Preview by Ryan Frederick
Welcome to our live cageside coverage of UFC 220, coming to you from somewhat cageside at Boston's TD Garden
The UFC kicks off their 2018 PPV calendar with a card headlined by two title fights as UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic defends against Francis Ngannou in the main event while UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier defends against Volkan Oezdemir in the co-main event.
Miocic looks to make UFC history and successfully defend his title for the third time, but Ngannou is the most dangerous challenger in the division, with power punching and ten straight wins, all by stoppage. Cormier looks to defend the 205-pound title for the first time since being reinstated as champion. He enters the Octagon for the first time since July, while Oezdemir looks to extend his five-fight win streak and win UFC gold less than a year since making his UFC debut.
Rounding out the main card is undefeated Shane Burgos taking on Calvin Kattar, winner of nine straight, at 145 pounds, light heavyweights Gian Villante and Francimar Barroso battle to get back into the win column, and bantamweight prospect Thomas Almeida looks to get back on track as he fights Rob Font.
Send along your thoughts on tonight's event (thumbs up-down, middle finger) along with a best fight and a worst fight to Dave Meltzer at email@example.com.
UFC FIGHT PASS PRELIMS:
> Islam Makhachev (15-1, 4-1 UFC) def. Gleison Tibau (33-13, 16-11 UFC) by first round knockout (:57)
This was quite a way to start the card. Makhachev hit a left hook that knocked Tibau flat. He hit few unneccesary punches after that and it was over. This is Tibau's first tilt in two years due to a USADA suspension and it showed. Makhachev (flanked by Khabi Nurmagomedov) said in his post-fight promo that he wants someone tougher next.
The crowd really popped for the finish which isn't a surprise. What is a surprise is so many people are here already, a good sign for a loud and rowdy crowd tonight. Loooooong break until the next fight.
> Enrique Barzola (14-3-1, 4-1 UFC) def. Matt Bessette (22-8, 1 NC, 0-1 UFC) by u/d (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Bessette is a Massachussets kid who made an impression on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender series and was an injury replacement. This is his UFC debut against Barzola, a past TUF Latin America winner
Bessette started out hot, throwing a lot of kicks and landing a nice head kick as Barzola was still warming up. That gave him a 10-9 on my card, but the dreaded Octagon adrenaline dump seemed to take over in the second. Barzola hit a leg kick that swept Bessette and hit a few takedowns that didn't amount fo much. Still, he got a 10-9 on my card as he the aggressor over a waning Bessette. In the third, Barzola was landing with more precision. Bessette was still throwing, but his tank was clearly running low. There was a little hope spot as Bessette was working for a triangle and leg lock with a minute to go but Barzola fended it off for a 10-9 round.
This was a decent fight that was buoyed by the crowd rooting for their guy.
FOX SPORTS 1 PRELIMS:
> Julio Arce (13-2, 1-0 UFC) def. Dan Ige (8-2, 0-1 UFC) by ud (30-27x2, 29-28)
These are also two DWTNC guys, both making their UFC debut.
It was a really slow start until Arce hit a straight left that wobbled Ige and was aggressive going after with more punches. Ige survived and threw a few counters, but Arce was on top of him to pick up the round 10-9. Arce controlled a fairly ho hum second round with punches for a 10-9 where Ige was going for takedowns but not getting them. Ditto for the third as Arce was simply better on the feet and lit up Ige on the feet. This was a fairly missable fight, but the crowd was into it.
There was lots of whoooing int his one which the MMA equivalent of saying 'What?"
> Dustin Ortiz (#10, 18-7, 7-5 UFC) def. Alexandre Pantoja (#11, 18-3, 2-1 UFC) by ud (29-28x3)
This featured a great first round. Pantoja was a backpack on Ortiz and was diligently working for a rear naked that turned into a face crank. Ortiz worked his way out in the last minute, hit a big knee and then was working Pantoja's back. Pantoja won the round 10-9, but that was close and fun to watch. Ortiz won the second round 10-9 by controlling Pantoja's body for nearly the entire round, working him over with knees to the legs and body while attempting to take him down. Pantoja went back to the well in the third, backpacking Ortiz and wriggling him down two minutes in. But Ortiz worked out of it and earned the third 10-9 by outstriking Pantoja and grinding him out.
There's a significant Brazilian presence here and they were chanting loudly during that first round. Despite that, Ortiz got a nice pop when his name was read.
After that quick start, we're now at three straight decisions. The crowd is still lively, but I'm interested to see how these next two go.
WWE's Dolph Ziggler is here.
Abdul Razak Alhassan (9-1, 3-1 UFC) def. Sabah Homasi (11-8, 0-3 UFC) by first round knockout (3:47)
This was a rematch of a fight that happened recently with a controversial finish that Alhassan took. That streak of decisions came to a violent end as Alhassan crushed Homasi with a clean uppercut, knocking him cold in the first round. It was a no doubter as Homasi was out before he hit the canvas. Alhassan did a backflip and the crowd went nuts. Alhassan bears some watching in 2018. Have I mentioned how good this crowd is tonight?
> Kyle Bochniak (8-2, 2-2 UFC) def. Brandon Davis (8-4, 0-1 UFC) by u/d (30-27, 29-28x2)
We get to our final FS1 prelim with another local in Bochniak trying to get a win and another DWTCS guy getting an opportunity. No big surprise but the crowd was pretty big into Bochniak's intro.
This was not a great fight and that it was the featured FS1 prelim shows you the depth of this card outside the PPV. Bochniak edged him out in the first round with body control, a few well-timed strikes, and a takedown, good for a 10-9 first round. From there, he really didn't do that much and I scored the final two for Davis who also didn't do a lot but did defend a few takedowns and landed a few punches and kicks. I wasn't surprised that Bochniak picked up the win here as it was that close.
PPV MAIN CARD:
> Rob Font (#14, 15-3, 5-2 UFC) def. Thomas Almeida (#10, 22-3, 5-3 UFC) by second round TKO (2:24)
Outside the top two fights, this is the one I was most excited to see. Both are coming off losses, but are both young enough in thier careers where an 'L' here isn't going to sink them. Font is another local guy and the locals have gone 1-1 on the show thus far.
A huge second round propelled Font to a big win to open up the show. After battling to a stalemate in round 1 with no clear advantage for either guy, Font hit a big overhand right that hurt Almedia badly. He was on him ,throwing shots while Almiesia was trying to clinch and slow things down. Then came a big head kick that led to the end followed by some hammer fists that wrapped up the show for Almedia.
This was a great way to open the PPV. I'm assuming the live crowd isn't coming through on the broadcast, but they went nuts for that one, obviously.
> Gian Villante (16-9, 6-6 UFC) def. Francimar Barroso (19-7 1 NC, 4-4 1 NC UFC) by split decision (30-27 Villante x2, 29-28 Barroso)
For the first time tonight, the Boston faithful booed. Nearly four hours into the show, I guess that's a good thing.
This fight...existed. It was complete filler and something you'd expect to see on the Fight Pass prelims of an FS1 show. The light heavyweight division hasn't been good for a while and this was evidence of that.
Villante was better standing and really hit a few good shots in the second round, but that's all you need to know about this. That it was a split decision was...interesting. Villante got the crowd back a bit with his post-fight promo because he was rooting for Miocic.
There are plenty of names here to watch the show including Amanda Nunes, Demetrious Johnson, Kelvin Gastelum, Kamaru Usman, Bethe Correia, and even Forrest Griffin to name a few.
> Calvin Kattar (18-2, 2-0 UFC) def. Shane Burgos (10-1, 3-1 UFC) by third round TKO (:32)
By way of New Hamsphire's Massachussetts' Kattar rounds out the group of four local fighters tonight and has a tough challenge in the undefeated Burgos. Kattar was out to Tom Petty's 'Wont Back Down' which is Chris Weidman's music. He cornered Villante tonight so we're definitely getting a distraction finish or some kind of interference here.
After going into the third tied at 1 a piece on my scorecard, Kattar landed an uppercut from hell to a leaning-in Burgos who was instantly on roller skates. Kattar then hit another uppercut that put Burgos on his back. He went after him, hit a few more shots and when Burgos gave him his back while getting up, Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight. The crowd went ballistic and rightfully so for an outstanding and satisfying finish to a very technical fight.
Up until that point, it was all stand-up with Kattar taking the first and Burgos taking the second. Kattar's jab was on point while Burgos was connecting with some nice body shots.
> UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier (20-1 1 NC, 9-1 1 NC UFC) def. Volkan Oezdemir (#2, 15-2, 3-1 UFC) by second round TKO
Said in Mauro Ranallo voice: Oezdemir is out to the Game of Thrones theme, but will he be Ramsey or Jon Snow tonight?
The outcome here is going to be quite intriguing, but I'm guessing Alexander Gustafsson gets the winner regardless. Cormier is a huge fan favorite here and this has a big fight feel even with a lesser-known challenger.
For eight minutes, Cormier was the king of the city, taking out Oezdemir in the second round, outclassing him and showing why he's one of the best in the world.
In the first round, both guys were swinging for the fences with the challenger looking to use his recent power surge to take out the champion. But Cormier withstood the attack and landed plenty of his own, eventually securing a takedown and working for a rear naked choke at the end of the round. It was so loud in the Garden that people thought the fight was over.
In the second, Cormier took over and popped the crowd when he got a takedown. After some ground and pound, he worked Oezdemir into crucifix position and landed punches and elbows, eventually getting the fight stopped to Boston's delight.
He was emotional in his promo and was happy that he won what he considered a vacant title. As the kids say, he was over here tonight despite never having fought here before.
> UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic (C, 19-2, 12-2 UFC) def. Francis Ngannou (#1, 11-2, 6-1 UFC) by u/d (50-44)
My god, it's time. The anticipation is like watching the final seconds tick down from a bomb that is about to go off.
R1: Miocic fought a smart and fantastic first round, waiting out the hurricane of power and eventually tagging Ngannou on counters and scoring takedowns that tired Ngannou out. Ngannou did connect a few times, but as he began to swing wildly, Miocic nailed him with a punch that staggered the big man. After scoring another big takedown to end the first, it's clear that he had a sound gameplan coming in. 10-9 Miocic
R2: Both guys slowed a bit in the second after taht fast paced first. Miocic (nearly 20 pounds lighter) was still able to tag him and with two minutes to go, got a big takedown and started working Ngannou over. For the final minute, Miocic had Ngannou kneeling against the cage and was kneeing and punching him. Ngannou couldn't get up, his strength completely sapped. Everyone is standing, making for an incredible atmosphere. They are ridiculously into this fight. 10-9 Miocic with an argument for a 10-8
R3: Can you believe we're in the third? Ngannou has nothgn left for Miocic and the champion did exactly what he did to finish the second: putting Ngannou up against the cage and working his body over. Just when Ngannou tagged Miocic, the champion smartly took him down to negate the damage. Flat on his back, Ngannou wasn't trying to get up. This is way more one-sided than I expected. 10-9 Miocic
R4: Can you believe we're in the fourth? Miocic scored a takedown 20 seconds into the round and just kept pounding away. At one point, he got up, Ngannou meekly tried for a leg lock or kneebar and Miocic simply spun around and went right back on the ground before Ngannou knew what was happening. Miocic was also a bit tired so his ground and pound shots weren't enough to do big damage and end this. There was even a smattering of boos from the crowd as they wanted the finish -- or at least a stand-up -- badly. 10-8 Miocic
R5: Can you...ok, now we can believe it. Both guys were exhausted, but Miocic was slightly fresher. Ngannou could barely throw a punch which negates his one thought-to-be-big advantage. This was a boring round and unfortunately, fans didn't get the finish they wanted. 10-9 Miocic
I certainly didn't expect that to go the distance and neither did everyone else. Miocic is now the record holder for the most UFC heavyweight title defenses and is the best UFC heavyweight of all-time.
Thanks for reading!