After initial reports surfaced earlier this month that former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will make his return to the Octagon against knockout sensation Francis Ngannou at UFC on ESPN 1 on Feb. 17 from inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, UFC president Dana White confirmed the booking late last night with ESPN.
The heavyweight clash will officially serve as the main event.
Velasquez, 36, hasn’t competed since defeating Travis Browne via TKO all the way back at UFC 200. The former UFC champion has struggled to maintain his health over the past few years and it has prevented Velasquez from regaining the title he lost to Fabricio Werdum back at UFC 188 in 2015. Considering Velasquez helped reign in UFC’s debut on FOX seven years ago against Junior dos Santos it makes sense to include the heavyweight legend on the first ESPN card.
Ngannou, 32, finally shook off a two-fight losing streak with a quick knockout win over rising contender Curtis Blaydes this past November. As one of the scariest punchers to ever step foot inside of the Octagon, Ngannou is always a win or two away from challenging for the UFC heavyweight title. He may encounter some difficulty defending the wrestling of Velasquez, especially since Ngannou couldn’t stop Stipe Miocic from taking him down, but a win over Cain would be the biggest of Ngannou’s young career.
As of now, UFC on ESPN 1 will also feature the likes of Jimmie Rivera, Aljamain Sterling, James Vick, Cynthia Calvillo, Renan Barao, Paul Felder, Andrea Lee, and the newly signed Kron Gracie.
Stick with Mania for more UFC on ESPN 1 fight card news.