The biggest prize in MMA is up for grabs in the main event of UFC 260 as the consensus greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history takes on arguably the scariest knockout artist in the sport in a huge heavyweight title rematch.
Stipe Miocic has been there, seen it, done it, and has the UFC belts and records to prove it. He’s statistically the best heavyweight to ever rule the UFC’s top division, but he’s set to face off against a resurgent Francis Ngannou, who is determined to make amends for his lopsided decision loss to Miocic at UFC 220 back in 2018.
The heavyweight title clash headlines the card, with co-main support coming from a pivotal clash at 170 pounds, as former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley takes on rising Brazilian contender Vicente Luque.
UFC 260 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.
Ahead of the event, we take a look at four burning questions we’ll be seeking answers to when the fighters take to the cage.
When Stipe Miocic first faced Francis Ngannou at UFC 220, the watching world was fascinated to see how the man considered the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history would cope with one of the most thunderous punchers the sport has ever seen. As it turned out, Miocic (20-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) coped quite brilliantly.
Miocic used a combination of his boxing and wrestling skills, plus a savvy fight IQ, to completely befuddle Ngannou (15-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) en route to a five-round landslide decision win. Many thought the fight would see the end of Miocic’s heavyweight reign. Instead, he delivered arguably the most dominant performance of his entire UFC career.
Now Ngannou is back looking even more powerful than ever. Now he’s got Xtreme Couture’s Eric Nicksick in his corner, plus years of solid all-around MMA training at one of the top MMA gyms in the U.S. No stone has been left unturned in his bid to put things right the second time around, but will it be enough?
On paper, Miocic would appear to hold the edge almost everywhere form a skillset perspective. His boxing is sharper, his wrestling is better and his cardio is proven over the five-round duration. Ngannou has certainly gotten better, but is he now better than Miocic?
That punch power remains the great leveler, and one solid connection from the big Cameroonian could bring about a swift title change, but Miocic has tasted Ngannou’s power before and lived to tell the tale. If he’s in the sort of shape we saw when he defeated Daniel Cormier twice in their epic trilogy, it will be fascinating to see if he can withstand the power again.
Miocic has the skills, the savvy and the experience. He’s also beaten Ngannou decisively before. Ngannou, meanwhile, has evolved as a fighter, while losing one of the punch power that made him the most feared man in the heavyweight division. Only one can walk away with the belt and the infamous moniker, “Baddest Man on the Planet.” But which one will it be?
The night’s co-main event bout represents something of a crossroads moment for both the men involved. For Tyron Woodley, it’s the chance to prove that he’s still a factor at the top of the UFC welterweight division while, for Vicente Luque, it’s an opportunity to elevate himself from fringe contender to a bonafide threat to the division’s best.
Woodley’s form hasn’t been good. He’s dropped his last three bouts as he lost his title to Kamaru Usman, then lost to Gilbert Burns, then got finished by Colby Covington. A three-fight skid never looks good on any fighter’s resume, but the one caveat is the fact that all three fighters were world championship-level operators. Luque (19-7-1 MMA, 12-3 UFC) has not yet attained that level, so the question is whether Woodley (19-6-1 MMA, 9-5-1 UFC) can turn back the charge of the Brazilian and maintain his place at the sharp end of the division.
Luque has lost just once in four years – a decision defeat to Stephen Thompson – but has otherwise looked excellent, and he’s coming into Saturday’s event on the back of two knockout victories, so he’ll be bursting with confidence against a Woodley who has looked somewhat jaded in recent appearances.
Will Luque continue his rise by claiming the biggest scalp of his UFC career, or will Woodley rediscover the fire, and the form, that saw him conquer the welterweight division and prove that “The Chosen One” still has another title run left in him?
Sean O’Malley looked to be on a one-way ticket to the top before he ran into Marlon Vera and suffered the first defeat of his career last time out.
There were mitigating circumstances – he picked up an injury mid-fight that played its part in his eventual defeat – but O’Malley plans on bringing “The Suga Show” back to the win column on Saturday night.
On paper, at least, he’ll have a willing dance partner. Brazil’s Thomas Almeida was once considered a bantamweight champion of the future, but after a blistering start to his UFC career, his form has hit the buffers somewhat.
Almeida (22-4 MMA, 5-4 UFC) has lost four of his last five, including each of his last three, as his title ambitions have taken a severe hit over the last few years. Now he’s looking to put things right with a win over one of the bantamweight division’s most hyped rising stars.
Almeida’s fighting style almost guarantees O’Malley (12-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) will find himself in a striking battle, and he’s sure to fancy his chances in that situation. But Almeida has shown a penchant for the spectacular in the past, and an eye-catching finish could be on the cards, regardless of who wins.
Will O’Malley produce another show-stealing performance, or can Almeida explode back to form with a huge win?
With Valentina Shevchenko turning back all-comers as the division’s dominant champion, the search is on for fresh contenders to test “Bullet” through 2021, and Saturday’s 125-pound bout between Miranda Maverick and Gillian Robertson could produce a future contender to face the Kyrgyzstani champion later this year.
Robertson’s grappling skills have already seen her surpass Ronda Rousey for the most submission finishes by a female fighter in UFC history, but in Maverick (8-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) she’ll take on an aggressive, well-rounded newcomer who looks to have all the tools at her disposal to be a future title challenger.
Maverick already has a first-round finish of Liana Jojua from UFC 254 under her belt, but knows that victory over the dangerous Canadian will propel her toward the division’s biggest names. For Robertson (9-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC), meanwhile, it’s the opportunity to bounce back from her decision loss to Taila Santos at UFC Fight Night 183 last December.
Both women have the chance to move toward contender status at 125 pounds, but who’ll be making that jump with victory on Saturday night?