The first UFC main event on ESPN lasted just 26 seconds, as Francis Ngannou knocked out Cain Velasquez in Phoenix, Arizona
In November 2011, Cain Velasquez headlined the UFC’s first show on FOX and was defeated in 64 seconds by Junior Dos Santos. Seven years later, after a two-year hiatus, he returned to the main event, the first shown on ESPN.
FRANCIS NGANNOU VS CAIN VELASQUEZ
Two-time champ Velasquez was coming off another extended layoff but the timing seemed to be perfect. With longtime training partner Daniel Cormier set to retire and vacate the heavyweight belt this year, a big win could put Velasquez in pole position.
His opponent was Francis Ngannou, a behemoth of a man originally from Cameroon who emigrated to Paris six years ago. Ngannou had cut a terrifying figure early in his UFC tenure, blazing a path to a title shot where he was soundly beaten by then-champ Stipe Miocic.
From then it seemed the blueprint to beat NGannou had been set; wrestle with him, get him tired, get a decision. Wrestling and cardio are Cain’s two biggest strengths, and this fight was in his home state of Arizona so this should have been the perfect comeback.
Cain came out light on his feet, using head movement to try and avoid the power strikes of Ngannou. Just as UFC commentator Dominick Cruz; the UFC’s Tony Romo if you will, called for a single leg, Velasquez reached for Ngannou’s leg, but the big Cameroonian shook it off.
Backing Velasquez up against the fence, Ngannou landed a short one-two combination, the latter glancing off the top of Cain’s head. Velasquez reached for a takedown but Ngannou used an underhook to jack the American back to his feet and fired a short right uppercut.
As Velasquez tried to push Ngannou against the fence, his left knee buckled and he fell to the floor screaming in pain. Ngannou pounced, landing a hammerfist and a big left, forcing referee Jason Herzog to step in at the 26-second mark
With Miocic no longer the champ, and now a revenge angle for Cormier, Francis is primed for another shot at the title.
JAMES VICK VS PAUL FELDER
In the co-main event, Paul Felder produced one the most complete displays of his UFC career to upset #10 ranked lightweight James Vick by unanimous decision.
A man who often ends up in brawls, Felder employed a smart game plan from the start to beat Vick’s huge height and reach advantage. From the outset, Felder battered Vick’s lead leg with calf kicks and looked to counter his opponent’s jab to close the distance
With 20 seconds left of the first round, Felder landed a spinning back-fist that wobbled Vick. Felder chased him down, connecting with a left but Vick was able to tie him up and survive the round. In the corner, Vick complained to his coaches that the calf kicks were taking their toll.
At the start of the second round, Vick started to use his grappling. He first hunted for a guillotine then controlled Felder against the cage before landing an elbow on the break. Vick continued to control the round with his grappling while also seeing some success on his feet
In the final round, Felder went back to his kicking game, attacking the calf again and landed a spinning back kick to the body. The damage to Vick’s leg started to show as his movement was visibly restricted.
Midway through the round, Felder took advantage, dropping Vick with a short counter left hook. Vick started to apply some pressure of his own but walked into a Felder spinning back elbow.
Both fighters were swinging until the final bell, after which Felder was announced the winner by scores of 29-28, 30-27, 30-27. Following the fight, an emotional Felder called for a fight with the winner of Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza
KRON GRACIE VS ALEX CACERES
Also on the main card, Jiu-Jitsu stand-out Kron Gracie made short work of his UFC debut, submitting Alex Caceres in just over two minutes.
Gracie, son of MMA legend Rickson and grandson of BJJ pioneer Helio, came into this bout with a huge weight of expectation. Only four fights into his pro career, if he did feel the pressure he didn’t show it.
Kron came out in the traditional Gracie stance, working the step in front kick, but also showing some fluid boxing behind it. As Gracie stepped in, Caceres threw a jab that Gracie ducked under and established a body lock.
From there he rushed Caceres to the cage and got his right hook in place from standing. Alex did well initially to fight the hands and hide his back, ultimately Gracie was able to jump on his back and pull him to the floor.
Caceres defended the hooks, but Gracie switched to a body triangle and from there it was a matter of time. Caceres fought the hands admirably but Gracie switched grips, clasping his left arm under the chin and proceeded to apply the squeeze.
The tap came at 2:06 into the first round, and with the victory, Gracie improves to 5-0.
- Francis Ngannou def. Cain Velasquez KO (punches) R1 0:26
- Paul Felder def. James Vick Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Cynthia Calvillo def. Cortney Casey Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Kron Gracie def. Alex Caceres Submission (rear-naked choke) R1 2:06
- Vicente Luque def. Bryan Barberena TKO (knees and punches) R3 4:54
- Andre Fili def. Myles Jury Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Aljamain Sterling Jimmie Rivera Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Manny Bermudez def. Benito Lopez Submission (guillotine choke) R1 3:09
- Andrea Lee def. Ashlee Evans-Smith Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Nik Lentz def. Scott Holtzman Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Luke Sanders def. Renan Barão KO (punches) R2 1:01
- Emily Whitmire def. Aleksandra Albu Submission (rear-naked choke) R1 1:01