Cain Velasquez made his highly-anticipated return on Sunday night when he took on rising star Francis Ngannou in the headliner of UFC on ESPN 1.
The former two-time heavyweight champion drew huge support from his fans in Arizona, where he had a prolific wrestling career during his college days. But the night did not end well for Velasquez and the home fans as the hard-hitting Ngannou pulled off a stunner, finishing the MMA legend in just 26 seconds.
The 32-year-old Cameroonian landed an uppercut that sent “Cardio Cain” down early in the first, paving the way for Ngannou to land more strikes and get the stoppage. But Velasquez has insisted that it was the knee injury that took the fight out of him, not Nagnnou’s game.
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) February 18, 2019
Velasquez, 36, returned to actions on Sunday night after more than two years of layoff due to health struggles and injuries. The former UFC champion, dubbed by many as one of the greatest of all time, last fought professionally in 2016 at UFC 200, where he tallied a first-round TKO victory against Travis Browne.
He was booked for a rematch with Fabricio Werdum in December 2016, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled him out due to a back injury. Since this setback, Velasquez has not been active in professional fighting while the heavyweight division has experienced major shakeup during his absence.
After years of trying to regain his old form, the American fighter finally marched back to the cage and has set his sights on reclaiming his lost glory. But first, he has to overcome a big storm that is Francis Ngannou.
The heavyweight pair finally met Sunday night in Phoenix, Arizona, headlining the UFC’s first offering under the ESPN umbrella. But when the smoke cleared, the former heavyweight champion found himself hurt and defeated as he was finished by Ngannou in just the first round while sustaining a knee injury in the process.
Velasquez went down after Ngannou landed another uppercut, which gave “The Predator” a chance to throw more strikes before the referee decided to call off the fight. It was a painful end to Cain’s long-awaited return, but he stressed that it was the injury that cost him the fight.
“None of the punches grazed me at all or did anything where I felt unbalanced. It was just a freak thing that happened with my knee.”
“It was the knee, that was it. He didn’t even touch me,” Velasquez said in the post-fight presser.
Asked if the UFC Phoenix will be his last Octagon appearance, the former 265-lb kingpin replied:
“We’ll see what happens. If I feel like I can’t be the best, then I won’t do it.”
Velasquez absorbed his third professional MMA loss to end up at 14-3 record while Ngannou improved to 13-3 and could potentially land himself the next shot at the 265-lb championship.
UFC Phoenix Full Results:
Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez — Ngannou def. Velasquez by TKO (punches) at 0:26 of Round One
Paul Felder vs. James Vick — Felder def. Vick by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27 x2)
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Cortney Casey — Calvillo def. Casey by unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)
Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie — Gracie def. Caceres by submission (rear naked choke) at 2:06 of Round One
Bryan Barberena vs. Vicente Luque — Luque def. Barberena by TKO (knees and punches) at 4:54 of Round Three
Andre Fili vs. Myles Jury — Fili def. Jury by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Jimmie Rivera vs. Aljamain Sterling — Sterling def. Rivera by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Manny Bermudez vs. Benito Lopez — Bermudez def. Lopez by submission (guillotine choke) at 3:09 of Round One
Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Andrea Lee — Lee def. Evans-Smith by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Scott Holtzman vs. Nik Lentz — Lentz def. Holtzman by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders — Sanders def. Barao by KO (punches) at 1:01 of Round Two
Alexandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire — Whitmire def. Albu by submission (rear naked choke) at 1:01 of Round One
Check out the craziest knockouts in MMA in the video below:
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