CLEVELAND -- UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic has a date with destiny, and it is January 20, 2018.
Miocic will defend his championship against fast-rising contender Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC 220 at the TD Garden in Boston, according to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, who reported the news late Wednesday night.
PHOTOS: Stipe Miocic to defend UFC heavyweight championship on Jan. 20
Already, the two combatants exchanged barbs even before the fight was announced.
In the co-main event of UFC 218 at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit on Saturday, December 2, Ngannou earned a vicious first-round knockout of former top contender Alistair Overeem with a left hook that landed flush on the jaw.
Then, in the post-fight interview, Ngannou said he is the real world champion and that Miocic was simply holding the belt for him in the interim.
Swiftly, Miocic fired off a tweet reminding the 31-year old Ngannou who is the current UFC heavyweight champion.
And still... pic.twitter.com/IwZPxLIXpL— Stipe Miocic (@stipemiocicufc) December 4, 2017
A Euclid native and graduate of Eastlake North High School based out of Strong Style Gym in Independence, Miocic will go for a UFC record third consecutive defense of the heavyweight championship. He tied the record with a first-round knockout of Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 in Dallas on May 13.
Miocic avenged one of only two losses on his professional record with a knockout of dos Santos at the 2:24 mark of the first round in the main event of UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos 2 at the American Airlines Center.
Although dos Santos landed 12 strikes early in the round, including leg kicks that caused instant swelling in Miocic’s left shin, the champion withstood the damage and landed 26 of his 56 strikes (46 percent). All 26 of his strikes were considered significant, according to FightMetric.
Miocic finished off his fifth straight knockout victory by backing up dos Santos against the cage and flooring him with a right hand to the head.
After dos Santos fell to the canvas, Miocic swarmed the former champion and threw more than a dozen left-handed punches through the guard, and when those strikes went unanswered, referee Herb Dean called a stop to the bout.
A perfectionist in and out of the cage, Miocic earned his measure of redemption from the unanimous-decision loss in a five-round slugfest against dos Santos at UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Miocic in Phoenix, Arizona on December 13, 2014.
Ironically enough, that last loss set Miocic on a path to five straight knockout victories. Including the redemption win over dos Santos, Miocic has finished off 14 opponents, all by knockout or TKO.
With the win over dos Santos, Miocic improved to 17-2 in his professional career, and 11-2 in his 13 bouts under the UFC banner.
Ngannou is 11-1-0 in his professional MMA career and 6-0 since entering the UFC in 2015.