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UFC Phoenix: Pros predict Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The return of Cain Velasquez is imminent.

On Sunday night, inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, the former UFC champion will enter the Octagon after a two-year layoff against the heavy handed Francis Ngannou.

For many, Velasquez stands as one of, if not the single greatest heavyweight in mixed martial arts history. During his reign atop the division he tore through opponents like Brock Lesnar, Junior dos Santos and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira with relative ease, culminating in him earning UFC gold. He was undoubtedly the “baddest man on the planet.” But a series of injuries have hampered the the proud Mexican-American and forced him to watch from the sidelines as a new crop of heavyweights — such as the terrifying Ngannou — emerged.

Will ring rust play a factor? Has Ngannou gotten over his past cardio issues? Will fans really witness the return of “vintage Cain?” Or will Ngannou claim another scalp for his trophy case of opponents who have fallen to his thunderous fists? We asked the rest of the fighters on the card, as well as a few coaches, for their thoughts on the matchup.


UFC bantamweight Aljamain Sterling

“It’s a tough fight. Cain’s been gone for, I think, two years now. To come back to a beast like Ngannou, there’s a lot of question marks. Can Cain take a shot from a monster like that? Is he going to be on point? Is he going to have a little ring rust? Is Ngannou going to pull the trigger or is he going to be gun shy because he doesn’t want to be taken down and wrestled to death? There’s so many question marks. So, to me, it’s a pick ‘em fight. One guy can land that big punch, which is in Ngannou, and the other guy can drag it out for 25 minutes or less and end it via ground-and-pound. So, if I’m going to have to put my money on someone, I’m going to have to lean towards the wrestlers. So it would be nice to see Cain come back and at least good and possible get a win.”

Former UFC light heavyweight Keith Jardine

“Cain is going to win. He’s going to use his wrestling to wear that guy out. I’m sure he punches hard in the beginning but once you’ve wrestled for a round or so, it’s not going to be the same.”

UFC strawweight Jodie Esquibel

“I love Cain. I’m going to root for him no matter what. I’m just honored to be on the undercard of this fight.”

UFC bantamweight Luke Sanders

“Oh man, that’s a good one. I’m excited to see it. I think Cain is a monster. I think he’s going to get the win because he’s so well-rounded. Maybe Ngannou’s had a little problem with the cardio so I think Cain can wear him down with his wrestling and his pace and possibly finish him. But, you’ve to to watch out because if you don’t finish Ngannou and he catches you, then you’re out of there. But, I’m going to go with Cain on this one.”

UFC strawweight Emily Whitmire

“I definitely want to see Cain get the win. I think it’s a big deal he’s making his return on this card because he’s going to bring a lot more of a fanbase or viewers’ eyes to the card, just based on Cain being on it. It’s also a good matchup because Francis throws heavy and that opens him up for a perfect takedown. So I think it makes for a perfect matchup.”

UFC lightweight Nik Lentz

“If Ngannou hits you, then you’re going to sleep. So, don’t get hit. But with Cain, there’s a lot of questions because he’s been out for a long time and it’s a hard fight to come back. Having a guy just swing bricks at you right from the get-go, it’s going to be hard to get he ring rust off very quickly and he’s going to have to. So, maybe get a little grappling in and go after it. If I was his coaches, I’d be a little nervous in the first round. If he makes it out of the first round and he’s okay, then it’s smooth sailing”

UFC featherweight Myles Jury

“I think it’s a good matchup. They both have a lot of skills and I’m interested to see how Cain comes off that layoff. I’m a Cain fan so I’m leaning Cain Velasquez.”

Former UFC lightweight Justin Buchholz

“I think that matchup was best summed up when Dana White compared Francis’s power to a Ford Escort and then Cain was like ‘what the heck? it’s a damned Ford Escort.’ I loved that. It’s about as true as it gets on that fight. Francis is in the fight at all times, he can knock out anyone, and Cain has been stopped before. As a betting man, you’ve got go with Vegas right now with Cain being the favorite. Even though he’s been out for two years, he’s Cain mothereffing Velasquez. He’s one of the most dominant guys to step in there. I love Francis too, but the smart money is on Cain. For me, as a superfan, Cain is the best. Cain is the best heavyweight.”

UFC lightweight Scott Holtzman

“I know I don’t want Ngannou to punch me. He would literally kill me. Think about what that’d do to the average human being, he’d kill one of us. It’s hard to tell with Cain being out two years. I know I’m pulling for Cain, he’s a Phoenix native too. So I’m saying Cain gets it done in the third round by submission.”

UFC strawweight Cortney Casey

“Oh man, I don’t really want to chose. I’m going to with Cain just because he’s an Arizona guy and we have to support each other. I Just want it to be a great fight and I know it’s going to be a great fight. Any fight you have with Francis is going to be exciting. So I’m just happy that fight is happening.”

UFC bantamweight Benito Lopez

“Francis is a powerhouse and it only takes on punch. Just blink at the wrong time and it’s over. But, with that being said, I’m a big Cain Velasquez fan, obviously I’m Mexican-American. He’s got the heart of a warrior and I think he’ll get it done this weekend.”

UFC lightweight Drakkar Klose

“I’m going with Francis. He just fought Curtis Blaydes, a wrestler, and he was able to neutralize that. Cain is another wrestler so I think Francis will be able to neutralize that and, plus, Cain hasn’t fought in like five years. Injuries like that build up, when you can’t fight and you’re sitting around eating and not doing sh*t. So, it’s going to go to the second. I think Francis is going to do it.”

UFC welterweight Vicente Luque

“Cain was a monster when he was a champion and everyone knows his potential. If he is the same guy he used to be when he was the champ, I think he has all of the chances to beat Francis. But, at the same time, Francis is a big guy, a strong guy, up-and-coming and full of thirst to be the new champ. I’ve trained with him actually, with the Blackzillians. Obviously he took it way easy on me, thank God. But he is a monster and he is quick. That is what I was most impressed with. I know he is a strong guy but I didn’t think he’d be that fast. So, I think, that at this moment, my bet would be on Francis Ngannou for his power and his momentum.”

UFC welterweight Bryan Barberena

“I’m interested to see how it will all work out, if Cain’s going to take him down or stand with him. To be honest, I like Cain and I like Ngannou, but I’m leaning towards Ngannou. He’s coming up, he’s still getting better so I’m interested to see how the fights going to go.”

UFC strawweight Andrea Lee

“I think it’s an exciting fight. I’m happy and honored to be on the same card as them and I can’t wait to see what happens to them. I’m sure both of them will be packing and both will want to get the win, so it’ll be fun.”

UFC lightweight Paul Felder

“I love this fight. I love Cain Velasquez and I love this style and Ngannou is a dangerous S.O.B. and he’s coming off a big win when he needed it after that Derrick Lewis fight. I’m hoping I can get in my fight and get out without having to go to the hospital tomorrow so I can get back to the green room, grab some ice cream and watch it go down.”

UFC featherweight Andre Fili

Heavyweight is crazy, man. It doesn’t even make sense. With dudes that big, one punch can change the whole fight or end the whole fight. Heavyweight fighting is like gambling, it’s a pick ‘em. It’s an interesting matchup though. Cain’s wrestling will be a big factor but Ngannou’s power will be a big factor. I’m not saying anything people don’t already know. That’s the beauty about fighting, you basically know what those guys are trying to do and it’s just a race to see who does it first.”

UFC lightweight James Vick

“I think it depends on which Cain shows up. He’s got a lot of ring rust and a lot of inactivity, he’s quite a bit smaller [than Ngannou]. If Francis, it’s going to have to be in the first round. After the first round, I don’t think he’s going to win. So, he’s either going to catch Cain quick or he’s going to gas out.”

UFC strawweight Angela Hill

“It’s going to be a scary fight. I’m going to be on the edge of my seat, for sure. I’ve always been a fan of Cain. He was one of the first fighter’s I noticed when I was becoming a fan of MMA. Ngannou, though, has rose so fast. He’s so fast, so powerful and so scary with his strikes. So I’m excited to see how Ngannou’s improved since his title fight. It’s going to be a hell of a fight.”

UFC bantamweight Jimmie Rivera

I think it depends on if Francis Ngannou got in good shape. It’s a five-round fight, if Francis is going to do what he did with Stipe and is only good for the one round and kind of die out, it’s going to be a long night for Francis. Cain is a grinder, he’s a cardio machine, he works hard, so the only thing against Cain is he’s been out for two years.”

Poll

Who is your pick?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Francis Ngannou
    (4646 votes)
  • 54%
    Cain Velasquez
    (5652 votes)
10298 votes total Vote Now