As one of few up-and-coming fighters in the UFC heavyweight division to actually gain momentum with MMA fans in recent years, Francis Ngannou sent his hype train into the stratosphere by knocking out formerly No. 1-ranked Alistair Overeem with one hellacious strike in the co-main event of last Saturday night’s (Dec. 2, 2017) UFC 218 from the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
So much so, in fact, that Ngannou was immediately tabbed for the next title bout against champion Stipe Miocic, and indeed many pegged the Cameroonian-born Ngannou as the odds-on favorite to dethrone the also-surging Cleveland native. This week, early bettings odds have reflected that, as ESPN’s Brett Okamoto revealed that Ngannou debuted as a somewhat surprising -160 favorite over the +130 ruling champ:
Wow … Francis Ngannou will open a -160 betting FAVORITE over the champion Stipe Miocic (+130), according @MMAOddsBreaker, if/when that fight becomes official. Even after UFC 218, that's not what I would have guessed.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) December 5, 2017
There’s no doubting that “The Predator,” who has finished six straight fights since debuting the Octagon in December 2015, is the most promising heavyweight prospect to come along for several years in the heavyweight division. His win over Overeem, a former Strikeforce, DREAM, and K-1 champion who was deservedly billed as Ngannou’s first true top-ranked challenge, only solidified that fact, and his title shot is the only choice for a promotion needing bankable stars more than ever.
Miocic also knocked out Overeem when they met at 2016’s UFC 203, even if it did take him a bit more time – and a decent amount more danger – than Ngannou’s victory over “The Reem.” The athletic former Golden Gloves boxer has won five straights by knockouts himself, with his most recent a first-round TKO over former champion Junior dos Santos to avenge his last loss at May’s UFC 211.
That adds up to 11 straight finish wins combined for heavyweight’s top two combatants, making it quite possibly the most explosive match-up the Octagon has ever seen. Do you agree with Ngannou already being favored over the reigning champ?