Betting UFC 220: Key Angles in Miocic-Ngannou Title Clash

Betting UFC 220: Key Angles in Miocic-Ngannou Title Clash article feature image
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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Picking fights in the UFC is always a tricky business, but picking the UFC 220 heavyweight title fight when you have two combatants the caliber of Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou is bordering on a fool’s errand.

Such is the punching power of these two phenomenal athletes. It could literally be a case of whoever lands the first clean shot wins the fight.

The pair meets in the main event of UFC 220 in Boston on Saturday night, and the hype definitely sits on the side of the challenger. Ngannou, put simply, is the scariest man in the UFC.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Cameroonian is a terrifying prospect for UFC heavyweights. He reportedly has the world record for the hardest punch ever recorded, as measured at the UFC’s Performance Institute in Las Vegas, and in his last fight knocked out multiple world champion Alistair Overeem with arguably the single most devastating punch ever thrown inside the octagon.

But anyone believing this bout is a one-sided affair is fooling themselves. A closer look at the champion’s resume shows that Miocic is every bit as deadly a knockout artist as Ngannou.

A former Cleveland Golden Gloves boxing champion, Miocic has knocked out his last five opponents in emphatic fashion as he blitzed his way into title contention, won the belt with a one-hitter quitter on enemy territory, then defended the belt twice against consensus top contenders.

The granite-chinned Kiwi Mark Hunt was chopped down in the fifth round, while the subsequent four bouts, against former world champions Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum (for the title), Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos, saw Miocic put his opponents away inside the very first round. Ngannou is also riding a four-fight streak of first-round finishes, and his KO of Overeem undoubtedly tops the highlight reel, but if we’re talking about quality of opposition and sustained excellence at the highest level, the nod goes emphatically to the champion.

Done in one?

With both men possessing the punch power to render the other unconscious with one swing of their sizable fists, it’s fair to consider the bout a near-coin flip in the early stages.

And in a situation where the chances of a KO either way are virtually 50-50, it makes sense to lean toward the value, and that means backing the champion.

Ngannou is the betting favorite, priced at -170 to win the bout, with world champ Miocic a slight underdog, at +160. But given the knockout power on display in that contest, and the fact that both men are on runs of first-round finishes, a glance at the props to win in the opening stanza offers better value on a likely outcome.

And it’s here that the discrepancy in price really shows where the value lies. Ngannou is a +130 shot to win in the first round, but Miocic is +550. Given the champion’s recent form, that’s a colossal price, and one well worth taking.

What if it goes longer than expected?

If the fight goes beyond a round and a half, the edge should swing noticeably in Miocic’s favor, as the American’s experience fighting top-drawer opposition over an extended period of time should give him the edge. The American has been the full five-round distance against world-class opposition, whereas Ngannou hasn’t gone past a second round in his career. He also hasn’t kept the same level of company as Miocic over the length of time Miocic has.

Miocic’s wrestling chops may also play a major part in this contest. The Ohio native is a former NCAA Division I wrestler at Cleveland State, and he’s shown to be more than capable of lighting up opponents on the feet, then changing levels to take them down and ground and pound them on the mat. Miocic may be slightly smaller than Ngannou, but he’s still a big heavyweight and knows how to make his size felt when he has his opponents on the mat.

Ngannou will be dangerous as long as he’s fresh and standing up, but Miocic has the power, the speed, the wrestling and the gas tank to either knock Ngannou out or take the big Cameroonian into deep waters.

One swing of one of Ngannou’s huge hands could see him win the belt — this is top-level heavyweight MMA in small gloves, after all — but a look at the bout overall shows that Miocic has more ways to win. The longer the bout goes on, the better things look for champion, but early on, it’s a coin-flip.

The Verdict

Recency bias, a highlight-reel KO and a truckload of promotional hype have propelled Ngannou into the position of the betting favorite, but if you step back and take an objective look at what both men bring to the table, Miocic is the clear value pick.

SELECTED PROPS: MIOCIC TO WIN IN ROUND 1 @ +550, MIOCIC TO WIN VIA KO/TKO +229 (both via 5Dimes on Jan. 18)