Stipe Miocic set the UFC heavyweight record with his third straight successful title defense, turning the anticipated slugfest against Francis Ngannou into a methodical and masterful ground-and-pound bout to win the main event of UFC220 at TD Garden.
Miocic won 50-44 on all three scorecards early on Sunday and was never seriously tested by the raw and unrefined Ngannou.
Miocic (18-2) and Ngannou (11-2) had UFC fans buzzing with perhaps the most-hyped heavyweight title bout since Brock Lesnar was the class of the division. Both fighters built their reputations on the strength of nasty knockouts, and Ngannou was coming off a Gif-worthy KO just seven weeks ago. Both fighters were winded by the third round and Ngannou looked sleepy as he whiffed on a few blows in the fifth.In the first round, the fight seemed like it could reach epic slugfest proportions. Miocic and Ngannou tagged each other several times, leaving each fighter staggered and seemingly on the brink of trouble.
“He’s a tough dude. Caught me in the first round but I took control,” Miocic said.
The fight never really picked up from there. Miocic spent the rest of the fight just banging away as Ngannou mostly covered up, hoping for one last desperate knockout punch.
The Cameroon-born Ngannou, who this week criticized President Donald Trumpfor his profane description of African countries, never found that reserve power.
“I think I underestimated [Miocic] a little bit,” said Ngannou, whose rise from homeless to heavyweight contender captivated a sport eager for a new star.
Miocic beat Fabrício Werdum to win the heavyweight title in May 2016, and followed with wins against Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and now Ngannou to slug his way into the record book.
Miocic could lay claim as UFC’s greatest heavyweight. “I mean I’m not the scariest, but I’m the baddest,” he said.
Elsewhere, Daniel Cormier locked a choke hold on Volkan Oezdemir with such force that the crowd exploded when the horn sounded to end the first round, thinking the fight was over. They were wrong.
Oezdemir was saved from submission briefly. But the inevitable defeat was just moments away. With a Boston crowd roaring and chanting his initials, Cormier showed why he’s the best active light heavyweight fighter in UFC and dominated Oezdemir via TKO to retain the 205lbs belt.
The 38-year-old Cormier was awarded the light heavyweight title after Jon Jones was stripped of the championship when he failed his latest doping test. Cormier has failed to beat Jones in two bouts and could not shake the stigma of those outcomes.
Against Oezdemir, Cormier proved worthy of the title. Cormier pinned Oezdemir against the canvas early in the second and finished him off with a series of shots to the face.
“I’ve lost twice to Jon Jones,” Cormier said. “I said coming in here that I felt like I was fighting for a vacant title again. I got the job done, so I’m the UFC champion again. I can’t ignore what happened in July. I’m a competitor. Even though I came in here as a champ, I needed a win to feel like one.”
UFC stripped Jones of the title after the California State Athletic Commission changed the result of Jones’ stoppage of Cormier at UFC 214 in July to a no-contest. Jones tested positive for the banned steroid Turinabol.
Cormier lamented leading up to the fight that he would never again fight Jones.
“I’ve done everything right and I’ve just been dragged down by this guy constantly,” Cormier said.
White suggested Cormier return to the heavyweight division and fight Stipe. But Cormier said he had little interest in the bout and friend and training partner Cain Velasquez should be next in line for a title fight.