UFC 260 is finally around the corner, and fans are hoping to see a firefight when two of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world - Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou - lock horns in the main event.
This is not the first time Ngannou and Miocic will face each other inside the Octagon. Back in 2018, Miocic defended his heavyweight title against highly-rated prospect Ngannou.
Many thought the fight would mark the end of Stipe Miocic's title reign in the UFC because of the sheer knockout power Ngannou possesses.
The fight, however, panned out differently than was expected. Stipe Miocic used his vast experience to take the fight to the ground whenever possible.
With Miocic possessing the superior technique of the two, it was easy for the champion to control Ngannou on the mat and that's exactly what he did. All the pressure from the top soon emptied Ngannou's gas tank and allowed Miocic to pick up a dominant unanimous decision win.
Three years have gone by since then, and Ngannou has beaten a host of title contenders violently to earn himself another crack at the coveted heavyweight gold. He claims that he is a transformed fighter, and whether that's the case or not, we shall soon see.
Ngannou has roped in Kamaru Usman for his training camp to help prepare for Stipe Miocic's wrestling as well. The Predator is determined to leave the Octagon as champion this time around.
What can Stipe Miocic possibly do to stop the Ngannou juggernaut once again, as he did three years ago?
Let's take a look at the five things Stipe Miocic must do to ensure that he survives Francis Ngannou at UFC 260.
#1 Remain patient and look for openings
Stipe Miocic is a clever fighter. He knows how to manage distance and keep his opponents at bay while tagging them, and he must do it with razor-sharp precision this time around. Ngannou has freakish power in his hands - one sweet connection, and it may very well be lights out for Miocic.
Stipe Miocic has to stay on his toes, move in and out, use the stinging jab to keep Ngannou at bay, and avoid taking damage at any cost. Add to that, Miocic can mix things up by shooting for a takedown when he sees an opening.
#2 Focus on MMA, not just wrestling
Francis Ngannou will be better prepared to stop Miocic's takedown attempts this time. With Usman's inclusion in the team, Ngannou will get valuable insight on how to defend takedowns and probably land a couple of his own. Stipe Miocic should be wary of that.
If he keeps shooting for the legs relentlessly, Ngannou will surely sense the opportunity and try to counter Miocic's takedown attempts with his strikes. Miocic has to play it smart and mix things up a little.
Shots to the body will be crucial in the fight. It may deplete Ngannou's stamina, and once that's gone, Miocic can have his way with the challenger.
Miocic can also use leg kicks and jabs to keep stinging Ngannou, thereby not allowing him to get in range to land a haymaker.
#3 Wear Francis Ngannou out
Stipe Miocic knows that the longer the fight goes on, the more it will play into his hands. He must not rush and look to end the fight quickly. Miocic has a good gas tank on him and can stay on his toes for the full 25 minutes. The champion should use his superior stamina to pick his shots and slowly but surely, wear Ngannou down.
The best tools in Miocic's arsenal to empty Ngannou's stamina are body shots and takedowns. The more Miocic grapples with Ngannou, the more difficult it will be for The Predator to breathe easily.
If Miocic manages to control the fight on the ground, expect Ngannou to gas out rapidly. Keeping him tied in the clinch against the cage will also be another good option for Miocic.
#4 Do not engage or brawl with Francis Ngannou
It won't be a good idea for Stipe Miocic to get into a brawl with his opponent at any point in the fight. With Ngannou's power, it won't take him long to put Miocic to sleep if they engage in a telephone booth exchange in the center of the Octagon.
Miocic's should look to avoid engaging in a brawl with Ngannou and work with the jab instead, combining it with a hard cross whenever there's an opportunity.
#5 Make the takedowns count
It is no secret that Miocic's biggest advantage in the fight is his ability to wrestle and take Ngannou down. Ngannou's ground game is levels below his counterpart's, and the champ must make good use of the advantage. Miocic isn't likely to get as many opportunities to take Ngannou down as he did the last time.
Therefore, he must judiciously pick his shots and make sure that he can make them count. Just taking him down isn't enough; Miocic will also have the task of keeping Ngannou's massive frame pinned to the mat. The reigning champion must fight wisely and not give away a dominant position to Ngannou on the ground while inflicting damage.
Ground control will be pivotal for Stipe Miocic in this fight. If he manages to keep Ngannou on his back, it's job done for the champ. But if he allows Ngannou to get back up, anything can happen. Miocic can also use submission maneuvers to catch Ngannou off guard.