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UFC 260: Miocic vs Ngannou 2 Analysis and prediction

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UFC 260: Miocic vs Ngannou 2 Analysis and prediction
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A breaks down the UFC’s top bouts between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou 2. Lets look at the main event for UFC 260

UFC 260: Miocic vs. Ngannou 2 is an upcoming mixed martial arts event produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship that will take place on March 27, 2021 at the UFC Apex facility in Enterprise, Nevada, part of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area, United States.

A UFC Heavyweight Championship rematch bout between current two-time champion Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou is expected to headline this event. The pairing met previously at UFC 220 on January 20, 2018, where Miocic won via unanimous decision and broke the record for most consecutive title defenses for the heavyweight championship with his third.

Analysis on Stipe Miocic (20-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC)

UFC 260: Miocic vs Ngannou 2 Analysis and predictionStaple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 38 Weight: 233 lbs. Reach: 80″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Daniel Cormier (Aug. 15, 2020)
  • Camp: Strong Style Fight Team (Ohio)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ UFC heavyweight champion
+ Golden Gloves winner
+ NCAA Division 1 wrestler
+ Regional MMA title
+ 15 KO victories
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Improved pace and pressure
+ Excellent footwork
+ Good sense inside the pocket
^ Pulls and returns well
+ Dangerous right hand
^ Counters well off of inside parry
+ Solid takedown transitions
^ Favors head-outside singles
+ Good positional rides
^ Active ground striker
+ 2-0 in rematches

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Analysis on Francis Ngannou (15-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC)

UFC 260: Miocic vs Ngannou 2 Analysis and predictionStaple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 34 Weight: 261 lbs. Reach: 83″
  • Last fight: KO win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik (May 9, 2020)
  • Camp: Xtreme Couture MMA (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Regional MMA accolades
+ 11 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Athletic and agile
+ Deceptive feints and footwork
^ Closes distance quickly
+ Accurate left hand
^ Jabs, crosses, check-hooks
+ Dangerous right hand
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Hard knees/heavy hips
+/-Developing ground game
^ Serviceable transitions/struggles off back
+/- Limited sample size since first Miocic fight
+ 1-0 in rematches

Analytical Point of interest: Striking the second time around

The main event for UFC 260 features a rematch for the title that still has all the heavyweight feels attached.

In the first meeting between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou, the champion was able to survive the storm of the aggressive Cameroonian challenger by smartly prioritizing head movement and backfoot counter options that ranged from pull counters to well timed level changes in open space, which led to dedicated positional rides against the fence.

Since his victory at UFC 220, Miocic fought a trilogy with Daniel Cormier that forced the Ohio native to dig deep into his proverbial bag of tricks, displaying that he still has the ability to adjust at both long and close ranges.

A Golden Gloves boxing winner before he even began his MMA career, Miocic continually has stood out among his contemporaries with his striking skills (particularly in this division). Although Mioicic’s athletic ability and background in wrestling add an undeniable dimension to his game, it is the work that the champion does in small spaces that tends to make the difference.

Akin to a heavyweight version of Frankie Edgar, Miocic will steadily work behind a series of jabs and feints, stepping slightly off at an angle in search of his counters or follow-up shots. Moving just as well laterally as he does in and out, Miocic shows a good sense of the action inside the pocket, almost preternaturally pulling and returning his punches.

Whether Miocic is using his patented inside parries or slick step-offs to the side, his battering ram of a right hand is undoubtedly his hallmark. But if Ngannou, once again, approaches in the aggressive iteration that he’s shown from time to time, then I wouldn’t mind seeing Miocic attempt to catch him with his arguably under-utilized check hook.

However, between Ngannou’s limited sample size since their first meeting and the fact that he’s only been doing MMA for roughly seven years, it is difficult to say where exactly the challenger is at and what he’ll be bringing to the table this weekend.

A dangerous striking threat who lists himself as an orthodox fighter, the 34-year-old standout occasionally will fight from southpaw when facing wrestlers (though he really hasn’t needed to in his last couple of outings). Not only does the southpaw stance allow a little more play in the distance department, but it also opens up opportunities for Ngannou to land his counter-left cross.

When fighting from orthodox, Ngannou prefers to conduct traffic from his left side, throwing straight or varying his patent up-jabs and check hooks.

We’ve also seen Ngannou utilize feints and pivots well within close quarters, as he keeps a good sense of space, managing distance firmly when he chooses to. Nevertheless, as impressive as Ngannou’s movement is, he, too, is not beyond being hit or countered with wrestling shots while coming forward (something his most recent fight-ending flurry showed plenty of potential openings for).

With that in mind, I’ll also be curious to see if Ngannou tries to stay more measured and elects to use leg kicks at range. Ngannou has seemingly improved his propensity to throw the naked leg kicks that got him taken down in his UFC debut, showing to mix them into his repertoire a bit more naturally.

We’ve seen past fighters punish Miocic with leg attacks for his boxing-centric stance before, whether it be Junior Dos Santos at UFC 211 or his wars with Cormier (who landed leg kicks at a 90-percentile clip for the entirety of their trilogy before getting lost head-hunting). That said, do not be surprised if the looming takedown threat of Miocic forces Ngannou to shelve certain parts of his offense.

Analytical Point of interest: Odds and opinions

Despite the sitting champ silencing the doubters the first time around, Miocic still finds himself as the odds-on underdog at +100, with Ngannou favored at -120 as of this writing.

Given the recent reminders of why it’s dangerous to fade veteran fighters who can wrestle, I don’t blame anyone for picking Miocic at plus money in this spot. Miocic has already displayed all the tools necessary to become Ngannou’s stylistic kryptonite, as I see the added emphasis to his conditioning only adding to this argument.

However, despite making the mistake of siding with Ngannou the first time around I still find myself picking the Cameroonian challenger here.

Let me be clear: I think it’s completely disrespectful to Miocic to open Ngannou north of a 2-1 favorite, as the sitting champ could certainly rinse, wash and repeat at UFC 260. That said, I’m not so sure Miocic is the same man since his wars with Cormier.

Sure, Miocic absolutely got the better of the trilogy and has had ample time to rest in between fights, but the heavyweight champ also suffered noted vision issues from continuous eye pokes throughout the series that resulted in surgery. And when going back to take a closer look at Miocic’s bouts with Cormier, I noticed that Miocic – who has traditionally been hit with more lefts than rights throughout his career – starts to take a disproportionate amount of right hands at a much higher rate by the time of his last outing.

In fact, if you listen to Miocic’s corner in the third Cormier fight, you can hear them frantically (and arguably uncharacteristically) screaming at their fighter to stay on the proverbial bike and circle away from the right hand from Jump Street. Though this is not bad or uncommon advice, it does make me wonder if Miocic’s more active left hand and “all the way in or all the way out” approach was more than a coincidence.

In a heavyweight fight full of volatile intangibles, that’s what sticks out to me most, as the pick will be Ngannou by early knockout after what I suspect will be a feeling-out period in the first round.

Prediction: Francis Ngannou to win

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