Often times when a UFC champion has enjoyed the level of success that heavyweight Stipe Miocic has, the issue of motivation comes up.
For example, what keeps Miocic going, when he has already defended his title more times than any other heavyweight in UFC history? What fuels that fire, when you already know what it’s like to lose your title and get it back? When did we already call him the greatest heavyweight of all time? When your next opponent, Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 on Saturday, is he a man you’ve already dominated once before, five rounds to none?
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These are all fair questions for the champion, but heading into this weekend, Miocic’s level of motivation is not in question. Why not?
The answer probably has something to do with the fact that Miocic forever has an obvious source of motivation for fights. And that motivation is that, somehow, we continue to doubt this guy.
Despite all his accomplishments, Miocic (20-3) is a betting underdog this weekend against Ngannou (15-3), just as he was in his last two fights against Daniel Cormier and in his first fight with Ngannou. in 2018. Ahead of this weekend’s title fight, the eighth of Miocic’s career, much of the focus is, again, on the other guy, as it was the first time he and Ngannou had fought.
“I love to shut people up,” Miocic said on the UFC’s “Countdown,” one of the promotion’s main marketing tools before each pay-per-view. “All my life.”
There are similarities between UFC 260 and UFC 220, in which Miocic beat Ngannou in five rounds in Boston, and then took the championship belt from Dana White before the UFC president could wrap him up, because Miocic wanted his coach in boss, Marcus Marinelli. , to do it instead.
Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, in 2018 there was a feeling that the UFC (and perhaps the sport, in a broader sense) was ready to move from Miocic to Ngannou. There was an unmistakable “us against the world” feeling that radiated from Team Miocic, and you can’t tell me that that didn’t underscore Miocic’s act of taking the belt off White that night.
And while going into this weekend everyone would agree that Miocic is the greatest heavyweight of all time, it is very revealing that the first thing I hear from him on “Countdown” is: “I love to shut people up. “. If there is a silver lining to not getting due respect, it may be that motivation is never an issue.
By the numbers
18: Percentage of Ngannou’s significant attack attempts that landed on his first encounter with Miocic, who connected at a rate of 73%. That translated into a 70-21 lead for the champion, with Ngannou landing just six after Round 1.
6: Takedowns by Miocic in the 2018 fight with Ngannou. The champion has 25 career knockdowns in the UFC, tying him with former two-time champion Randy Couture for third place in heavyweight history.
0: Ngannou victories in which he did not achieve a goal. He has 15 career wins, 11 by knockout and four by submission.
162: Seconds that Ngannou has fought in his last four bouts, wins by knockout in 45 (Curtis Blaydes), 26 (Caín Velásquez), 71 (Junior dos Santos) and 20 seconds (Jairzinho Rozenstruik). That ties Ngannou to Miocic, Derek Brunson and Shane Carwin in the most consecutive first-round knockouts in the modern era of the UFC.
two: African-born UFC Champions: Middleweight Israel Adesanya and Welterweight Kamaru Usman, both Nigerian natives. Ngannou is from neighboring Cameroon.
Sources: ESPN Stats and Information and UFC Stats
A look back
Five against five
Most Recent Stipe Miocic Results
Win: Daniel Cormier (UD, Aug 15, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Win: Daniel Cormier (TKO4, Aug 17, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Daniel Cormier (KO1, July 7, 2018)
Win: Francis Ngannou (UD, Jan 20, 2018)
Win: Junior dos Santos (TKO1, May 13, 2017)
Francis Ngannou’s most recent results
Win: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (KO1, May 9, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Win: Junior dos Santos (TKO1, June 29, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Win: Cain Velasquez (KO1, February 17, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Win: Curtis Blaydes (TKO1, Nov 24, 2018)
Loss: Derrick Lewis (UD, July 7, 2018)
Dom & Gil’s film studio
Dominick Cruz on Miocic’s ability to avoid damage:
Gilbert Melendez on the changes that will help Ngannou:
And the winner is …
“If Stipe implements the same game plan as last time, fighting, I think he will win. If he doesn’t, I think he will be knocked out,” said Javier Méndez, coach of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. ESPN. “If you take away Ngannou’s power by fighting him, you’re going to beat him. He’s a big guy. It takes a lot of muscle for him to move and throw punches like he does.”
See how Mendez and other experts analyze the main event of UFC 260.
PPV (via ESPN +), 10 pm ET
Stipe Miocic (c) against Francis Ngannou | Heavyweight
Tyron Woodley vs. Vicente Luque | Welterweight
Sean O’Malley vs. Thomas Almeida | Men’s bantamweight
Gillian Robertson vs. Miranda Maverick | Women’s flyweight
Khama Worthy vs. Jamie Mullarkey | Light
ESPN / ESPN Sports / ESPN +, 8 pm ET
Alonzo Menifield vs. Fabio Cherant | Light heavyweight
Abubakar Nurmagomedov vs. Jared Gooden | Welterweight
Modest Bukauskas against Michal Oleksiejczuk | Light heavyweight
Shane Young vs. Omar Morales | Men’s featherweight
ESPN / ESPN Sports / ESPN +, 7:30 pm ET
Marc-André Barriault against Abu Azaitar | Middleweight
(c) = defending champion
How to watch the fights
Watch the PPV and all the other fights on ESPN +. Get ESPN + here.
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There is also FightCenter, which offers live updates for every UFC card.
Four More Things You Should Know (From ESPN Stats & Info)
one. Former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will look to break a three-game losing streak when he faces Vicente Luque, who has won two in a row and eight of his last nine. Woodley, who is No. 10 in ESPN’s welterweight rankings, will have his standing defense proven as Luque hits 5.72 significant punches per minute, the highest rate among 170-pound assets.
two. Sean O’Malley, coming off his first loss, faces Thomas Almeida, who knows a thing or two about rebounding difficulty. Almeida started his UFC career 4-0 but has been 1-4 ever since. This bantamweight fight could heat up quickly. O’Malley (12-1) has eight first-round finishes and Almeida (22-4) has 17.
3. Gillian Robertson, who fights Miranda Maverick, has six flyweight wins, tying her with champion Valentina Shevchenko and title challenger Katlyn Chookagian for the most in division history. Maverick won his UFC debut last October by first-round knockout and has won six fights in a row.
Four. When Khama Worthy fights lightweight Jamie Mullarkey, he will attempt to rebound from a seven-fight winning streak that ended in a TKO loss to Ottman Azaitar in September.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this fight preview.