FIGHT PREVIEW

UFC 220: Miocic-Ngannou, Cormier-Oezdimer headline star-studded card

Francis Ngannou is an up and coming star. MMAjunkie.com

In the history of fight sports, people have always loved to watch the big men fight. At UFC 220 in Boston they will get to see both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles contested. In both instances, you get a grizzled veteran champion taking on a young and powerful challenger who has taken the division by storm. 

The headliner features the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Stipe Miocic (17-2) taking on Francis “The Predator” Ngannou. Miocic has the chance to set the all-time record (albeit at only three) for title defenses at heavyweight, but Ngannou is perhaps his most dangerous opponent to date. He has blitzed through the division, finishing his last four opponents each in under 2 minutes, including a cringe-worthy knockout of Alistair Overeem back in December. He has cartoonish power in both hands, he hits hard in close and at range, and pushes forward with a pressure that no one is comfortable with. Miocic is a striker by nature, but is also a very gifted offensive grappler, though he hasn’t shown that side of his game in this title run. To handle Ngannou he may need to revert to those roots. Either way, I envision a quick and explosive finish to this fight. 

The co-main event features the man many believe would run the heavyweight division should he choose to return to it, 205-lb. champ Daniel Cormier (19-1), taking on the hot new prospect in the division, Volkan Oezdimer (15-1). Cormier has proven to be one of the best fighters in the world, despite his inability to beat Jon Jones. With the exception of a hard-fought decision over Alex Gustaffson and the aforementioned Jones, Cormier has made everyone at 205 and heavyweight look like they didn’t belong in the cage with him. His wrestling and top-control are world class, and his striking has improved to the point where he isn’t afraid to trade leather before taking the fight to the ground. Oezdimer has the kind of power that can end a fight quickly, proven by his sub-minute KO’s of Misha Circunov and Jimi Manuwa, both top 10 fighters. Cormier has seen that before with Anthony Johnson, and he was able to weather the storm and get a decisive victory. 

Francimir Barroso (19-6) taking on Gian Villante (15-9) may not be appealing on paper and it may not have any remotely immediate title impact, but these two guys will be throwing leather. Barroso is a power puncher who dives for takedowns behind them, but has very little in the cardio department. Villante is a strong wrestler who has a strong chin, and needs it, as he is arguably the worst defensive fighter in the division. If Barroso can’t get an early finish, I expect him to have a long night underneath Villante. If his cardio outlasts Villante’s chin, we could be in for a spectacular knockout. 

Thomas Almeida (21-2) takes on Rob Font (14-3) in a bantamweight fight that should push the winner back into contender consideration. Almeida was once 20-0 and fought Cody Garbrandt for a number one contender’s spot. Garbrandt obviously got the win, and went on to win the title. Almeida bounced back with a decisive win over Albert Morales, but lost a decision to Jimmie Rivera where he was greatly out-grappled after that. Font is a strong all-around fighter whose game is based on counter-flurries. It has been effective for Font, but this may be a bad matchup for it, as Almeida excels once he can get opponents into clinch range. 

The undercard features Brandon Davis, Abdul Razak Alhassan and a lightweight bout between Islam Makhachev and Gleison Tibau. 

PREDICTIONS

Ngannou by TKO

Cormier by TKO

Burgos by DEC

Barroso by KO

Almeida by TKO

Davis by DEC

Alhassan by SUB

Pantoja by SUB

Are by DEC

Barzola by DEC

Makhachev by DEC

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Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

PROBABLE STARTERS

Thurs, Sept. 24 - HOU: Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33) vs. TEX: Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53)

Fri, Sept. 25 - HOU: Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78) vs. TEX: Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53)

Sat, Sept. 26 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87)

Sun, Sept. 27 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07)

STORYLINES

Season finale - The Astros will wrap up their regular season with their four game set in Arlington at the new Globe Life Field. Houston's magic number rests at two, as the Angels still have a puncher's chance. With Houston's miserable 8-20 road record, the postseason is anything but clinched.

Where's the offense? - The Astros offense has left a lot to be desired over the last few weeks, scoring more than three runs just twice in their last ten games. The bats really need to get going, especially if the team expects to do anything in the playoffs. George Springer has been the only reliable bat of late, with the performances of Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, and, most of all, Jose Altuve, leaving a lot to be desired.

Playoff seeding - If the playoffs started today, the Astros would face off with their division rivals in Oakland. There's an infinite number of possibilities over the next four games, but the Astros can see themselves finish anywhere from the fifth seed to out of the playoffs entirely. Any of Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago, New York, and Cleveland could be first round foes depending on how the cards fall.

PREDICTION

Lance Lynn has been one of the better pitchers in the game for a few years now, Kyle Cody is an intriguing young arm with good stuff, and Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson gave the Astros fits in Houston just last week. It isn't a recipe for success for Houston. The Astros win 1 of 4, which combined with the Angels and Mariners failing to take care of business, is enough to get Houston into the playoffs.

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