Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Odds, Picks, Predictions: UFC 260 Main Event Preview (March 27)
Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou.
- Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic will face Francis Ngannou in a rematch for the heavyweight title belt in UFC 260 on Saturday, March 27.
- These two explosive fighters met in 2018 with the champ Miocic retaining his belt, but Ngannou has been the favorite in the lead up for the rematch as he continues to finish fights in the first round.
- Sean Zerillo gives his Miocic vs. Ngannou pick and preview below.
Miocic vs. Ngannou Odds
In the betting world, there are a few opportunities that are as educational as a rematch.
For example, in the NBA or NHL playoffs, you typically can find the same two teams with the same sets of players squaring off on consecutive nights in the same arena – but the betting line may move from one game to the next based upon public perception from recent results. Logic dictates that if all inputs remain the same, then the betting line shouldn’t change – but it still often does, likely providing value on the team whose odds have improved since the previous matchup.
Rematches in the fight game are quite different since we get the opportunity to 1) evaluate the previous matchup; 2) determine whether either fighter has improved or declined since that event, and 3) analyze how the odds have shifted from the previous fight to the current one.
More than three years ago, at UFC 220, Francis Ngannou closed as a -190 favorite (implied 65.5%) against Stipe Miocic for their Heavyweight title bout. Miocic won every round – including one 10-8 round on all three scorecards – but Ngannou still opened as a -190 favorite for the upcoming rematch.
Money has steadily come in on the underdog champion, who is down to even money (50% implied) at some books, but is there anything to indicate that Stipe shouldn’t be the outright favorite for the second fight after dominating the first affair?
Below I preview the matchup and odds for Saturday’s main event. For more analysis on the rest of the card, make sure to look out for my projections for the entire slate on Friday.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time||11:29||5:37|
|Weight (pounds)||234 lbs.||263 lbs.|
|Date of birth||8/19/82||9/5/86|
|Sig Strikes Per Min||4.9||2.23|
|SS Absorbed Per Min||3.75||2.03|
|Take Down Avg||1.92||0.00|
Miocic is arguably the GOAT of the Heavyweight division — a status he cemented with his second consecutive win over Daniel Cormier last August. Ngannou looks like a Heavyweight that you would design in a video game.
Ngannou’s first title challenge against Stipe represents 30% of his fight time in the UFC — and it was by far his worst performance. Ngannou spent 15 minutes (60% of the fight) in Stipe’s control while allowing six of 14 takedown attempts (43%) from the relentless champion. He was out-landed 70-21 on significant strikes, including 37-19 from distance where Miocic was the far more efficient man (71% to 18% in strike accuracy).
Ngannou landed 90% (17-of-19) of his total distance strikes for the fight in the first two rounds, including 13 in the first round (led 13 to 12 from distance), but he slowed dramatically after pursuing an early knockout, and Stipe was rarely touched over the final four frames — avoiding 45 of Ngannou’s 50 attempts from distance.
However, when Ngannou did connect, particularly in that first round, he caused some damage. He easily opened up a mouse under Stipe’s left eye – at which point the champion turned up the pressure with his wrestling and slowed Francis down considerably.
But even while obviously fatigued, and with his hand speed seemingly at 50% its norm, Ngannou managed to stun Stipe a couple of times in the middle rounds of the fight — he just didn’t have enough energy to throw combinations or explode off of the mat from his back.
Since their first encounter, we haven’t seen any video evidence that Ngannou has improved his grappling, particularly regarding his takedown defense or his ability to get up off of his back.
In fact, this is the closest thing we have to visual confirmation of him working on those skills:
Francis Ngannou's foundation in Cameroon does amazing work for local communities.
But the founder doesn't go easy on the students 😅
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 25, 2021
Since a 15-minute stalemate with Derrick Lewis, Ngannou has knocked out four opponents in a combined 162 seconds, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
While he hasn’t absorbed any damage over the past three years, Ngannou also hasn’t tested his cardio in a high-volume affair since the Miocic fight or been forced to defend takedowns against wrestlers like Cain Velasquez or Curtis Blaydes; he put both men to sleep, too quickly.
That’s what makes Ngannou’s chances in this rematch nearly impossible to quantify. There is too much variance with his death-touch power and too much unknown regarding any potential improvements he’s made to his cardio or grappling.
Ngannou did move his camp – from MMA Factory in France to Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas — since the first Miocic fight, so he’s put himself in a position to have made those improvements – but it’s hard to forget him flailing on the bottom – merely surviving – underneath Stipe’s grasp for the majority of their first encounter.
Stipe changed his body since that first fight — when he weighed in at 246 pounds against Ngannou and 242.5 pounds for the beginning of his trilogy with Daniel Cormier. He came in nearly 10 pounds leaner (233) for the second and third Cormier fights. He displayed his typically excellent stamina and movement, but he also looked noticeably smaller, and his defense has worsened with age.
While those wars with Cormier helped validate Stipe’s legacy in this sport, I’m generally inclined to fade any fighter who has absorbed 232 head strikes in his past two fights, going against the greatest power puncher on the planet.
While Miocic survived Ngannou’s windmill hooks in that first fight, this is still a high-variance Heavyweight bout. If Stefan Struve can put Stipe’s lights out, the champion is vulnerable against any opponent.
Miocic vs. Ngannou Pick
I projected Miocic as a 54% favorite in this spot, but I would take any projection on a Heavyweight bout, particularly Ngannou — with a full jar of salt – not just a grain.
There is almost no way to properly analyze the true chances that “The Predator” sends an opponent to the shadow realm upon impact. And while those chances should diminish as the minutes tick by in this fight, he’ll remain a knockout threat for the duration.
What’s most interesting to me is how the perceived chances of that knockout have changed since their first encounter.
Take a look at the listed odds in the prop market for the first fight, as compared to the upcoming rematch:
If you were to set the true odds on this fight as a coin flip — 50% on either side of the moneyline — I would make Ngannou’s odds to win inside the distance around 47.5%, or +110. At a 46% moneyline projection, I would set his inside the distance line closer to +130.
In the first fight, Ngannou’s Round 1 odds indicated – relative to his inside the distance odds – that if he did score a finish, it would occur in the first round 75% of the time. For the rematch, the same conversion (-105 = or 51.2% implied, divided into +225 = or 30.7% implied) – gives us an expectation of 60% in the first round – and despite how exhausted Ngannou looked after his first five minutes with Stipe, I still think that’s a proper assessment.
Stipe put Ngannou into some perilous positions on the mat and up against the cage during the first fight, but the challenger refused to quit and still had some power left in his hands in the later rounds – he just had no speed left to get his hands to the target.
Meanwhile, Stipe could certainly finish the fight himself, but his odds to win inside the distance haven’t budged a lot since the first encounter. Instead, his decision line – and the odds for the fight to go the distance – have both come crashing down.
Still, I don’t think it’s enough of an adjustment. At a 50% win projection – in line with his market odds – I would set Stipe’s decision line at +257 (implied 28%) since I make a decision more than half of his win condition. At my 54% moneyline valuation, Stipe’s decision projection moves to +229 (implied 30.4%).
Either way, that’s a substantial edge relative to listed odds at +450 (18.2% implied) in the decision market and the best value on this fight if you’re placing one wager. Relative to his moneyline odds, +450 implies the Stipe has a 36% win condition by decision – and I’m about 20% more bullish than that.
I would skip the distance prop at +300 (implied 25%), relative to my projection at 34% – if this fight goes the full 25 minutes, it’s doubtful that Ngannou is winning on the scorecards. Miocic should have substantially more pressure and volume over a five-round fight, and you can get a superior price on his decision prop.
You could talk me into Stipe’s moneyline at -105 or better – more than a three percent edge compared to my projection. That covers all of his win conditions but leaves you vulnerable to an early Ngannou knockout – and I wouldn’t make a large play on a high-variance fight.
And I wouldn’t talk you out of Ngannou by knockout or inside the distance at even money or better. You’re getting substantial value relative to those listed odds in the first fight, and if Francis has made improvements to his defensive grappling, Stipe likely goes to sleep early.
While that’s a bit of a whim bet – since we don’t have any evidence to back up Ngannou’s potential improvements — at least you have the argument that you’re getting a significantly better price in the first fight while backing a guy who can win against the same opponent who dominated him even without making a single improvement in three years.
Given Ngannou’s outlier power, I’m betting this fight a bit differently than I would for any other bout and taking positions on both sides based upon their most likely win condition, respectively.
I would place a half-unit on Stipe’s decision line (+450 at Bet365) down to +350 and place at least a quarter unit – enough to cover my Stipe decision wager – on Ngannou Wins in Round 1 (+250 at BetMGM) down to +200.
In effect, you make a small profit if Ngannou wins in Round 1, turn up to a two-unit profit if Stipe wins by decision, or take a loss of less than one unit with any other result.
The primary wager is Stipe’s decision line – and I think he’s on the value side of the moneyline too. If you’re only going to bet Ngannou, take him by KO or inside the distance, and give a long look at his Round 1 prop.
This is the exact type of fight where I’ll take a juicy plus-money position on both sides since there’s almost no way to truly quantify Ngannou’s power.
The Pick: Stipe Miocic Wins by Decision (+450, 0.5 units) | Francis Ngannou Wins in Round 1 (+250, 0.25u)