier’s wrestling pedigree is unmatched. It was also enough to negate a significant size advantage when he fought at heavyweight, winning titles in two smaller organizations and taking the Strikeforce grand prix in 2012. His illustrious MMA career has only two blemishes – both to the aforementioned Jon Jones, who turned out to be a scum-of-the-earth cheater who was juiced to the gills. Cormier has done more than enough to prove he can throw bombs with the best of them and out-grapple anyone on this planet.

If you missed a handful of events in 2017, you probably missed the rise of Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir. Don’t worry, I’ll give you the highlights. Swiss? Like an army knife! Upper body? Too much! Time? None! Last February, Volkan made his first appearance as a late replacement against Ovince St. Preux. OSP was was ranked #7 at the time and on two weeks notice Oezdemir was able to walk away with a split decision win. In the following five months, the former Bellator competitor beat two more top-ranked light heavyweights in the UFC. Not just beat them, but brutally knocked them out in under a minute. Check those fights out – the finishes are bizarre. The shots that put the lights out look like light taps. Boops. Some sort of Volkan nerve pinch, maybe. His run has been impressive all the way through, but quick finishes leave room for a lot of questions.

I’ll keep it simple. By no means should Daniel Cormier lose. In the clinch, Volkan usually finds a way to do damage, but Cormier has literally spent hours there as a Greco-Roman wrestler. No way the challenger could even pretend to grapple with the champ. Those dreaded boops are the biggest X factor. How hard could Volkan possibly punch? Considering Cormier’s former stint as a heavyweight, I’m going to say not hard enough. Don’t get me wrong, the Swiss man has undeniably earned his shot. I’m a fan of his tight kickboxing combos and I love the fact that he came out of nowhere, but there’s no way he has the composure to go five rounds with a veteran. You know who else was a powerful striker? Anthony Johnson. Cormier finished him twice. It’s been fun, but Volkan isn’t showing up with anything DC hasn’t seen. I predict the champ takes him out within three rounds. If Oezdemir wins we’ll finally get some buzz at light heavyweight, but I expect things to go back to normal real soon.