When a UFC champion enjoys heavyweight Stipe Miocic’s success, the subject of motivation often comes up.
For example, what keeps Miocic going when he’s defended his title more times than any heavyweight in UFC history? What drives this fire when he already knows what it is like to lose his title and get it back? What if we call him the greatest heavyweight of all time? What if his next opponent, Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 on Saturday, is a man he’s dominated before, five rounds to go?
These are all fair questions for the champion, but Miocic’s motivation won’t be questioned this weekend. Why not?
The answer probably has something to do with the fact that Miocic always has an obvious source of motivation to get into fights. And that motivation is that somehow we keep doubting this guy.
Despite all his successes, Miocic (20-3) is an underdog against Ngannou (15-3) this weekend – just like in his last two fights against Daniel Cormier and in his first fight against Ngannou in 2018. Before the title fight this weekend , the eighth part of Miocic’s career, the focus is back on the other man – since it was the first time he and Ngannou fought.
“I love silencing people,” Miocic said on the UFC’s “Countdown” show, one of the most important marketing tools for promotion before each pay-per-view. “My whole life.”
There are similarities between UFC 260 and UFC 220, where Miocic defeated Ngannou over five rounds in Boston – and then took the championship belt off Dana White before the UFC president could wrap it around him because Miocic wanted his head coach, Marcus Marinelli, to have it to do instead.
Regardless of whether someone wants to admit it or not, there was a feeling in 2018 that the UFC (and perhaps the sport in a broader sense) was ready to move from Miocic to Ngannou. There was an unmistakable “us versus the world” feeling emanating from Team Miocic, and you can’t tell me that that didn’t underscore Miocic’s act of taking White’s belt off that night.
And while this weekend everyone would agree that Miocic is the greatest heavyweight ever, it is very telling that the first thing you hear from him on the “Countdown” show is, “I love silencing people bring to.” If there’s a silver lining to not getting the respect it deserves, maybe it’s that motivation is never an issue.
By the numbers
18: Percentage of Ngannou significant strike attempts that ended up in his first meeting with Miocic, who bonded with 73%. This resulted in a 70-21 advantage for the champion, with Ngannou landing just six times after Round 1.
6: Miocic’s takedowns in 2018 fight with Ngannou. The champion has 25 takedowns in his UFC career, making him the third most in heavyweight history along with former two-time champion Randy Couture.
0: Ngannou wins that he did not finish. He has 15 wins in his career, 11 by knockout and four by assist.
162: Seconds Ngannou fought in his last four fights, knockout victories in 45 (Curtis Blaydes), 26 (Cain Velasquez), 71 (Junior dos Santos) and 20 seconds (Jairzinho Rozenstruik). That connects Ngannou with Miocic, Derek Brunson and Shane Carwin for most knockout games in the first round of the UFC in modern times.
2: African-born UFC champions: Israel Adesanya middleweight and Kamaru Usman welterweight, both from Nigeria. Ngannou comes from neighboring Cameroon.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
A look back
Five against five
Stipe Miocic’s recent results
Prize: Daniel Cormier (UD, August 15, 2020; see ESPN +)
Prize: Daniel Cormier (TKO4, August 17, 2019; see ESPN +)
Loss: Daniel Cormier (KO1, July 7, 2018)
Prize: Francis Ngannou (UD, January 20, 2018)
Victory: Junior dos Santos (TKO1, May 13, 2017)
The latest results from Francis Ngannou
Victory: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (KO1, May 9, 2020; see ESPN +)
Prize: Junior dos Santos (TKO1, June 29, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: Cain Velasquez (KO1, February 17, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: Curtis Blaydes (TKO1, November 24, 2018)
Loss: Derrick Lewis (UD, Jul 7, 2018)
Dom & Gils film study
Dominick Cruz on Miocic’s ability to avoid harm:
In Unlocking Victory, Dominick Cruz explains how Stipe Miocic avoided Francis Ngannou’s mighty hands in her first fight in 2018.
Gilbert Melendez on changes that will help Ngannou:
Gilbert Melendez shows on Unlocking Victory what Francis Ngannou can do differently in his rematch against Stipe Miocic.
And the winner is …
“If Stipe plays the same game plan as last time he’ll likely win. If he doesn’t, he’ll likely be knocked out,” said Javier Mendez, American Kickboxing Academy coach in San Jose, Calif., Told ESPN. “If you take the power away from Ngannou by wrestling with him, you’ll hit him. He’s a big guy. It takes a lot of muscle to move and throw punches like he does.”
Learn how Mendez and other experts break down the UFC 260 main event.
Saturday’s battle card
PPV (via ESPN +), 10 p.m. ET
Stipe Miocic (c) versus Francis Ngannou | Heavyweight
Tyron Woodley versus Vicente Luque | Welterweight
Sean O’Malley versus Thomas Almeida | Men bantamweight
Gillian Robertson versus Miranda Maverick | Women’s flyweight
Khama Worthy versus Jamie Mullarkey | Light
ESPN / ESPN Deportes / ESPN +, 8 p.m. ET
Alonzo Menifield versus Fabio Cherant | Light heavyweight
Abubakar Nurmagomedov versus Jared Gooden | Welterweight
Modestas Bukauskas versus Michal Oleksiejczuk | Light heavyweight
Shane Young versus Omar Morales | Men’s featherweight
ESPN / ESPN Deportes / ESPN +, 7:30 p.m. ET
Marc-André Barriault versus Abu Azaitar | medium weight
(c) = defending champion
How to watch the fights
Watch the PPV and all other fights on ESPN +. Get ESPN + here.
Watch the preliminary rounds for ESPN, ESPN Deportes or ESPN +. Download the ESPN App | download WatchESPN | TV
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There is also FightCenter, Here you can find live updates for every UFC card.
Four More Things to Know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will seek a career-long loss in three bouts to Vicente Luque, who has won two of his eight and eight of his last nine. Woodley, who ranks 10th in the ESPN welterweight division, will have his stand-up defense tested as Luque scores 5.72 significant hits per minute, the highest rate among active 170 pounders.
2. Sean O’Malley meets Thomas Almeida after his first defeat, who knows a thing or two about the difficulty of rebounding. Almeida started his UFC career 4-0 but has been 1-4 since then. This bantamweight fight could warm up quickly. O’Malley (12-1) has eight first-round finishes and Almeida (22-4) has 17.
3. Gillian Robertson, who fights Miranda Maverick, has six flyweight wins, making it the best in division history. Maverick won her UFC debut last October by knocking out the first round and has won six straight bouts.
4th If Khama Worthy battles lightweight Jamie Mullarkey, he’ll be looking to recover from a seven-fight winning streak that ended with a TKO loss to Ottman Azaitar in September.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this bout preview.