Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will return to the Octagon for the first time in well over two years this weekend at UFC on ESPN 1 as he takes on heavyweight knockout sensation Francis Ngannou.
While Velasquez commands a substantial advantage over Ngannou on the ground, which he may very well exploit on his way to a comeback victory, fight fans really don’t know what to expect when the 36-year-old steps back inside of the Octagon. They have an idea, but there’s some uncertainty revolving around the return of Velasquez.
Entering his main event clash with Ngannou this weekend on ESPN, Cain is aiming to prove that he’s the same dominant fighter that he was in the past. And if for some reason Velasquez is unable to show that type of consistency against “Predator” then he’ll have no problem walking away from the sport all together.
“The reason I do this is to be the No. 1 guy,” Velasquez told Yahoo Sports earlier this week. “And if I’m not as competitive as I was before, then I’m not doing it. But I also believe that I am that same guy. I’ve improved a lot and right now, I feel stronger than ever, stronger than in the past. Obviously in that fight against Travis Browne, I am stronger than that. My body feels better than I did then with the time off I’ve taken.”
“I just have a lot of confidence to go out and win this fight,” Velasquez added. “I expect to go out and compete at a high-level. If I can’t do that, then I’m not going to do this any more.”
Velasquez, who was last seen finishing Travis Brown via first-round TKO back at UFC 200, is widely regarded as one of the best heavyweights of all time, which stems from his 4-2 record in UFC title fights. Having made a living out of taking opponents down, battering them with countless strikes, and wilting them under the pressure of one of the greatest ground-and-pound games around, Velasquez expects to do the same to Ngannou this weekend.
“The way I feel now, I feel great and feel like I can keep going for quite a while more,” he said.
Should Velasquez do what he does best and get past the striking of “Predator” then a UFC title shot would soon follow. Of course, that is if Ngannou doesn’t catch Velasquez sleeping and add the former UFC champ to his laundry list of heavyweight punching bags.
UFC on ESPN 1 will take place this Sunday (Feb. 17, 2019) live on ESPN from inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, and also feature a co-main event clash between lightweight contenders James Vick and Paul Felder.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 1 fight card, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, before the ESPN main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.