Ever since Francis Ngannou stepped into the octagon, the question didn’t seem to be if he would be UFC champion, but when he would be UFC champion. The answer to that question was March 27, 2021.
Ngannou, the man who allegedly has power of a Ford Escort in his hands, put the pieces together in the main event of UFC 260 and captured the title with a little help from his opponent, Stipe Miocic.
In the lead up to the fight, Ngannou’s team swore he had tightened up his wrestling and had developed patience in his striking game and a better gas tank. The problem with that is that no one outside Ngannou’s gym had seen these changes. Since his loss to Miocic in 2018, Ngannou was 4-0 with four knockouts. None of those four bouts lasted over 71 seconds.
Well, it turns out Ngannou’s team was not lying. Ngannou didn’t rush in for a quick finish and he looked good in stopping the only takedown Miocic attempted. Ngannou even slid to Miocic’s back after defending the takedown attempt and unloaded some heavy strikes from that position.
The end came in the early moments of the second round when Miocic, already rocked from the hands of the title challenger, charged in with his hands down and Ngannou dropped Miocic to the mat and finished the fight with a nasty ground strike.
Read on for the winners and losers of UFC 260.
Francis Ngannou: The man who had been called a future UFC heavyweight champion since he debuted with the promotion in 2015, erased the future part of that phrase on Saturday when he ended the second title reign of Stipe Miocic.
We didn’t get to see 25 minutes of the improvements Ngannou’s team promised ahead of this fight, but Ngannou delivered enough to at least show his doubters that he had made some improvements to his game, at least enough to win the UFC heavyweight title and with that, even a little proved to very significant.
Vicente Luque vs. Tyron Woodley: Call me crazy, but I’m going to look at this fight, which was short and exciting as a win for both men. First, Tyron Woodley. The former champ had not won a fight since 2018 when he defeated Darren Till. Over the past few years he had been criticized for his lack of aggression and hunger. He showed both of those on Saturday night and even though things ended with Woodley losing inside the first-round via submission, he showed that he didn’t want to go out with a whimper. It might have been a small win for Woodley, but after his past performances and losses, I think it was a win.
As for Luque, he got the win he needed to put him back in consideration for a contest against a highly-ranked 170-pound opponent. Outside of his UFC debut, Luque’s only UFC losses are to Leon Edwards and Stephen Thompson.
Sean O’Malley: Sean O’Malley looked confident in the opening moments of his fight opposite Thomas Almeida. He was all movement and feints. O’Malley’s striking was much better than Almeida’s and that striking nearly led to a walk-off knockout in the first round, but Almeida recovered from the blows that put him down and the fight lasted much longer than it needed to. O’Malley’s ego impeded that stoppage and that’s something he needs to work on in the future.
O’Malley is a talented and exciting fighter to watch, but the jury is still out as to how high the 26-year-old can rise and if he can stay healthy. Now might be the time for the UFC to test O’Malley against another fighter who is on the rise, but inside the rankings.
Miranda Maverick: Miranda Maverick looks like she could be a problem for many in the flyweight division. She put on a solid performance against Gillian Robertson at UFC 260.
The positives: Aggressive, good striking combinations, mix of targets, mix of techniques, power, heavy top game, good takedowns, decent fight IQ and heavy ground strikes.
The only negative for Maverick was her defensive jiu-jitsu game, which could use some work. At a very young age, Maverick has nothing but time to develop, hopefully the UFC gives her that time.
Jamie Mullarkey: Jamie Mullarkey’s job was likely on the line at UFC 260. With an 0-2 record and two decision losses, he had to be feeling some pressure heading into his bout opposite Khama Worthy. Mullarkey put the pedal to the floor from the start of the fight and when he found an opening for a huge left hook, he delivered it to Worthy’s exposed chin and finished things up in under a minute. An excellent performance and a great way to start the UFC 260 pay-per-view card.
Alonzo Menifield: Alonzo Menifield made quick work of Fabio Cherant by taking advantage of his opponents inexperience. Cherant made the mistake of holding onto a choke attempt too long and that gave Menifield the time and position to end the bout via Von Flue choke.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov: On Saturday, Abubakar Nurmagomedov let the UFC welterweight division know he is more than a wrestler. He used his striking to great effect during the first 10 minutes of his bout opposite Jared Gordon. Then, with his opponent focused on the striking, he went to his wrestling in the third stanza. Nurmagomedov put together an impressive performance on his way to a unanimous decision win .
Michal Oleksiejczuk: Michal Oleksiejczuk’s approach to his light heavyweight matchup against Modestas Bukauskas was to pressure his opponent from the start. Perhaps he thought Bukauskas would tire or he could not fight well while backing up. Neither of those things happened, but Oleksiejczuk did score with his striking, having a higher landing percentage than that of his opponent.
Omar Morales: Omar Morales fought a safe and technical fight for most of his matchup against Shane Young. While that did not make for the most exciting bout, it paid off in a win for Morales. Morales looked much better when he was being aggressive with his offense, but he was happy to allow Young, for the most part, to control the position of the fight.
This bout was the second at featherweight for Morales, so there might have been some trepidation on his part against Young. Fans should monitor Morales’ next 145-pound contest to see if there are any changes to his approach.
Marc-Andre Barriault: Barriault started out a bit slow, but that might have been part of the plan because Azaitar ran out of fuel in a big way and once that happened, Barriault took over the fight. Barriault absorbed some damage during the fight, but he showed a firm chin. This was a nice performance from Barriault, but it was against an opponent who had little going for him after the first five minutes.
The UFC: After the event ended, the speculation began about who would get to face Francis Ngannou in his first title defense, Jon Jones or Derrick Lewis. If we know anything about the current version of the UFC, it’ll be the low bidder.
Daniel Cormier: UFC commentator Daniel Cormier might have been the happiest man inside the UFC Apex on Saturday. Cormier was positively popping with glee at the idea that Francis Ngannou will face Jon Jones. It was almost as if Cormier held some kind of grudge toward Jones.
Stipe Miocic: Stipe Miocic pushed at the wrong moment on Saturday and that error in judgement cost him the fight and his title. It was impressive that Miocic took some of the shots he did from Ngannou and I can’t blame him for making the wrong choice in that instant, but it happened.
The question now is what’s next for Miocic, who achieved greatness despite the UFC being his side hustle.
Thomas Almeida: Thomas Almeida is a resilient fighter, but he is not a fighter who is on the rise. He was on a three-fight losing skid heading into UFC 260 and he left the event with a fourth straight loss after Sean O’Malley knocked him out. I don’t know what happened to the fighter who began his career on a 21-0 run, but Almeida is no longer that man. At 29, Almeida still has some life left in him, but it seems as if the next time he competes it will be outside the UFC, which might be where he needs to be to get back to the fighter he was.
Gillian Robertson: Gillian Robertson had one spot where she had an advantage over Miranda Maverick and that was when she was on the ground on Maverick’s back. The problem for Robertson was that when she was in that position, she was a bit too patient and did not get aggressive in pursuit of submissions and that was a costly error.
Khama Worthy: Jamie Mullarkey came out with a lot of movement, but Worthy tagged him with a couple jabs, but things went south quickly when Worthy backed up with his hands down and chin up.
Fabio Cherant: Well, at least Fabio Cherant, who was a late replacement, didn’t get beaten badly on his way to a quick loss in his UFC debut.
Jared Gooden: Jared Gooden was rightfully concerned about the wrestling of Abubakar Nurmagomedov at UFC 260 and that might have caused him to underestimate the striking of his opponent. That was a mistake. Nurmagomedov only attempted one takedown in the first 10 minutes of the fight while landing his significant strikes at better than 50 percent. Gooden was not prepared for a well-rounded fighter in this contest, but that’s what he got.
Modestas Bukauskas: Modestas Bukauskas spent most of his fight against Michal Oleksiejczuk fighting off his back foot. In the early going of the bout, it impressed me that Bukauskas did not over commit when he didn’t get too aggressive when he had his opponent hurt. As the fight progressed, that became a problem since it allowed Oleksiejczuk to recover and get back to pushing forward. This fight could serve as a learning moment for Bukauskas, he needs to up his aggression and not let his opponent control the pace and location of the fight.
Shane Young: Shane Young dropped a decision to Omar Morales and he knew the fight was not his as soon as the horn sounded to end the third. Young, who is a member of the City Kickboxing team, is now on the first losing skid of his career. Young controlled the location of the fight, but his output and landing percentage were lacking. In his two UFC wins, Young was much more active with his offense. If anyone can get Young back on track, it’s Eugene Bareman, who was not in Young’s corner for UFC 260.
Abu Azaitar: Abu Azaitar, who was coming off a layoff of nearly three years, some of which was due to a USADA suspension, started out strong, but it quickly became apparent that he entered the octagon with less than a full tank. Azaitar faded quickly and by the time the third round began it was clear he had nothing left to offer in the cardio department. Azaitar seemed to want out during most of the final five minutes, but his corner and the referee let it go. The referee, Jerin Valel, finally stopped the beating with four seconds left.
UFC: I don’t know who picks UFC fight-night bonus awards, but whoever it is screwed up by giving Sean O’Malley a “Performance of the Night” award. O’Malley failed the first test, but got an A on the retest, that’s not noteworthy.
Jerin Valel and Abu Azaitar’s corner: Abu Azaitar seemed not all that interested in being inside the cage during the third round of his bout opposite Marc-Andre Barriault. His body language was not good, but his corner and referee Jerin Valel seemed intent on letting the fight go much longer than it should have. The late stoppage was an inauspicious start to a good fight card.
Joe Rogan: UFC commentator Joe Rogan called the above fight a good stoppage. He might have been the only one who saw it that way.