Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou is now official for UFC 220 in Boston on Jan. 20. The bout pits heavyweight champion Miocic -- looking to set the record for consecutive divisional title defenses -- against arguably the top contender in years.
Is this the best championship matchup, in any division, the UFC can make right now? We asked our panel -- ESPN MMA reporter Brett Okamoto, ESPN MMA editor Greg Rosenstein, SportsCenter hosts Max Bretos and Phil Murphy, and digital contributor Eric Tamiso -- for their takes.
Brett Okamoto, ESPN MMA reporter
It's up there. Like I wrote after Ngannou's knockout over Alistair Overeem this month, I think it's the best heavyweight title matchup since Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos fought for the first time in 2011.
But I'm going to make this the second-best title fight the UFC could make right now, behind Demetrious Johnson vs. TJ Dillashaw. I have those two ranked the Nos. 1 and 3 pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Johnson is the closest thing I've ever seen to a perfect fighter, and Dillashaw is willing to cut weight for a chance to be the only one to beat him at flyweight.
Greg Rosenstein, ESPN MMA editor
I love the upcoming UFC heavyweight title matchup because I truly have no idea what is going to happen. I believe Stipe is the more technically sound and experienced fighter, but Ngannou's power is otherworldly. This fight will likely come down to who lands cleanest, first. But for my money, I'm going with Demetrious Johnson vs. TJ Dillashaw. Johnson, the flyweight champion, has been dominant over the course of his career. But has he fought someone with the size and skill set of Dillashaw? Both fighters' legacies will be on the line.
Another matchup that I believe is going under-the-radar is Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar. This was initially set for UFC 218 in Detroit, but Edgar had to pull out with an injury. If and when this is made, I would not be surprised if Edgar upsets the Hawaiian champion by taking him to the mat and finishing him with ground-and-pound.
Phil Murphy, SportsCenter host and MMA contributor
First, we need to define "best." If "best" means "most entertaining," it's hard to beat Miocic-Ngannou. This fight is today's heavyweight king vs. tomorrow's. Both are tough, world-class athletes with boxing bases. A knockout, probably in the first round, is virtually guaranteed.
If "best" means "biggest," then it's impossible to top anything with lightweight champion Conor McGregor as the A-side. Whether it were the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov, a unification bout against Tony Ferguson or a superfight against featherweight champ Max Holloway, McGregor's defense would triple the pay-per-view sales and fan appetite of the heavyweights.
If "best" means "most skillful," sign me up for Demetrious Johnson moving up to 135 pounds to face new champion TJ Dillashaw. The speed, technique and footwork on display would be unmatched, maybe in the history of mixed martial arts.
Max Bretos, SportsCenter host
It isn't fair, but UFC matchmaking today will be compared to the past couple years, where the answer to "best fight to be made" would easily include Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor.
Rousey is long gone, and as each day goes by my doubts grow as to whether we will ever see McGregor back in the Octagon. Now is not the time to deal in hypothetical questions, so let's be real with regard to the best matchup that the company can make.
If we are dealing with absolutes, Miocic vs. Ngannou is the answer to that question. For all the bad cards the UFC has been dealt, this is their pocket ace: two uncompromising talents who have somewhat fallen in their lap in the most historically frustrating division in MMA. This is a fight you would like to build up to months down the road, but the UFC does not have that luxury. So savor it now. Hopefully it bears fruit and we get a sequel ... or a trilogy.
Eric Tamiso, ESPN MMA contributor
Only if it's the title fight giving the best chance of a knockout in the first round. Of course it'll be a great fight with one of two very interesting situations for the UFC. Either Miocic records the most title defenses in heavyweight history, or a new champ is crowned with mythical power in his fists not seen since the last Marvel film.
However, it is not the best title fight that can be made -- it isn't even the best bout being talked about. How about a showdown between two current champions, with TJ Dillashaw going to 125 pounds to challenge Demetrious Johnson, the man with the most title defenses in company history? If Ngannou/Miocic is a hardcore fan's delight, then this matchup would be their dream. For how entertaining either of those fights are, neither will draw money. No one can generate PPV revenue like Conor McGregor. No matter the opponent, a McGregor title fight is what's best for business, even if the most heat he has had inside a cage recently is with a referee. Hey, I wonder if Marc Goddard can make 155?