After securing his previous five victories with his fists, Stipe Miocic outsmarted and outlasted Francis Ngannou to defend his UFC heavyweight title for a third time on Saturday night, something that’d never been done in the division.
And in the 35-year-old’s mind, the victory seals his claim as the greatest heavyweight in the promotion’s history. Not just because of his 12-2 UFC record (18-2 overall), but because of whom he’s had to fight to get to his perch.
“F*ck yeah I do (feel like the best heavyweight in UFC history),” Miocic said after dominating Ngannou over five rounds at UFC 220 in Boston, winning 50-44 on all three judges’ scorecards.
“No one’s ever defended it three times. I’ve done it and I had a killers row of fighters to get to it. I had a hard path to get to the title, and I’ve had a hard path to defend the title. I had top dudes. I had to fight [Andrei] Arlovski, then I had to fight [Fabricio] Werdum in Brazil in front of 45,000 people. Crazy. Next guy, [Alistair] Overeem, killer, K-1 champ, hits like a ton of bricks. Next guy, JDS (Junior dos Santos), who I lost to. Now I got a guy who’s a phenom. Nothing’s ever easy. I know fighting ain’t easy, but I never had an easy road. Everything was hard.”
Miocic’s strategy against the 31-year-old who’d been training in MMA for just over four years: Take the fight to the mat and make the man with the hardest recorded punching power in UFC history go the distance.
“He’d never been there,” Miocic said of his grappling strategy. “Why not? He caught me in the first round a couple of times, but after that, I took the will out of him. That’s what I do.
“Listen, man, I’ve got the fighting spirit. It’s going to take a lot more to take me out. Ford Escort, Ford F-150, I don’t really care. I’m going to keep coming. He’s a tough dude, no question. He’s got a great career ahead of him. But I’m going to keep coming.”
As for Ngannou, he agreed the results make Miocic the greatest heavyweight in the sport, but added he’s got plenty of time to dethrone the Ohian.
“He’s the first heavyweight to defend the title three times, but any record can be broken and I’m not done yet,” said Ngannou. “I’m just starting.”