The first UFC pay-per-view of the year is here, and it’s a top-heavy card. This event is being headlined by two UFC title fights: Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou – arguably the best heavyweight championship fight in recent times, and Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir – a solid light heavyweight title bout. These two great fights are really the only two attractions of the main card. There are some other good matchups, but they’re not the type of fights we’re used to seeing on pay-per-view cards.
What: UFC 220
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
When: Saturday, Jan. 16. The two-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view.
Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou
This is one of the best UFC heavyweight title fights in the promotion’s history, and definitely the best heavyweight championship bout booked in recent times.
Stipe Miocic has proven to be a worthy champion. Miocic is a quick heavyweight with great power behind his hands, and very solid and technical striking. Although, Miocic has gone away from his grappling a little bit in his most recent bouts, the champion is great at fighting in the clinch and possesses solid wrestling. The Cleveland native has finished his last five opponents and has defended his belt twice in the process. Miocic is on the verge of breaking the record for the most consecutive UFC title defenses at heavyweight.
But in Miocic’s way of making history stands a one of the scariest heavyweights of all time – Francis Ngannou.
Ngannou is not nearly as a experienced as Miocic, but he has an insane amount of power in his strikes, and seems to improve every time he steps in the Octagon. Most of Ngannou’s past opponents have been far more experienced than him, yet they have all fallen to his knockout power (or kimura).
Ngannou has yet to be tested in the UFC. But from what we’ve seen, Ngannou is a competent striker that appears to have good takedown defense. All those attributes are enhanced by his athleticism and raw strength.
This fight is tough to pick. Not only because both fighters are feared, powerful strikers that can end the fight at any given moment, but also because Ngannou’s skill set still remains unknown – at least a part of it. This fight can go either way, but I have a hard time seeing anyone defeating Ngannou. I find the Cameroonian far too powerful for anyone in the division. Miocic might do well at dodging punches, but I see him eventually getting hit. And almost every time Ngannou connects, it’s game over.
Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir
I’m not too excited for this bout, but nonetheless, it’s still a title fight involving two of the best fighters at 205 pounds.
Daniel Cormier has shown to be superior than everyone but Jon Jones. The former Olympic wrestler fights at an incredible pace and with plenty of grit and tenacity. Cormier is a powerhouse despite his size, and he’s also extremely durable. Skills wise, Cormier is a fantastic wrestler with good clinch control and solid striking.
Cormier’s opponent, Volkan Oezdemir, is somewhat of a mysterious figure. Oezdemir has finished most of his UFC fights in quick fashion, pulling the upset time after time while leaving many questions unanswered about his game. From what we know, Oezdemir is a very quick, technical, and dangerous striker. He proved to be competent in the clinch against St. Preux but nothing special.
Cormier referred to Oezdemir as the “JV” of the Blackzillians, and Anthony Johnson as the “varsity” fighter on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. I actually think it might be the other way around. Sure, Johnson had many things going for him that Oezdemir might not have – like more physical strength, better wrestling and probably more punching power – but Oezdemir has other things that Johnson lacked to beat Cormier.
For starters, Oezdemir strikes a lot more composed and seems to have better fighting IQ. Just those two things alone cost Johnson the rematch with Cormier. On top of that, Oezdemir is quicker and tends to use more straight punches than Johnson. That’s key for avoiding takedowns. I think Oezdemir might have a better chance of putting away Cormier than Johnson did when they fought.
I’m not extremely confident picking Cormier, but I see him pressuring Oezdemir, putting him against the cage, and beating him there. Cormier should have the durability and chin to take a hit while closing the distance, and the wrestling and dirty boxing needed to cause damage in the clinch and get a stoppage win.
Calvin Kattar vs. Shane Burgos
Here’s a solid featherweight bout between two promising fighters that have the potential to go pretty far in this division.
The 26-year-old Shane Burgos is undefeated with a pro MMA record of 10-0. Burgos is very well-rounded and has managed to beat more experienced opposition his UFC career, picking up wins over Charles Rosa, Godofredo Pepey and Tiago Trator. Burgos is slick with his striking, hits hard, and has a good ability at timing his opponents.
Calvin Kattar is very similar to Burgos. Kattar is well-rounded and fights composed. “The Boston Finisher” is good at avoiding damage and countering his opponents. Kattar is also very experienced with almost 20 fights under his belt.
This should be a very close and competitive fight. I think Burgos has the better striking here, and I don’t think Kattar will be able to drag Burgos to the ground. I see Burgos winning a close decision.
Gian Villante vs. Francimar Barroso
Yes, this fight is on a pay-per-view main card.
Gian Villante is a tough fighter with decent boxing and good power behind his strikes. His grappling is not the best, but he can do a good job at keeping the fight on the feet. Villante’s striking can be effective, but his gas tank has left him struggling in the middle of fights before.
Francimar Barroso, 37, is another old dog that will likely not bring a ton of new things to the cage. The Brazilian has decent counter striking and a more diverse striking arsenal than Villante. Barroso also does a better job at maintaining a pace in his fights than Villante.
Cardio is huge in MMA. And for that reason alone, I’m picking Barroso. This might be somewhat even at the begging, but I see Barroso keeping a higher output (especially in the later rounds), and out-striking Villante to win a decision.
Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font
What a great way to open up the main card. Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font is a great bantamweight matchup that promises a lot of action.
Almeida is a very dangerous striker. The Brazilian fights tall and likes to mix things up with kicks. He’s is also very powerful with his strikes. Almeida’s downfall has been his striking defense and his somewhat questionable chin.
On the other hand, you got Font. The 30-year-old fighter is very well-rounded. Font has some takedowns and a good base of knowledge on ground fighting. He also possesses a really effective striking game that utilizes a lot of rangy attacks.
I think this one can go either way, as both guys are dangerous enough to end the fight. The thing here is that I find Font a bit more durable than Almeida. I also think that Almeida is a slow starter, which can put him in trouble against Font.
Brandon Davis def. Kyle Bochniak
Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Sabah Homasi
Dustin Ortiz def. Alexandre Pantoja
Dan Ige def. Julio Arce
Enrique Barzola def. Matt Bessette
Islam Makhachev def. Gleison Tibau