Oh. My. God.
Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou, two of the baddest men on the face of the planet are finally going to square off for the UFC Heavyweight championship Saturday night at UFC 220.
We’re confident in saying that no previous MMA fight in the history of the sport has ever featured this punch raw punching power. And if that bout wasn’t enough to get you interested in this card, Daniel Cormier will also be defending the Light Heavyweight title against Volkan Oezdemir as he attempts to finally put his Jon Jones rivalry firmly in the past.
The rest of the undercard might be short on recognizable names, but don’t sleep on undefeated featherweight Shane Burgos or hard hitting light heavyweight Gian Villante, who are both capable of providing some spectacular moments and entertaining fights.
Here’s our official preview and betting predictions for UFC 220, in case you enjoy throwing down a couple bucks with your friends on fight night. If you’re a novice, fighters with the negative number are considered the betting favorite. For example, a fighter with odds of “-150” means you have to risk $150 to make $100 profit. A positive number indicates an underdog, with odds of “+200” meaning that a successful $100 bet would earn $200 profit.
We took our odds from Bodog.ca, but you can find slightly different (and constantly changing) numbers at different sportbooks around the internet and the real world. We will list the favorites first.
Thomas Almeida (-130) vs. Rob Font (EVEN)
Currently slated as the opening fight of the main pay-per-view card, Thomas Almeida and Rob Font should be an intense start to the night. It wasn’t that long ago that Almeida was an undefeated bantamweight, sporting a flawless 21-0 record. He lost to Cody Garbrandt in 2016, but Garbrandt went on to be the 135-pound champion later that year, so there’s no real shame in that. But Almeida then lost to top ranked Jimmie Rivera last summer, and his momentum was completely derailed. Now he’s at risk of falling out of the Top 10 with another loss.
Font also started his MMA career strong, but two losses in his last four fights has him sitting as the No. 14 ranked bantamweight in the division. A win over Almeida could vault him into the top 10 as he attempts to get into title contention. Unfortunately, he’s already lost to ranked contenders like Pedro Munhoz and John Lineker.
At the end of this fight, we’ll see two very different paths. One fighter will be back on track with a title shot in reaching distance (with another solid performance or two). The other will be wondering where it all went wrong, and faced with the prospect of starting again at the bottom of the ladder.
Prediction: Almeida via Knockout.
Gian Villante (-185) vs. Francimar Barraso (+150)
At one point, Gian Villante as a New York State high school wrestling champ and a football standout, and probably could have played for a major Division I school and pursued a career in the NFL as a linebacker. Instead, he followed his MMA training into a full blown MMA career, taking early fights in Ring of Combat and Strikeforce. Unfortunately, his time in the UFC has been grossly inconsistent — he has five wins compared to six losses since 2013.
Brazilian Francimar Barraso didn’t even get to the UFC until 2013, and he was already 33 at that point. He’ll be 38-years-old next month, and fighters aren’t typically as durable when they approach that 40 mark. Barraso has barely had a chance to make in impact with fans, as he’s fought his last seven fights on UFC Fight Night cards instead of major PPV events. Not that it really matters, though, since he only has a single win in his last four fights.
We’re going with age and power in this light heavyweight tilt.
Prediction: Villante via Decision.
Shane Burgos (-175) vs. Calvin Kattar (+145)
We already mentioned that Burgos is still undefeated in his young MMA career, posting a perfect 10-0 record using a combination of knockout (4), submission (4), and decisions (2) to earn his victories. Calvin Kattar’s career record is almost as impressive at 17-2, although he’s only fought a single time under the UFC banner so far (a decision victory over Andre Fili on the undercard of UFC 214 in July 2017).
Neither fighter is ranked in the UFC’s official Top 15 for the featherweight division, but we have to think an 11th straight victory would get Burgos in the conversation. He’s the younger, more well-rounded fighter out of the two, and we expect him to continue to rise up the ranks. Yes, that’s three straight picks for the favorite. Don’t worry though, that’s all about the change.
Prediction: Burgos via Decision.
Daniel Cormier (c) (-325) vs. Volkan Oedemir (+250)
With Jon Jones firmly out of the light heavyweight picture for the foreseeable future, things can finally get back on track. Daniel Cormier remains the champion despite losing to his fierce rival last year, since Jones failed a drug test and is facing a lengthy suspension. Cormier is easily the best fighter in the 205-lbs division, beating all comers so far (except Jones, but he’s on the juice). Beyond that, Cormier is a model fighter and employee — he never gets in trouble or involved in controversy. The UFC should thank their lucky stars he exists.
Challenging for Cormier’s title is Swiss fighter Volkan Oezdemir. A full ten years younger than Cormier, Oezdemir has together an impressive resume so far, including knockout wins over Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov in his last two fights. He also a 3-0 professional kickboxing record. In short, he’s a scary scary man.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see Cormier retain the belt, but at some point his age is going to catch up with him. Couple that with him almost missing weight before his last bout and an odd social media feud with professional wrestlers in last few weeks, and we’re not sure that Cormier has his head completely in the game. That’s a recipe for disaster in this sport. Plus, there’s no value in betting Cormier at -325, so…
Prediction: Oezdemir via TKO.
Francis Ngannou (-175) vs. Stipe Miocic (c) (+145)
It’s not often that a reigning and dominant champion comes into a big title fight as the underdog, but Stipe Miocic finds himself in that very position ahead of Saturday night’s huge heavyweight showdown. Cameroon native Francis Ngannou is perhaps the scariest heavyweight the UFC has ever seen, with a rare combination of speed, technical skill, and incredible raw power. It’s no secret that the UFC are targeting the 31-year-old as their next huge star, especially after highlight reel knockouts of Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski in his last two fights.
Ngannou does have an incredible story. He was born into poverty in Cameroon, and refused to join various street gangs and instead pursued boxing. At 26, he moved to France without any money, friends, or even a plan on where he would sleep. Just a few years later, he made his UFC debut by knocking out Luis Henrique at a UFC on Fox event in 2015.
There are plenty of good reasons that the bookies have made Ngannou the favorite. Miocic is as tough as they come, but he’s never been hit as hard as Ngannou will attempt to hit him in the main event on Saturday night. But there is a saying when it comes to title belts: “To be the man (wooo!), you gotta beat the man.” We think Miocic will keep his distance and work his superior wrestling skills to grind out a decision victory.
Prediction: Miocic via Decision.