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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic can foil UFC fairytale

Francis Ngannou's odds look far too short

Francis Ngannou (right) battles Alistair Overeem during UFC 218
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One of the most remarkable and heartwarming stories of the last few years reaches its climax at UFC 220 in Boston where Francis Ngannou challenges heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, but for cold-hearted punters it also represents a great opportunity to profit by betting against a fairytale ending. 

Five years ago Ngannou was living homeless on the streets of Paris after emigrating from his native Cameroon, where he had worked shovelling sand in a quarry since the age of 11.

On the recommendation of a friend he attended a beginners MMA class at a local gym, where his enormous physical attributes and raw natural ability instantly caught the attention of the instructors. 

After a few spectacular wins on the local circuit Ngannou was offered a chance to fight with the UFC, and since making his debut he has won all six fights - none of his opponents have made it out of the second round and the last four have been over inside two minutes

In his last fight Ngannou destroyed Alistair Overeem, one of the greatest heavyweights ever, with a punch that was awarded the 2017 knockout of the year.

Always keen to hype up a potential new superstar, the UFC have thrown their full marketing machine behind him in attempt to reinvigorate a flat heavyweight division.

Whenever that happens punters should be on red alert. Hype effects the odds in combat sports more than any other, and while Miocic could end up in a crumpled heap on the canvas, the odds on offer would not seem to accurately represent the probability of this happening. 

Ngannou starts as a 1-2 favourite, but from an analytical perspective that price is hard to justify against an established and proven world champion such as Miocic.

Miocic has been fighting and beating far higher-level opponents for a long time and is used to dealing with the pressure of headlining a main UFC card - this is his third defence of the title.

He has plenty of experience of facing big punchers and has the intelligence to come up with an effective strategy to neutralise Ngannou's big shots. 

Miocic has plenty of power too - he has also won all of his last four (including three world-title fights) with first-round knockouts.

Another big area where Miocic may hold a key advantage is endurance. Ngannou has never fought more than ten minutes in any fight in his entire career, whereas Miocic is proven over distance.

Five times his fights have gone at least three rounds and twice they have reached the fifth. This fight is scheduled for 5x5 minute rounds, so the longer it goes on, the more it should favour the champ. 

Ngannou certainly has the power and ability to win the belt and it would be great to see his ultimate underdog story end with him being crowned world heavyweight champion, but profitable sports betting has no room for sentiment.

The evidence suggests Miocic should not be a 31-20 outsider, and the advice is to back the proven champ.

S Miocic 
2pts 31-20 Coral, Ladbrokes

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Ngannou destroyed Alexander Overeem, one of the greatest heavyweights ever, with a punch that was awarded the 2017 knockout of the year
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