Weekend Warrior: The Return of Cain Velasquez
Photo: Rey Del Rio (Getty Images)
Nearly three years have passed since Cain Velasquez graced the Octagon with his presence, but it appears as though the oft-injured two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder has been given the green light to once again compete.
Velasquez will lock horns with Francis Ngannou in the UFC on ESPN 1 headliner on Sunday at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, where the American Kickboxing Academy ace looks to regain a place of prominence in the sport he once ruled. Meanwhile, lightweights Paul Felder and James Vick have been booked opposite one another in the three-round co-main event at 155 pounds.
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Ngannou remains one of the heavyweight division’s most physically intimidating figures at 6 feet 4 inches and 260 pounds. The 32-year-old Cameroon native rebounded from consecutive defeats to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis with a 45-second technical knockout against Curtis Blaydes in the UFC Fight Night 141 headliner in November. It was his eighth first-round finish as a pro. His other victims include former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and former Dream and Strikeforce titleholder Alistair Overeem.
Velasquez, 36, was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Arizona State University before he transitioned to MMA. Injuries have limited him to just two appearances since 2013. Velasquez has won four of his last five fights but has not competed since he put away Travis Browne with first-round punches at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016. The Salinas, California, native has secured 12 of his 14 career victories by knockout or technical knockout.
UFC on ESPN 1 “Ngannou vs. Velasquez”—which airs live on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT—will also feature a women’s strawweight clash matching Cortney Casey-Sanchez with Cynthia Calvillo, a welterweight tilt pitting Vicente Luque against Bryan Barberena and a pair of featherweight battles, as Kron Gracie meets Alex Caceres and Myles Jury faces Andre Fili. ESPN (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT) and ESPN Plus (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT).
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The UFC will share the mixed martial arts spotlight with Bellator MMA, as the Scott Coker-led promotion stages events on consecutive days at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Bellator 215 on Friday will feature a heavyweight encounter between Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov, along with a welterweight affair matching the undefeated Logan Storley with Ion Pascu. It airs live on the Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT. Bellator 216 on Saturday will see Michael Page put his perfect 13-0 record on the line against Paul Daley in the quarterfinals of the Bellator MMA welterweight grand prix. The event will stream live to DAZN at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
The regional scene has the Legacy Fighting Alliance organization front and center with LFA 60 on Friday at the Seven Flags Event Center in Clive, Iowa. Julius Anglickas will square off with Clayton York for the vacant light heavyweight championship in the main event. LFA 60 “Anglickas vs. York” will air live on AXS-TV at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.Find more content like this at