MMA Review: #629: UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou

-This was the UFC’s first big PPV of 2018, with two massive title fights at the top, but unfortunately not much elsewhere. I get trying to showcase a handful of newcomers and prospects and stuff but I mean, surely they could do better than this? At least EVERYONE was pumped for Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou to be fair.

UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou

01/20/18
Boston, Massachusetts

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz.

Bantamweight Fight: Thomas Almeida vs Rob Font

This looked like a massively exciting opener at least, as both guys pretty much always deliver a great fight. I was taking Almeida to win as I figured he’d be able to outstrike Font despite giving up some size, but it was anyone’s fight really.

Round One gets started and Font comes out firing big punches right away and both guys look content to trade off. Font clinches off a caught kick and shoves Almeida into the fence, but he quickly separates with a right hand and then lands a couple more shots as Almeida circles out. Font is really walking him down here and he lands with a hard right hand. Crowd are loudly in favour of Font. They continue to trade strikes with Font using his jab and Almeida trying to time it, but it looks like Font’s getting the better of it. Nice combination lands for Almeida though and with just under two minutes remaining he’s beginning to land more often. Exchange continues and Almeida’s coming forward a lot more now, refusing to let Font walk him down as he was earlier. Head kick from Font misses and he eats a right hand, but the round ends soon after. Super fun round; 10-9 Almeida for the stronger second half of the round.

Round Two and Font comes out aggressively with his jab, backing the Brazilian up, but Almeida comes back with a couple of low kicks to the lead leg. Good clean right connects for Font. Almeida nods his head in acknowledgment, but another one stuns him BADLY and sends him crashing down! He rolls through and pops back up but Font swarms on him, looking for the finish. Takedown from Font puts Almeida down, surprisingly enough, but he stands back up only to eat a right hand. He still looks wobbly in fact. Font stays really calm and walks him down with a jab and an elbow, then he easily shrugs a clinch off and OPENS UP with some more big punches including a nasty one to the body. Trip follows but Almeida pops up again. Knee to the head separates for Font but he slips while doing it and Almeida fires back with a kick to the body. Clean leg kick follows for Almeida and they continue to exchange, but the Brazilian still looks rocked to me. Font again stays calm and then comes in with a big head kick that leads into a SERIES OF HUGE PUNCHES, and this time Almeida goes down and doesn’t get back up.

Big victory for Rob Font – probably the best of his career in fact – as he lit up a very accomplished striker en route to a nasty knockout. Granted Almeida is a little chinny, but Font did everything right here – didn’t get too crazy in going for the finish and just stuck to his smart, clean striking that’d been working throughout the fight. This should put him in line for another big fight with a top ten opponent – Marlon Moraes or Raphael Assuncao maybe? Really fun opener.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Gian Villante vs Francimar Barroso

Don’t think anyone was looking forward to this one – I mean, Villante is fun to watch as he’s a massive glass cannon, but Barroso literally hadn’t had one interesting fight in his whole UFC career dating back to 2013 (!) so it was anyone’s guess how this made the PPV card – especially when they had stuff like Dustin Ortiz vs. Alexandre Pantoja and Islam Makhachev vs. Gleison Tibau on the prelims! I was just hoping for a quick Villante knockout to be honest.

Fight begins and Villante presses forward as Barroso firmly goes on the retreat. Big right hand lands over the top for Villante. It’s legitimately hilarious listening to Dom Cruz trying to talk up Barroso on commentary, too. Unsurprisingly he’s letting Villante walk him down. Uppercut wobbles Barroso and Villante follows with some more big punches, but the Brazilian shows a decent chin and fires back with a leg kick. Jab lands nicely for Barroso too. Villante keeps walking him down though looking to land the right hand. Glancing head kick from Villante causes Barroso to slip over, but he pops back up. More big swings from Villante come up short as he’s telegraphing them a bit. Combo does put Barroso on the retreat though. More of the same follows and the crowd sound restless before Villante lands a combo. Round ends there; 10-9 Villante.

Into the 2nd and Barroso looks to work the body with some punches, but he’s still being backed up by Villante. Big combo lands for Villante and they trade pretty openly with Villante stunning the Brazilian with a left hook. Another few big shots land and Barroso tries to clinch but fails. Villante is all over him now. Barroso manages to circle out, but he takes a low blow and the ref has to call time. Crowd are disgusted for some reason. They restart and Villante comes in with a stiff jab and a nasty inside low kick. He continues to do a good job of using the jab to set up the right hand, and he’s got Barroso constantly backpedalling. Body kick lands for Barroso but he just isn’t doing enough. More combos land for Villante and he’s easily eating up Barroso’s counters too. Nice low kick does land for Barroso. Crowd are really not into this fight. Round ends with more punches from Villante. 10-9 Villante.

Final round now and Villante catches Barroso with a trio of overhand rights and sure enough the Brazilian’s backing up again. He throws a couple of counters back but can’t seem to hurt Villante at all. Even a nasty body kick seemingly has no effect. Barroso’s literally not come forward once. Big shots land for both men and briefly get the crowd into it, but the pace soon slows again. It’s basically all repeat at this point with Villante walking through anything Barroso throws to stalk him and land punches. YAWN. Announcers are somehow still saying Barroso’s doing some good work which is insane. Boos are pretty evident with less than a minute to go. Somehow cosmetically, Villante looks worse. Round ends on the feet. Call it 30-27 Villante.

Judges have it 30-27 Villante, 29-28 Barroso (!) and 30-27 Villante. Well, how the fuck you could give that to Barroso I don’t know. A couple of high points kept this one from going into like Worst Fight of the Year territory, but outside of those it was as bad as I was expecting coming in. Villante tried but you can only do so much when all your opponent does is backpedal, you know? Hopefully this is the last Barroso fight I have to see on the televised card because he’s simply awful to watch.

Featherweight Fight: Calvin Kattar vs Shane Burgos

Hardcore fans online were really talking up this match despite neither guy having a televised fight to their name, but at 1-0 (Kattar) and 3-0 (Burgos) it was fair enough to give them a showcase – that’s how you make new stars, after all. I didn’t feel confident in picking as I didn’t know a lot about either man to be honest, but most were going with Burgos.

Round One begins and Burgos looks crazy confident. With his haircut he also looks like a Peaky Blinder. Kattar starts to work his jab right away but Burgos seems unmoved by it and looks to land some looping shots over the top. Really great exchanges from both men but Kattar’s working the jab brilliantly and Burgos looks marked up about a minute or so in. More beautiful jabs land for Kattar as Burgos just keeps on walking into them in order to swing from the pocket. Big exchange sees both men landing with Burgos digging to the body. Exchange continues with more jabs from Kattar as Burgos continues to wing in with body shots from the pocket. Clean right hand lands for Kattar as Burgos keeps on pushing forward. He’s just walking into the jab over and over, though. Front kick from Burgos forces Kattar back in the closing moments. Really great round; 10-9 Kattar for the jab work.

Round Two and Burgos comes out pushing the action again, landing a few low kicks this time as Kattar continues to look for the jab. Jab snaps Burgos’ head back twice. Kattar’s landing some really beautiful shots here. Takedown attempt from Kattar and he drives Burgos into the fence, but can’t get him off his feet and Burgos shrugs him off. More shots land for both men, with Burgos really landing some hard ones to the body to counter Kattar’s jabs. Nice combination backs Kattar up. Looks like Kattar’s sporting a bloody nose. Burgos continues to pressure him and now he’s really landing the better shots in these exchanges despite Kattar firing back. This is a great fight actually. One minute to go and Kattar lands a sweet uppercut, but he’s still being forced back by Burgos and he’s still eating punches. Burgos is really pushing the pace. Big body shots land for him. They exchange kicks and that’s the round. 10-9 Burgos to even things up.

Round three and Burgos again comes out pressing the action as Kattar fires the jab at him. Big combo lands for Burgos. BIG right hand suddenly wobbles Burgos and he’s in trouble! Kattar follows in with a PERFECTLY TIMED UPPERCUT that has him almost out, and another one sends him down and some more punches seal the deal as Burgos almost staggers to his feet. Good stoppage though as he was all over the place and clearly done. Crowd go crazy for the Boston native too.

Great fight right there and kudos to the UFC for picking it for the main card, as on name value it was ridiculous to have it on PPV and yet both guys delivered in SPADES. Kattar started off fast, piecing up Burgos with his jab, but then Burgos seemed to be taking over with the pressure, combinations and body work before Kattar just caught him clean for the finish. I think both guys actually have a super-bright future and I don’t think the loss takes much away from Burgos too unless it really rattles him mentally. Can’t wait to see both fight again and that’s all you can ask from two unranked guys.

UFC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Daniel Cormier vs Volkan Oezdemir

So yeah, if someone had told me Volkan Oezdemir would be in line for a UFC title shot in 2018 right after he debuted with an underwhelming decision over Ovince St. Preux, I probably would’ve laughed at them, but things can change quickly in a thin division, especially when you KO a couple of legit contenders in Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa in quick fashion. Cormier for his part had been handed the title back following arch-rival Jon Jones’s PED issues, and although this sounded like a relatively simple match for him on paper, I was worried about his mental state coming in and was almost tempted to pick the upset.

Fight begins and Oezdemir comes out SWINGING as Cormier tries his best to duck and dodge. The challenger does land some decent shots, but Cormier fires right back and almost gets a clinch before Oezdemir escapes. Left hand lands again for Oezdemir but Cormier’s chin is holding up. More big shots land for Oezdemir as he pressures Cormier into the fence, but the champ quickly escapes. Looks like Oezdemir’s beginning to slow slightly as Cormier begins to press the action a bit more now. They both trade in and out of the clinch, but Cormier’s the aggressor now for sure. He really does have a great chin, too. Oezdemir is still throwing big shots but he’s clearly moving slower now. Big combination lands for DC and Oezdemir looks stunned. More shots follow it up and he’s in trouble. Cormier follows in with some more big punches, but Oezdemir fires back and we’ve got a bit of a brawl now. Crowd are way into this. Cormier keeps the pressure on him with more punches from the clinch, and he catches a kick and puts Oezdemir down with a single leg. BIG crowd pop for that one. Oezdemir gives his back and takes some more shots and it looks like Cormier’s got the choke….but the buzzer goes there. Probably saved by the buzzer I’d say. 10-9 Cormier.

2nd round and Oezdemir presses forward, but DC tags him with a jab and then ducks under and gets a single leg, dumping the challenger onto his back. Full mount follows pretty instantly and Oezdemir is in big trouble. He manages to get to half-guard for a moment, but Cormier passes out of that and gets a mounted crucifix, and from there he just systematically DESTROYS Oezdemir until the ref has to call it about two minutes in.

So yeah, this was business as usual for Cormier who remains behind Jon Jones but just way ahead of everyone else at 205lbs (except maybe Alexander Gustafsson?). Oezdemir tried but when he didn’t KO Cormier with those big early punches you could pretty much tell he was going to lose, and DC left no doubt at all. Entertaining fight and up next for Cormier is apparently a challenge for the Heavyweight title before he’s supposedly retiring next March. I actually buy that with Cormier too so he’ll pretty much go down as one of the all-time greats, albeit with a Jones-shaped asterisk by his name.

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Stipe Miocic vs Francis Ngannou

Well, after Ngannou practically killed Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 it was only a matter of time before he was challenging Stipe Miocic for the UFC Heavyweight title, but I have to admit I was surprised that they managed to put the fight together so quickly – especially with Stipe supposedly stalling for more money. Just goes to show the superiority of the UFC system when compared to boxing. Anyhow, despite so many questions around Ngannou I couldn’t get past the idea of his sheer power being a game changer and picked him to KO Stipe to become the new champion.

Round One begins and the crowd are surprisingly heavily in favour of Miocic, who opens with a low kick as both men look quite tentative. High kick misses for Ngannou and Miocic takes him down, but the challenger pops right back up against the fence. Couple of sweeping left hands break for Ngannou and so Stipe shoots again, but Ngannou stuffs it and forces him back, swinging some bombs that don’t land cleanly. Big right over the top does land, but Miocic manages to use head movement to avoid further damage. Big uppercut connects for Ngannou as he continues to force the action, but Miocic fires back with some big punches of his own. Clinch from the champion and he forces Ngannou into the fence, but again the challenger muscles him off. Miocic looks badly marked up already. Wild swings miss for Ngannou as he comes forward, and Miocic fires back and tags him with a right hand. Another one has Ngannou hurt, and from there he times a takedown perfectly and drops into side mount. And Ngannou looks lost off his back, holy shit! Stipe works to keep him down as Ngannou just tries to muscle his way up, but fails miserably. Good punches and forearms land for Miocic too. Guillotine attempt allows Ngannou to pop up, but he’s tired now. Right hand lands for Miocic before they exchange jabs. Massive crowd chant for Stipe now as Ngannou fires shots at him that don’t land, and with seconds to go Miocic hurts him with a combo and ends the round with a BIG takedown! Awesome stuff. 10-9 Miocic.

Round Two and Ngannou looks gassed, wow. Miocic looks totally calm and stalks forward although he’s clearly still wary of the power of the challenger. Crowd are so into Stipe that it’s crazy. Right hand over the top glances for Ngannou. Nice front kick to the body answers for Miocic. Ngannou’s punches are moving so slowly now and Miocic lands a jab and a low kick. More low kicks land for the champ but he fails on a takedown. He does avoid some wild punches from Ngannou, though. BIG right hook connects for Miocic and evidently Ngannou’s chin is solid as he takes it well. Miocic works with a couple more low kicks, and then they trade some punches before a charging double leg puts Ngannou down. This time he turns his back and winds up on his knees with Miocic on top. The champion uses a cravat to lean on him and force him to carry all the weight, and he works some short punches for good measure. Miocic is just bullying the guy now. It’s not that exciting but it’s a pretty amazing thing to see. Ngannou looks like he’s got nothing left. Choke attempt ends the round for Miocic. Probably a 10-8 for Stipe actually as Ngannou didn’t do much at all.

Round Three and Miocic seems to be breathing heavily too, albeit nothing like Ngannou. Low single leg is blocked by the challenger but Miocic forces him into the fence. Ngannou actually tries a takedown, but botches it totally and winds up on his knees with Miocic on top again. Knee to the head lands for Stipe as Ngannou tries to stand. The challenger does manage to get up, but he can’t shake Miocic off him until Stipe separates with a couple of punches. Big right lands for Miocic. Ngannou looks about as gassed as it gets. Out of nowhere he rocks Miocic with a huge right hand, but he can’t follow it and Miocic tackles him to the ground into half-guard. From there Miocic lands some heavy ground-and-pound as Ngannou looks like he can’t get up at all. Round ends with Stipe in firm control. 10-9 as Ngannou at least landed that big right hand, but it was still largely one-sided.

Round Four (!) and who the fuck would’ve thought it’d go this far? Miocic’s left eye is a mess considering he’s been beating on Ngannou for most of the fight. Ngannou comes out swinging but Miocic hits a shockingly easy single leg into side mount. Ngannou manages to get to half-guard, and he almost scrambles up but doesn’t have enough energy. Miocic begins to drop some big shots and Ngannou is totally out of gas. Elbows to the body land for Miocic and he just hangs on Ngannou to tire him out even further. And we’re back to the cravat position with Ngannou simply stuck on his knees. Knees to the body land for Miocic and this is actually looking like one of the latter two Velasquez/Dos Santos fights. HUGE punches begin to land for Stipe as Herb Dean implores him for action, and this is looking like it could be stopped at any point. Herb decides to let it go though as it looks like Stipe’s struggling with his energy levels too. Crowd are still insanely into the champion. He drops some elbows to the side of Ngannou’s head, and the round ends with him on top. 10-8 round for Miocic.

Round Five and basically the fight is over unless Ngannou can land a hail mary shot in like the first thirty seconds or so. Cosmetically Miocic looks worse off, but Ngannou can barely stand up out of his corner. Takedown attempt opens the round for Miocic and he forces Ngannou into the fence, but can’t get him off his feet right away. Action slows down somewhat from the clinch as I guess Miocic is exhausted now too. Ngannou surprisingly decides to go for a guillotine, but it doesn’t work as Miocic just outpowers him and pins him into the fence again. This is a slow round. Crowd boo slightly as the action lulls a bit before Herb Dean calls a clean break. Ngannou comes out swinging, but he’s so slow that he can’t land cleanly. Miocic is pretty slow at this point too though. One minute to go and they circle and don’t really throw all that much, before Ngannou has a flying knee attempt caught, allowing Stipe to hold a clinch. Seconds to go now and it looks like this is it. Round ends there; 10-9 Miocic and 50-43 overall for me.

Official scores are 50-44 from every judge, all for Stipe Miocic. Turned out to be one of the most one-sided title fights in UFC history in terms of a decision which was like, the last thing I think everyone expected, myself included. Ngannou started off strongly but he pushed the action and looked for the KO, whereas in his previous fights he’d largely allowed the opponent to come to him. That meant he couldn’t land on Miocic totally cleanly, and once Miocic had him down, he just gassed out and basically couldn’t handle the pressure.

Massive credit to Miocic then for sticking to the gameplan, as he used his grappling advantage to wear down the bigger man and never let him get back into the fight at all. It wasn’t the most exciting performance admittedly, but it was wild enough to see the smaller man bullying the bigger one in that way and the crowd were into it throughout, which was cool. The UFC really ought to push Miocic more than they do as he seems to be catching on in fact with his blue-collar image, and I think he could end up being a surprisingly bankable star. Up next is….Daniel Cormier, and I literally have NO IDEA how that one goes. I think it’s better for future fights if Miocic wins though so I’ll be pulling for him. As for this fight, it didn’t deliver the KO I think everyone was expecting, but shit, it was definitely one of the more memorable HW title fights in recent memory even if it slowed down in the latter stages.

-Announcers end the night by hyping the possibility of Cormier/Gustafsson and Miocic/Velasquez which is the way I’d have gone, but c’est la vie. And a highlight reel ends the night.

Final Thoughts….

I actually liked this show better on a rewatch for some reason, as there were actually four pretty good fights on show to go with one stinker in Villante/Barroso. Best fight was probably Burgos/Kattar but the main event was definitely good fun too as was Font/Almeida. It’s a thumbs up for this one then although I think it’ll be overlooked later in the year.

Best Fight: Burgos vs. Kattar
Worst Fight: Villante vs. Barroso

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com