A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 220 on Saturday at TD Garden in Boston, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Stipe Miocic (17-2) vs. Francis Ngannou (11-1)
Class: For Miocic’s heavyweight title
Line: Ngannou -175
Storyline: Miocic has a strong case as the best heavyweight in UFC history should he get by Ngannou. The former two-sport athlete in college will be alone as the longest-reigning heavyweight champion in the organization’s history should he defend his title a third consecutive time. His five-fight winning streak includes three knockouts over former champions. Yet he’s still the underdog. Ngannou is undefeated in his UFC career, and he’s only been training in the sport for about four years. His potential is terrifying. His present is scary enough. Ngannou earned the title shot with a highlight-reel knockout of Alistair Overeem in December. Both fighters are capable of ending the fight with one shot. The only question is who can land it first.
Hill’s Pick: Ngannou by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Ngannou by third-round knockout
Daniel Cormier (19-1, 1 No Contest) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (15-1)
Class: For Cormier’s light heavyweight title
Line: Cormier -330
Storyline: The only riddle Cormier has been unable to solve as a professional fighter has been Jon Jones. He’s 19-0 against everyone else, and the Olympic wrestler rarely has been challenged. Now that Jones is suspended again, Cormier looks to solidify his grip on the division. Oezdemir, whose last two wins have come in a combined 70 seconds, has quickly risen through the ranks with frightening knockout power and will look to land a shot big enough to knock the belt from Cormier’s grasp. It’s not a unique challenge to Cormier, however. He has defeated a similar opponent twice in Anthony Johnson. Oezdemir is capable of changing the entire complexion of the division with one punch, but Cormier has so many paths to victory it’s tough to bet against him.
Hill’s Pick: Cormier by decision
Fang’s Pick: Cormier by fourth-round submission
Calvin Kattar (17-2) vs. Shane Burgos (10-0)
Line: Burgos -185
Storyline: Burgos is a big-time prospect who is being given a featured spot on a massive card to showcase his skills. He is one of the bigger featherweights on the roster and will stalk his opponents to pressure them into making mistakes. Kattar, 1-0 in the UFC, could pose an interesting challenge. The only thing that has given Burgos difficulty is lateral movement with at least the threat of takedowns. Kattar is fundamentally sound and has enough experience to employ such a game plan.
Hill’s Pick: Burgos by decision
Fang’s Pick: Burgos by third-round knockout
Gian Villante (15-8) vs. Francimar Barroso (19-5, 1 No Contest)
Class: Light heavyweight
Line: Villante -160
Storyline: Villante seems as if he should have a much better career than he has managed. The former college football player has the size, athleticism and talent to be a star, but he has been plagued by inconsistency and conditioning issues. Barroso is a bit more lumbering and methodical, which could work to his favor if he can draw Villante into the second and third rounds. While Villante is difficult to take down, Barroso’s shots should prove far more effective as the fight progresses. This has the opportunity to grind to a halt should it not end early. That could favor Barroso.
Hill’s Pick: Barroso by decision
Fang’s Pick: Villante by second-round knockout
Thomas Almeida (22-2) vs. Rob Font (14-3)
Line: Almeida -120
Storyline: This is a sneaky contender for fight of the night. Both fighters are somewhat similar in that they are aggressive strikers with little regard for defense. Almeida in particular is one of the busiest fighters in terms of output. Font has struggled when he has stepped up in competition, and Almeida is certainly one of the more talented fighters in the division. He’s similar to John Lineker, who handed Font one of his two losses in the UFC. It’s a bit of a step down in competition for Almeida, who was 21-0 before suffering losses to Cody Garbrandt and Jimmie Rivera in going 1-2 in his last three fights. It should be a good opportunity for him to get back on track, but the small number on the betting board screams a lack of confidence from the oddsmakers in that happening.
Hill’s Pick: Almeida by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Almeida by decision