The Octagon returns to pay-per-view territory for the first time in 2018 with UFC 220 from Boston, Massachusetts. Two title fights top the card, with Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou and Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir fighting for the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles.
The end of 2017 saw the fans spoiled with PPV cards being stacked from top to bottom, so it’s a surprise to see an event with two title fights appear so shallow. I’ve picked lines from the two title fights with 5Dimes, as always, providing the odds.
Light heavyweight title: Daniel Cormier vs Volkan Oezdemir
When Daniel Cormier lost his title to Jon Jones back at UFC 214 it was expected to be the beginning of the end for the former Olympian. With Jones losing his belt after yet another positive test, DC had the belt returned to him and the loss expunged. While stripping Jones was arguably the right thing to do, it has left a sour taste for some fans as Cormier regains a belt that he lost via crushing KO.
Volkan Oezdemir entered the title picture from nowhere. A late-notice call to face OSP, he beat the veteran by split decision. He promptly finished Misha Cirkunov inside 30 seconds in his second UFC bout. It was impressive, and enough to secure a title eliminator against Jimi Manuwa; the Londoner lasted a mere 42 seconds as Oezdemir earned a first Performance of the Night bonus. Even better, it was in front of his opponent on Saturday night.
Much is made of the knockout power that Oezdemir has shown in his last two outings, and he could catch Cormier cold. However, Anthony Johnson hits as hard as any heavyweight and twice came up short against Cormier. Oezdemir hasn’t had to embrace the grind with a wrestler like DC and when he does, he’ll find that cardio evaporating quickly.
Recommendation: Cormier Wins Inside the Distance – 2 units at -155 (20/31) @ 5Dimes
Heavyweight title: Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou
Stipe Miocic currently holds the title of baddest man on the planet. As the Heavyweight champion, he has a large target on his back as well as the burden of a near 25-year curse. No Heavyweight has ever defended the title on three consecutive occasions. Not Velasquez, Lesnar, Mir, dos Santos or Couture. It is a record that has hung like an albatross around the neck of some of the best fighters in the world, but many feel that Miocic is the answer to this question. But for a contentious decision loss to dos Santos, which he later emphatically revenged, he would be nine for nine since a loss to Stefan Struve. His last five fights have ended in a knockout, the last four coming in the first round. He wasn’t a bad man, but he is getting badder by the day.
Francis Ngannou must be one of the most hyped fighters to perform in the octagon. From hyperbole over his punching power, to over-analysis of his opponents’ fighting prowess, it would be near impossible for him to fulfil the expectations laid upon him. When he finished Alistair Overeem with a thunderous left uppercut, many were silenced, albeit temporarily. The manner of the win was dominant, the after effects left Overeem prostrate, with his toes curled tight and completely out cold. I didn’t see enough of Ngannou to uphold the hype, but I saw enough to know that if he connects cleanly then it could be all over quickly. His recent record isn’t dissimilar to Miocic, he has 10 consecutive stoppages, the last four of which were in the first round.
The money coming in for Ngannou is simply ridiculous, and it’s abhorrent to see the challenger enter a fight as the betting favourite, irrespective of previous performances. Miocic has continually faced a better quality of fighter than Ngannou and has ended some of the biggest names in the sport. Ngannou, while impressive, hasn’t really broken any new ground in his wins, most of them have come against fighters with a proclivity for being knocked out.
I’m taking Miocic here, the record cannot go on forever and he will be the first proper test for Ngannou. He will hit harder than Ngannou has ever been hit, we know that Stipe can take a shot, but we don’t know if Ngannou can.
Recommendation: Stipe Miocic – 2 units at +165 (33/20) @ 5Dimes