After a two and a half year layoff, former two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez returned to the octagon Sunday (17 February) only to be knocked out by No. 3 ranked heavyweight Francis Ngannou in just :26 seconds. The night also featured the UFC debut of Cron Gracie, and a Fight of the Year candidate. We are joined by The Sports Network (TSN) UFC Content Editor & Reporter Aaron Bronsteter to recap the event.
Main Event: Heavyweight (3) Francis Ngannou def Cain Velasquez , KO/TKO , Round One 00:26
AB: “When you watch the replay, it looks weird. It took me 6,7 times to realize it was a short uppercut. Cain got inside, shot for a takedown, and Francis, showing how devastating his power is, clipped him on the chin with a short uppercut. Cain said his knees buckled that hurt him, and not the uppercut. I think it was both. I think the uppercut caused his legs to go from under him, making it kind obscured in a weird direction, and that’s what made the knee pop. The uppercut was the cause, and the knees buckling was the effect. When Cain was going down, he was wincing in pain, but he wasn’t out. I think the knees are what got him out of the fight. I think if the uppercut dropped him, and the knees didn’t come out from under him, I think he could have continued. With the knee going out, and Francis landing bombs, I think it’s a great stoppage. Cain had nowhere to go with his knee shot like that. Cain wasn’t out of it, but that uppercut it was put Cain out. I don’t know if we will ever see Cain Velasquez compete again, especially if he blew out his knee. If he has a torn ACL or PCL, I don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze at 38-years old. You never know, some people just love the fight game. I don’t know if he scratched the itch it being in the cage with Ngannou after a nearly 1,000 day layoff.
What does this win mean for Ngannou? Who next for him? Is he back in title contention?
AB: “I do think a rematch with Stipe would be very interesting. If you remember, the first round of that fight was pretty competitive. From there, Stipe figured out the rhythm, and was able to take him. Dana White said backstage said they already have something figured out for Daniel Cormier. With those two stoppages for Francis over Blaydes and Velasquez, he has to be right in the mix. I don’t think he should be ranked ahead of Stipe, give that Stipe beat him in the fashion that he did, and how many people Stipe beat while he was the champion. Stipe and Francis rematch makes a lot of sense if they decided to go with either Jon Jones or Brock Lesnar as an opponent for Cormier. They could go with a Cormier/Stipe rematch because they need a main event, but I think if the UFC is smart, they get that Jones/Cormier heavyweight fight booked as soon as they can because that’s the big money fight.”
Featherweight: Kron Gracie (UFC debut) def Alex Caceres, Submission, Round One, 2:06
AB: “Kron Gracie looked very impressive, but it’s easy to look impressive against Alex Caceres. Caceres a very good fighter when he is fighting very diverse, well-rounded fighters. He gets caught in traps when he takes on guys like Kron Gracie. He’s prone to getting on his back, prone to getting in uncomfortable situation. With Kron Gracie, you don’t have time.They were both dry, you have a submission whiz on top of you, he had nowhere to go. As soon as Kron grabbed a hold of him, he was done. Kron Gracie is like flypaper. He wasn’t going to release that grip, and he was able to choke him out fairly quickly, and that was a good first match up for Kron Gracie to get some momentum behind him. In terms of what’s next, I don’t think you rush him. I think you find other opponents who are unranked that have some respectability and go from there. I’d love to see him versus Manny Bermudez. He missed weight on this card versus Benito Lopez. If he moves up, I’d love to see him Kron versus Bermudez, because Bermudez is so good with his submissions, how would he fare verus Kron Gracie. I think Kron needs to keep fighting guys who are newer to the UFC but are still respectable, like Polo Reyes. Someone who will pose a threat, but not an immediate threat.”
Welterweight: Vincente Luque def Bryan Barbarena, KO/TKO, Round 3, 4:54
AB: “Barbarena versus Luque was a war. I think that will be Fight of the Year, because I don’t see what fight will be better. If you took that fight versus every fight last year, save maybe even Yair versus Zombie, you see it lasted all three round of chaos. That was an unbelievable fight. It goes to show how good Barbarena’s chin is, because he was taking big shots from Luque that would have put anyone else in the division out. Nobody had stopped Barbaena with strikes, and it took Luque until about 5 seconds left in the fight to do so. Luque has a good chin himself, he was taking good bombs, and Barbarena can hit. Barbarena has been incredible as an underdog. Dana White was pushing a narrative that if it went to the scorecards, Barbarena would have won. We don’t know that. It was 19/19 on two scorecards going into the third. Barbarena was up on one of them. It still could have been a split decision win for Vincente Luque. It was an unbelievable fight, and Luque getting out of there in the very last minute was surreal given how much punishment Barbarena took to that point. I think it will be Fight of the Year, and if it isn’t, we are in for a great year.”
Lightweight: Paul Felder def (10) James Vick, Decision
“That was a good back and forth fight. It would have been a better fight if it wasn’t after Barbarena versus Luque. The fans were booing this fight, I thought that was insane. Felder looked fantastic. Ariel Helwani reported Felder had a collapsed lung, is in the hospital, and won’t be able to commentate in Prague this weekend. Some damage for Felder, but he gets it done. He’ll be ranked close to the top-10, or in the top-10, because Vick was ranked tenth. He has some really quality wins over guys like Charles Oliveira. Felder keeps moving up, and Vick now back-to-back loses. He was 9-1 before losing to Justin Gaethje. I think he should move to Welterweight. If you think about Michael ‘Venom’ Page, he is the same height as Vick, and Page is huge for a 170 fighter. I think Vick would fare well at welterweight, and have more power behind his strikes.”