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UFC ON ESPN 1: Ngannou v. Velasquez

UFC ON ESPN 1: UFC PHOENIX – February 17, 2019

It was only a matter of time till the premier organization in MMA and the premier home of all sports would find in each other a mutually beneficial relationship. The UFC is hours away from its debut on the nationally televised ESPN and if the partnership between the UFC and ESPN had been a longtime coming, then the long awaited return of a former heavyweight champion has felt longer. Cain Velasquez (14-2-0), the former 2x heavyweight champ, will make his long awaited return to the octagon against the Knock-out machine, Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (12-3-0) in the main event inside the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. Also on the card we have James “The Texecutioner” Vick (13-2) vs Paul “The Irish Dragon” Felder (15-4) and if that isn’t enough, we could be witness to the birth of a new-age Gracie.

Main Event

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This Sunday feburary 17th at TALKING STICK RESORT ARENA in Phoenix. Live on @espn 🔥🔥🔥. #thepredator #theredemption #ufcphoenix .

A post shared by Francis Ngannou (@francisngannou) on Feb 12, 2019 at 10:09am PST

Cain Velasquez is, arguably, the heavyweight GOAT. At his peak he would dismantle any human who even thought they had a chance at defeating him. However, injuries caused setback after setback and with the start of a family – Cain shifted his attention to help in the raising of his family. The combination of family and setback, due to injury, have caused him to not make the walk to the octagon since July of 2016 where he got a TKO win over Travis Browne in the first round at UFC 200. Training out of AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) which happens to be one of the most successful MMA gyms – especially when it comes to producing current and former champions in the UFC. During the time away from the octagon Cain has gone on record questioning IF he really had it in him to find the fight in himself and get back to the Cain Velasquez that fight fans knew. Facing his own battles with injuries and his health, all while enjoying the birth of his son and spending time with the family. It wasn’t till recently that Cain found that fire and it was spotted by a man who has been by Velasquez’ side through it all. Coach Javi Mendez of AKA saw it early on in 2018 as Cain begin to put more work in the gym. The time away from the gym tag teamed with the love of his family may not have only healed Cain physically but mentally. A fire ignited in Cain, to regain the belt for a THIRD time and become what many know he can be- THE GREATEST EVER and putting any and all arguments to rest. Coach Javi Mendez said it best on a segment with ESPN. Mendez stated, “he need to be the greatest of all-time and he needs to be acknowledged as the greatest of all-time.” Failure or coming up short isn’t an option for Mendez, and if Cain resembles his coach’s attitude then neither will it be for him.

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This is Arizona! ¡Así es Arizona! 📷: @desautomatas #UFCPhoenix

A post shared by Cain Velasquez (@officialcainvelasquez) on Feb 16, 2019 at 6:03pm PST

In a matter of hours Cain will make that walk against the UFC Performance Institutes poster child- Francis Ngannou. The striking machine known as “The Predator” has made a name for himself by notoriously knocking out opponents. Basically having boulders for hands, Ngannou has shown that not only can a fight change in one second but that it can change in one punch. Since Cain’s last fight, Ngannou has made the walk to the octagon 7 times, going 5-2 in those 7 bouts. All 5 wins coming in the 1st round. His Two losses going the distance and one of those against then champ, Stipe Miocic. Throughout the week Ngannou has shown great respect for Cain but knows that a win against Velasquez puts him back at the top in the driver seat for a shot at the title, once again. Francis has made it clear that he wants to show the world that he’s not shying away from competing against a high-level wrestler. He is looking to show that he has made strides at his takedown defense because in his lone title fight it was as obvious as his punching power, that he lacked the ability to defend against takedowns. Additionally, he showed that his cardio wasn’t much better than his takedown defense. As the fight went on and the rounds went by he showed that those ferocious punches become few and far between. Fortunately for Francis, when he fought Stipe he was able to go the distance. Cain, however, is more polished than Stipe when it comes to ground and pound. This being a 5-round fight doesn’t go well, unless Francis has made significant strides in his cardio. As we have come to see though is all it takes is one punch; especially if it comes in the first round.

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Soon in Phoenix!!!☝️

A post shared by Francis Ngannou (@francisngannou) on Jan 31, 2019 at 12:01pm PST


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Ready to put in work tomorrow night! Thank you to everyone that supported me during this fight camp. #ufc #arizona #tli #worldchampion #nextworldchampion #runupandgetdoneup

A post shared by James Vick (@jamesvickmma) on Feb 16, 2019 at 10:10am PST

James Vick vs Paul Felder may not be a fight years in the making but it definitely is a fight that has been scheduled multiple times and is FINALLY going to happen. This fight has FOTN written all over it and I’m sure both fighters have that bonus on their minds. Since 2017, Vick has finished 3 of his 4 victories by KO or submission and has been the victor in 4 of his last 5 fights. His only loss since then was his most recent bout against Gaethje. Vick was finished in the first round by a devastating over hand punch that had Vick out before he hit the canvas. His opponent, Paul Felder, holds nearly an identical record since 2017 with his 3 victories coming via TKO/KO. His only loss, since 2017, is also his most recent bout where he went up in weight to face off with the always game “Platinum” Mike Perry.

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Made weight easy. And already feel like I could fight right now! Let’s go! #155 #irishdragon @suckerpunchent @coachdukeroufus @danielswbjj @eefc.john @danielswbjj @danielgracie @craigeckelberg @mhpstrongusa

A post shared by Paul Felder (@felderpaul) on Feb 16, 2019 at 11:05am PST

A lot could be said about Vicks height difference of 4 inches and a reach difference of over 5 inches. However based off what we have seen from Vick, especially in his recent loss is that when he is unable to make use of his size and keep the striking at a distance it can make for a bad recipe and ultimately lead to him on the wrong side of a fight. After an unfortunate knockout, Vick is looking to get back in the win column and hopefully get back on track to becoming a championship contender. Felder will present the same problems for Vick that Gaethje did. He will continue to come forward and look to nullify Vick’s reach and height differential by making Vick uncomfortable and forcing him to go backwards. In a lightweight division that is the equivalent of a shark tank, Felder hopes to remind people tonight why he belongs amongst the division’s elite. His goal is to be in title contention by the end of the year for the title but before he plans ahead, he needs to remember to take care of the task at hand and first get past number 10 ranked lightweight James Vick.

Unknown MMA’s Fight to Watch

MMA royalty will be inside the Talking Stick Resort Arena when the UFC debuts on ESPN. Kron Gracie of “the Gracie” family will be making his UFC debut against Alex Caceres or as fight fans call him “Bruce Leeroy”. Gracie was a little disappointed when he found out who his opponent was, preferring to fight someone who would bring the fight to him. From the sound of it he maybe preferred a bigger draw for his debut. He wanted the toughest stylistic matchup, but alas here we are and he’s looking forward to making the most of this opportunity. A decisive win could do wonders for Gracie and the UFC. After all, with that last name and the likes of Nate Diaz in his corner when he makes his debut; A New-age Gracie could be what the UFC needs.

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💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯 Representing GRACIE LEGACY . . . #krongracie #krongraciejj #krongraciejiujitsu #ufcphoenix #krongracieacademy #kgjj #jjgf #krongracieteam #krongracieufc #ufc #espn #riokid #jiujitsu #artesuave #brazilianjiujitsu #mma #competition #warrior #champion #focused #gracieblood #gracielegacy #icecreamkron #staycoolunderpressure #fighter #proudofyou #selfdefense #mouthguard #combate #ufcbrasil @ufc @espn @canal_combate @espnmma

A post shared by KRON GRACIE (@krongraciejj) on Feb 16, 2019 at 10:23am PST

Follow writer Brandon Dimas on Twitter.

#fightpreview #espnufc #ufcphoenix #ufconespn #mma #fightmatchup #fightmatchups

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