Francis Ngannou is set to challenge Stipe Miocic in a rematch at UFC 260. Both heavyweights previously fought each other in 2018 when Miocic put on an incredible performance to eke out a win over The Predator.
Since losing to Derrick Lewis at UFC 226, Ngannou's career has taken an incredible upward arc, and he has managed to demolish four big heavyweights with ease.
His wins over Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik handed him a well-deserved title shot, and he'll be keen to win gold this time around.
During Ngannou's last encounter with Miocic, he looked extremely weathered going into the championship rounds. Miocic was able to control the fight, and he bombarded Ngannou with his double-leg takedowns.
The 38-year-old champion exposed Ngannou's flaws which the latter has to rectify if he intends to overcome the danger that Miocic carries.
That said, let's take a look at five things that Francis Ngannou has to do differently to emerge victorious at UFC 260.
#1 Establish a takedown defense
Francis Ngannou's takedown defense was almost nonexistent when he first fought Stipe Miocic. The Cameroonian succumbed to most of Miocic's takedown attempts, as the latter took him down on a total of six occasions. Miocic is likely to wade in early to take Ngannou down, and The Predator has to be ready for it.
Best known for his striking pedigree, Ngannou will have to make sure that he does not just rely on his punching prowess to beat Miocic.
With a formidable takedown success rate of 34 percent per UFC stats, Miocic could dictate the fight at will if he manages to take the fight to the canvas. That is something Ngannou has to avoid at all costs.
#2 Francis Ngannou has to enhance his wrestling
Stipe Miocic's boxing skills have often overshadowed his wrestling aptitude. Miocic may still not be the greatest wrestler in the UFC; however, he was good enough to force Daniel Cormier (a two-time Olympian who has competed in freestyle wrestling) to "stand and bang" instead of indulging in an all-out wrestling war.
It's almost certain that Francis Ngannou will find himself on his back at some point during the fight. And when he does, Ngannou will have to utilize his wrestling skills to full effect
The 34-year-old had failed to scramble back to his feet when he fought Miocic at UFC 220. His constant efforts to reverse positions went in vain as he tired himself to a point where he almost appeared motionless.
The Predator will need to use his ground game effectively enough to maneuver out of wrestling moves in the rematch. This will help him get back on his feet where he can stand and trade. After all, that is how many are expecting Ngannou to beat Miocic.
However, assuming that Francis Ngannou has significantly improved his wrestling - which he claims he has - the Cameroonian could possibly offer Miocic a threat on the ground. And who knows, he might fancy a submission win too.
#3 Read Stipe Miocic's head movement
Francis Ngannou has to carefully read Stipe Miocic's head movements if he wants to knock the champion out at UFC 260.
Miocic evaded most of Ngannou's punches cleverly in their previous fight, as he weaved and angled out to survive against The Predator. Ngannou will need to use his poise and precision to wait for the right moment to stun the champion.
At UFC 220, Ngannou's lack of composure resulted in him desperately hoping to catch Micoic with one of his vicious punches. He can't allow that to happen once again.
Francis Ngannou could pose even more of a danger in front of Miocic if he simply uses his clinch instead of swinging for the fences.
#4 Block Stipe Miocic's body shots
Francis Ngannou's body shot challenges reflect his incredible core strength. But things are vastly different when it comes to enduring punches inside the Octagon. Moreover, Stipe Miocic hits way harder than boxer Ryan Garcia.
Miocic produced one of the best tactical adjustments in a UFC fight in modern history when he stung Daniel Cormier with 11 body shots. That flurry of body shots turned the tide in Miocic's favor in their title clash.
Daniel Cormier later accepted that he couldn't evade Miocic's body shots, and they ruined his chances of beating him.
Francis Ngannou will have to acknowledge Miocic's power and steer clear of his scathing body shots. Moreover, getting hit in your gut multiple times is as draining - and more painful - as being on your back while your opponent towers over you.
#5 Improve his cardio
Stipe Miocic's fight IQ was on display when he beat Francis Ngannou at UFC 220. The heavyweight champion's methods were simple - take Ngannou down, tire him out, use counterpunches - and repeat.
Miocic knows that Ngannou doesn't possess as good a gas tank as him, and he is once again likely to use that to his advantage. A visibly leaner and faster Miocic does have an edge when it comes to cardio. However, Ngannou will have to be competent enough to continue fighting in the bout's later rounds.
The last time Ngannou competed in a fight that lasted more than one round was when he fought Derrick Lewis back in 2018. Francis Ngannou will have to make sure he doesn't get exhausted when he's up against Miocic at UFC 260.