Stipe Miocic’s fists carried him to the UFC heavyweight title and put him in position to become the first champion to successfully defend the belt three consecutive times.
His brain helped him break that record in the main event of UFC 220 in Boston on Saturday night.
Also on the card, Daniel Cormier defended the light heavyweight title with a second-round knockout of Volkan Oezdemir.
Miocic executed his gameplan to perfection, consistently taking phenom Francis Ngannou to the ground and wearing him down to zap him of his power.
Ngannou was noticeably slower by the second round and could barely mount an attack after the third.
“I may not be the scariest man on the planet, but I’m the baddest,” Miocic said after winning 50-44 on all three scorecards for his sixth consecutive win and third straight successful title defense.
Ngannou had torn through the rest of the contenders in the heavyweight division, stopping all six of his opponents before the third round. He had been tabbed for superstardom since debuting in the organization in December 2015.
Miocic ruined his coronation ceremony on Saturday night.
“I think I underestimated him a little bit,” Ngannou said. “He had a very smart game plan.”
Cormier executed just as well in the co-main event as he justified his title in his own mind with the victory.
Cormier lost the title to Jon Jones in July, but Jones failed a drug test and the bout was declared a no contest, allowing Cormier to keep his title.
“I’ve been through a lot,” he said. “I go through a lot because of my greatest rival, but it feels good to get back in here and get a victory. I’ve lost twice to Jon Jones. I said coming in here that I felt like I was fighting for a vacant title again. I got the job done, so I’m the UFC champion again. I can’t ignore what happened in July. I’m a competitor. Even though I came in here as a champ, I needed a win to feel like one.”
Oezdemir had won two fights inside a minute to earn the title shot and once again looked for a finishing blow early.
Cormier picked his spot and landed several powerful right hands late in the first round before securing a takedown and nearly locking in a choke only to run out of time.
He went right back to work in the second, turning an early takedown into a crucifix and landing right hands on a defenseless challenger until the fight was stopped.
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.
Main card results from Saturday’s card at TD Garden in Boston:
— Stipe Miocic def. Francis Ngannou, unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-44), to retain heavyweight title
— Daniel Cormier def. Volkan Oezdemir, knockout, Round 2 (2:00), to retain light heavyweight title
— Calvin Kattar def. Shane Burgos, featherweights, knockout, Round 3 (0:32).
— Gian Villante def. Francimar Barroso, light heavyweights, split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27).
— Rob Font def. Thomas Almeida, bantamweights, knockout, Round 2 (2:24).