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UFC 220 Picks

MMA Fight: UFC 220
Key Matches: Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou and Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir
When: Saturday, January 20, 2018
Time: 10:00PM EST
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

by Loot, MMA Handicapper,

Stipe Miocic, (+160), 17-2 (13 KOs, 4 Submissions) vs. Francis Ngannou, (-185), 11-1 (7 KOs, 4 Submissions)

UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic defends his title against top contender Francis Ngannou. This is the third defense for Miocic, who is on a run of four straight first-round finishes. With those wins coming against the likes of Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and Junior dos Santos, he's blazed a path of dominance recently, but no one has looked scarier than Ngannou. A series of scary finishes have a lot of people convinced he is the heir-apparent. Let's take a look at the betting odds and see if we can figure who will get the upper hand in this battle?

It's hard to remember when a challenger elicited this much excitement from fans and fear from opponents. Ngannou's latest win, a destruction of Overeem, was the kind of emphatic and suddenly-violent ending that fans crave. He truly is a scary individual. Five years ago, he was homeless. He tried boxing, before someone suggested MMA. And in just a dozen fights, he's on the verge of being the "baddest man on the planet." The Cameroonian is a huge man, using all the weight allowance in the 265-pound limit of the division, a 6'5" 31-year old monster who is leaving good fighters in a heap.

Alas, he now faces the champion Miocic, 35, a man unlikely to allow himself to be beaten by things like fear. He is seasoned and hard to rattle. He is also more of a well-rounded MMA fighting machine. And it's not like he hasn't been scary with his recent run of quick and violent endings. He won't beat himself. And he has the more-economical kind of striking that theoretically could do well against the more wild-swinging challenger. If this fight is a struggle, he has certain advantages in the octagon, having overcome adversity before and showing he can still perform at a high level late in a five-round fight.


Ngannou got to this spot because of the violence and mayhem he creates. It's hard to ignore and at the end of the day, it's what people want to see. At some point, however, you have to show other facets of your fighting makeup in this sport. Not everyone is going to immediately crumble at your feet. And that's when a string of quick knockouts can actually hurt a fighter, as he is unprepared to thrive when his early assault doesn't end the fight. And with the resolute and durable Miocic, that's something to definitely consider.

In other words, we don't want to get carried away in lauding a fighter who is laying out his opponents in quick order. Sure, it's impressive. It could win fights even at this level. It's just that a lot of fighters hit a wall at a certain point. They end up in the octagon with a guy where all the stuff that worked so well suddenly isn't working. And then what do they have to fall back on? And for potential Ngannou backers, that's something to ponder.

Still, there's a reason heavyweight champions don't last in this sport. Miocic would actually break a record for heavyweight title defenses with a win here—illustrating how hard it is to stay on top for the UFC's big men. And truth be told, the wear could be catching up with Miocic, who had a very punishing and taxing route to this spot. Nothing in his form really suggests erosion, but I think the wear-and-tear might be catching up to him. I'm taking Ngannou.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Francis Ngannou at -185.

Daniel Cormier, (-280), 19-1 (6 KOs, 6 Submissions) vs. Volkan Oezdemir, (+240), 15-1 (11 KOs, 1 Submission)

UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier defends his 205-pound belt against challenger Volkan Oezdemir in UFC 220's co-main event. Cormier is once again champion after Jon Jones tested dirty following his third-round blastout of Cormier in July of last year. The result was overturned and Cormier is back to the business of defending his title. "DC" gets a tough one in his first fight back with heavy-handed challenger Oezdemir. In his last fight, on the undercard of Cormier's last fight, he dispatched of highly-ranked Jimi Manuwa in 42 seconds, flashing the cinder-block fists that many feel make him a very dangerous test for Cormier.

The 39-year old Cormier has gotten a bum deal in many respects. After winning so many big fights at heavyweight and light heavyweight, the only man who was able to beat him was Jon Jones, the best fighter ever in MMA and one who wasn't even clean. Take all the guys Cormier has beaten and what real shame is there is not being able to beat Jones? So he's not the greatest ever, but so what? A quick look at his resume still reveals a lot of meaningful triumphs. He's an easy guy to underrate.

At some point, however, it's fair to take a look at the wear and tear on Cormier. It might not be that easy for him pushing 40 to make this weight anymore. And while the last Jones fight was overturned, the beating Cormier took was as real as it gets, with Jones playing the hammer to Cormier's nail. With that being on July 30, he's returning awfully-fast for this fight. And with this fight being against a bricklayer like Oezdemir, could Cormier be at a disadvantage here?

Oezdemir is a monster, an impressive puncher with a natural heavy-handedness that makes veteran fight onlookers excited. Opponents seem to react a little differently when connected upon solidly by the Swiss-born 28-year old contender. His power is of the legitimate one-punch variety. He operates calmly and finishes opponents ruthlessly. He can launch his attacks suddenly and can do a lot of damage with economically-thrown punches from a short distance. But while we are asking questions of Cormier, some issues certainly loom for the challenger.


We don't know how Oezdemir will handle a fighter who can do it all like Cormier. He has shown some good takedown defense, but not against a wrestler of Cormier's stature. It's a massive jump up in class for Oezdemir and we just don't know how he'll cope. When we look back to Cormier's two wins over Anthony Johnson, it's clear that he can handle guys who are violent KO artists. No matter how devastating the challenger might look, it doesn't necessarily indicate he will thrive against an opponent who has proven he can take it. Cormier has beaten dangerous fighters like Oezdemir before. And Oezdemir has never beaten a fighter with anything close to Cormier's accomplishments or total package of skills.

In other words, no one can be rightfully surprised if Cormier wins this fight. But there are a few things that throw a different light on this matchup. One is just the natural turnover that occurs in the UFC. No one is afforded an endless time at the top and Cormier might have grown a little overripe. I don't like how quickly he has returned after really getting hammered by Jones. Oezdemir might be the guy; he might not be the guy. But at +240, that's a pretty good value on a dangerous challenger against a champion whose shelf-life might be due to expire. I'm taking Volkan Oezdemir on a value-play.

Loot's Prediction to Win the Fight: I'm betting on Volkan Oezdemir to win at +240.

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