In most cases, a championship rematch is necessitated when a vanquished challenger reinvents himself or otherwise makes improvements which vault him back into the picture.
That’s not necessarily the case, however, at Saturday’s UFC 260, where heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (20-3) of Cleveland defends against Francis Ngannou (15-3) in the latter’s transplanted hometown of Las Vegas in the evening’s pay-per-view main event.
The two first met at UFC 220, after Ngannou blitzed his way to the top of the heap with a string of fast and violent knockouts. Miocic responded by implementing a wrestling game which stymied Ngannou for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision.
Since the Jan. 2018 bout, Ngannou dropped his next bout in a three-round decision to Derrick Lewis at UFC 226 in July 2018. But he then rebounded with four first-round knockouts, with the longest of the four going just 1:11.
Miocic, meanwhile, has fought a trilogy with Daniel Cormier, losing the belt, regaining it, then settling things in the rubber match.
As such, we have the rare rematch in which we don’t have much new information to glean.
Has Ngannou, 34, improved his wrestling? If he has, it’s been entirely behind closed doors in the gym. No one he’s recently fought has lasted long enough to test his ground game.
For Miocic, meanwhile, the question becomes how much the grueling Cormier battles took out of the 38-year-old and whether this marks the fight where the damage catches up with the two-time champion.
The card was originally scheduled to be a two-title-fight event, as Alexander Volkanovski was scheduled to defend his featherweight belt against Brian Ortega. One week before the fight, however, Volkanovski announced that he had tested postive for COVID-19, forcing a postponement.
Elevated to the co-feature spot is a welterweight matchup between former champion Tyron Woodley of Ferguson, Mo. and New Jersey’s Vicente Luque. Woodley (19-6-1) looks to snap a three-fight losing streak, while Luque (19-7-1), the winner of eight out of his past nine, would score the biggest name win of his career with a victory.
–Field Level Media