Written by Mike “The Crippler” Rožić
After the Miocic fight Saturday night, I felt it was the perfect time for me to return to Croatiansports.com to analyze the fight from a technical standpoint. Over the weekend, I have watched the fight over a dozen times and tried to pick out certain points that stood out to me and potentially changed the flow and outcome of the bout. I broke down the fight in three parts that I felt were key factors in the outcome.
Francis Ngannou won the fight, but he didn’t just run over Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 the way he has everyone else…at least not right away.
The Takedown Attempt
It’s obvious that Ngannou has been training his wrestling/grappling and has improved from the last fight between the two. I watched that part of the fight over and over as I think that would have been a gamechanger if Miocic landed the takedown early on. It would have tired the massive Cameroonian out and would have had immediately crushed his confidence regarding his improved grappling. As we all know, the takedown was not successful and Miocic even ate a few shots on the ground after Ngannou took his back briefly. Let’s go back to that takedown attempt and look at it from a technical standpoint. The entry was perfect as Miocic quickly changed levels and secured the front leg of Ngannou, but after the initial entry, that’s where things go wrong. There is a technical term in wrestling called “turning the corner” and the video below explains it in detail. In Miocic’s attempt he basically just drives Ngannou against the fence giving him a chance to get his balance and adjust his technique; using the fence as a base. On the initial entry, Ngannou actually makes a technical mistake by wrapping his arms around Miocic’s waist. If Miocic would of “turned the corner” and put the pressure on the leg right away, he might have got the takedown early on and exploited the early technical mistake Ngannou made. Landing a takedown that early and away from the cage would have been a huge turning point early in the fight.
The scramble happened during the failed takedown attempt where Ngannou briefly had Miocic’s back and rained down shots. However, Miocic was able to scramble back to his feet and get off the fence. The key is when Miocic was able to get back up onto his feet to briefly press Ngannou against the cage before retreating after being rocked from the punches he absorbed. What if Miocic stayed in that final position and pinned Ngannou against the cage? If you watch the third Cormier fight, Miocic made a great adjustment against the cage and was able to control Cormier in that position with regularity using high underhooks (picture below).
The ability to hold a wrestler with the quality of Cormier against the cage for that long is quite the feat and using the high guard also eliminates a lot of the ability to throw any hard strikes. If you look at Ngannou after that short sequence, he was already visibly out of breath and his mouth was wide open. I think if Miocic began to work him against the cage after the scramble it would have took a toll on Ngannou’s cardio which I don’t think has improved much. This would have given Miocic the opportunity to get the cobwebs out and have some positional control in the fight and tire out the much larger Ngannou which would pay dividends later in the fight.
The Miocic Shot Landed Prior to Ngannou’s Knockout Punch
In the post-fight interview with Ngannou, he states the big shot Miocic landed didn’t hurt him at all and that it was a planned in/out technique. I watched that over and over and you can visibly see Ngannou’s legs buckle from the shot which led to Miocic rushing in with his hands down and getting clipped with a punch that led to the finish. If you watch Ngannou’s fights, when he gets hit, he immediately starts to swing wildly as a defensive measure. If you watch the first fight between Miocic and Ngannou, this exact sequence happens several times after Miocic connects on Ngannou. Obviously, Miocic was shook from the punches and was trying to survive, but I believe after he landed that punch, he would have moved out of range and continued the fight. At the very least, I think it would have given Miocic some confidence and frustrated Ngannou. Ngannou had several exchanges to finish the fight but was unable to put Miocic away early. If this sequence would have ended differently, he may have started to get frustrated, tired, and started to wonder if he could actually get the KO.
Ultimately, this is all a “what if?” scenario which is much of the fight game leading up to the actual bout. I must give Ngannou credit for the victory as he stayed patient and made adjustments from the first fight to claim the Heavyweight title.
But where does Miocic go from here?
It does not look like an immediate rematch is in the books as the Jones/Lewis vs Ngannou talk is running rampant. Does Miocic fight one of the two: either Jones or Lewis?
Miocic weighed in at 234 pounds for Saturday night’s fight. He looked really lean already but is there a possibility he would be able to cut weight and make the light heavyweight limit? Blachowicz vs Miocic? Miocic a 2-division title holder would look nice on his resume. Not that he needs it as the UFC Heavyweight GOAT.
Does Miocic maybe look at free agency and a big paycheck? Possibly at a title at a rival organization? He has never been appreciated by the UFC and currently not knowing his contract situation; it may be an option at this time.
Or, does the greatest UFC Heavyweight fighter of all time walk off into the sunset and retire? Miocic has a second baby on the way and has always been a true family man throughout his entire career. Miocic may want to sit back and enjoy the family life and look at other business ventures instead of being punched in the face for another year. Miocic is a competitive guy and from being at some of his training camps across the years, I would say he is the hardest working guy in the division and has some of the best coaches in the game.
I know Marcus and the Strong Style team are already looking at ways to improve as they have always done. I think with some adjustments and increasing his output/pace, driving Ngannou against the cage and making him carry the weight along with working Ngannou’s legs to affect his mobility, we could see Miocic claim the Heavyweight title again. A lot of people may think I am crazy saying that, but we need to remember what was said after his loss to Cormier. Many people wanted Miocic to retire then.
Ngannou reminds me of Brock Lesnar with all the hype surrounding him. Everyone thought Brock Lesnar was unbeatable until he wasn’t. I know they are completely different fighters but the hype around them is exactly the same. No matter what happens, Miocic has cemented his legacy as the greatest to ever fight in the Heavyweight division and he never changed who he was along the way. His career stats speak for themselves and I am good with whatever his decision is – whether he retires or not. I remember one of the first interviews I did with Miocic in Cleveland and we said he is going to take over the world. 10 years later, that’s exactly what he did.