BOSTON -- Saturday night was supposed to be the dawn of the next great heavyweight era.
Instead, it turned out to be confirmation of the historical nature of Stipe Miocic’s UFC title reign.
In the most-anticipated UFC heavyweight fight in years, Miocic schooled the hard-hitting Francis Ngannou at UFC 220. By scoring a 50-44 across the board unanimous decision at TD Garden, Miocic became the first UFC heavyweight champion in history -- a belt whose lineage traces back to 1995 -- to successfully defend the title three consecutive times.
The opening round was a battle of breathtaking intensity, as both fighters hit one another hard enough to give the other pause. But Miocic’s game plan soon became clear. Whenever Ngannou landed a punch, Miocic would go for a takedown. And while he wasn’t successful with all his shots, he did land one by the middle of the round. Miocic worked from side control and briefly attempted an armbar, then later went for a choke.
Miocic really took over in the second round, making it apparent his all-around game was superior to Ngannou’s one-punch knockout style. He again took Ngannou to the mat. When Ngannou tried to get up, Miocic waited for a knee to the head, but Ngannou put his hand to the mat. Instead, Miocic landed knees to the body and basically ragdolled Ngannou.
The third was similar. Ngannou had a bit of success in the clinch, but after he tagged Miocic with a right, Miocic landed a takedown and controlled things from there.
By the fourth, both fighters were clearly tired, but Ngannou more so. Micoc scored a takedown early, and rained down many punches as Ngannou simply held on.
With the win, Miocic improved to 18-2. His sixth straight win was just his fourth career decision victory. Ngannou (11-2), who came into the fight with four straight first-round finishes, had a nine-fight win streak snapped.