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

Patriot Paws/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

It's that time of year: Houston Ballet's packed and popular Nutcracker Market will be held Thursday, November 14, through Sunday, November 17, at NRG Center with more than 100,000 shoppers expected to scoop up everything "Christmasy" that can fit under a tree, down a chimney, on a dinner table or you can put a bow on it.

About 260 merchants, including 23 rookie booths, will kick back 11 percent of their sales toward the Houston Ballet Foundation. When you add in all the admission money, thousands of Houston area students will get a valuable lesson in the arts.

As always, all roads will lead to booth 920, to the back and to the right in NRG Center, where the Donne Di Domani ladies will be selling their legendary marinara sauce for the 28th year. Donne Di Domani means "Women of Tomorrow" in Italian, or "Spaghetti Sauce Ladies" in plain English.

The sauce is still $10 a bottle, credit cards accepted. If you buy a 12-bottle case for $120, they'll throw in a dozen recipe cards guaranteed to please the family, including your uncle who comes to your house each Christmas and does nothing but complain about your cooking.

Here's why I love writing about these ladies. Sure their sauce is amazing. Consider this a warning: If you wait till Sunday to buy the sauce, you'll be the little piggy who had none. But the real story is what Donne Di Domani does with their profits — we're talking millions here. Yeah, they sell a lot of sauce.

Each year, after the market closes and they total up the profits, the ladies decide which charities they'll support. It's a long list of organizations such as Shelter for Cancer Families, Casa Juan Diego, Triumph Over Kid Cancer, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Carmelite Nuns of New Caney, and many more.

One year, when I was in the hospital getting my X-rays touched up, I heard that Sister Angel and the Carmelite Nuns said a prayer for me. Wrong church, wrong pew, but I'll take it.

Pawsing for our heroes
The charities may change, but the ladies will always support an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families. Last year the charity was Folded Flag, which lends a hand to widows and children of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

In recent years, Donne Di Domani sponsored service dogs trained by Patriot Paws in Rockwell, Texas. I've been to Rockwell and seen how these remarkable dogs help wounded veterans get through their day. It costs $30,000 to train a dog, and the dogs are given free to vets who need them. Donne Di Domani so far has sponsored four Patriot Paws dogs:

"Hoffy," who was named after me (best honor I ever received), didn't make the grade. His mind wandered and he didn't concentrate on his studies. (The acorn sure didn't fall far from the tree.)

Continue on CultureMap to find out what happened to "Hoffy."

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