It’s been two and half years since Mixed Martial Arts fans have seen the BROWN PRIDE tattoo in the octagon. And anyone who knows anything about the sport knows that there is only one person that comes to mind when you see that ink on his chest. On Sunday night on ESPN’s first full Fight Night card on their network, former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez (14-2) will make his return to the cage taking on #3 ranked heavy hitter, Francis Ngannou (12-3).
As one of the most dominant champions in the UFC, Velasquez grabbed UFC gold back in 2010 beating the then seemingly unbeatable Brock Lesnar, knocking him out in the first round. Almost a year later on the first UFC on Fox, he lost the title to Junior dos Santos. He would go on to fight dos Santos two more times between November 2011 to October 2013, winning it back from him their second go-around and defending it their third.
At UFC 188 in the summer of 2015, Velasquez lost the title to Fabricio Werdum in Mexico City and would only fight one more time at UFC 200 beating Travis Browne in the first round netting the Performance of the Night as well. As many thoughts that fight was going to be the first of his comeback run, lower back surgery sidelined him for even longer than Velasquez wanted. His recovering from that surgery coincided with his wife’s pregnancy, so he took a long overdue break from the sport to be with his family.
The last time Velasquez was in the main event fight on a new network for the UFC, to the surprise of many, he was stopped early. So, on Sunday night on ESPN he is definitely looking for a different outcome this time around. And not knowing if he would ever return, one last run at getting the belt back around his waist again is more of a reality now than it has ever been. As Ngannou is 1-2 in his last three fights, he is still regarded as one of the hardest hitters in the division. A win over Velasquez may not put him any higher in the rankings but would definitely put him back in the talk for another shot at the title currently held by Velasquez’s teammate, Daniel Cormier.
For Velasquez, beating Ngannou would likely put him back in the top of the division and if he can stay healthy and nab a few more wins, with Cormier out due to a back injury and not expected to return until this summer, nobody would be surprised if we saw an interim title fight sooner than later with someone in the top five. And if Velasquez has that belt and Cormier comes back healthy and ready to fight, the end of the year could pose very interesting for the two AKA teammates.
Cain Velasquez will face Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC Fight Night ESPN this Sunday, February 17th at 8pm CST.
Photo credit: UFC