Cain Velasquez vs. Francis Ngannou is the Perfect UFC on ESPN Debut Headliner

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It’s been almost three years since he last competed, but this Sunday we’ll finally see former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez return to the Octagon when he takes on Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC on ESPN 1. It’s the first fight for Velasquez since a July 2016 TKO win over Travis Browne at UFC 200, and he’ll be making his comeback against one of the division’s hardest punchers in Ngannou. The UFC has put a great fight together for its debut on big ESPN, and Velasquez and Ngannou will look to put on a show for the fans.

For Velasquez, this is a big fight for him with potential title implications should he get by Ngannou. The former UFC heavyweight champion is teammates with the current champ Daniel Cormier, but with DC hinting towards retirement, the timing is perfect for Velasquez to return to the Octagon and look to re-establish himself as a title contender. Let’s just say DC has one more fight left, against Brock Lesnar for instance. Once that fight is over it’s likely he’ll hang up his gloves, leaving his teammate Velasquez the opportunity to win back the belt. The timing, therefore, couldn’t have worked out better for his return to the Octagon.

Of course, Velasquez can’t be looking too far ahead just yet as he first has to get by Ngannou this weekend. The hottest fighter in the sport in 2017 after his brutal KO win over Alistair Overeem, Ngannou endured a rough 2018, to say the least. He started the year off with a lopsided decision loss to then-champion Stipe Miocic which exposed his takedown defense. Then he followed it up with a split decision loss to Derrick Lewis in one of the worst fights of the year. But credit to Ngannou as he put those losses behind him and rebounded nicely with a TKO win over Curtis Blaydes to end the year. That set him up for a big-name opponent in his next fight, and Velasquez it is. If Ngannou wins this fight, he should ask for a title shot.

The matchup itself is mostly a clash of styles between the powerful wrestler in Velasquez and the explosive striker in Ngannou. If Velasquez is smart, and he is, he’ll look to take Ngannou down to the mat and grind him out there. Velasquez has always been known for both his wrestling skills and his cardio, so if he can get the takedown he should have a clear method of victory. For Ngannou, he’ll look to land a big punch on Velasquez and knock him out early. Velasquez has decent boxing himself but on the feet Ngannou is definitely more dangerous due to his speed alone. Each man has a clear path to victory here, making it a very intriguing style matchup, and whoever is able to implement their preferred style will get their hand raised.

The UFC made a good choice booking Velasquez against Ngannou for the ESPN debut. It’s always good to have the heavyweights in a showcase bout, as the odds of a big flashy knockout are higher. Not only that, but both fighters deserve this opportunity.

For Velasquez, he headlined the first UFC on FOX show and will now headline the first UFC on ESPN show. For Ngannou, he was the biggest rising star in the sport two years ago before falling and then getting back up again. The UFC knows it can count on these guys to put on a good fight for the fans, and the card in Phoenix this weekend should provide nothing but thrills for all those watching.