Report: Cain Velaquez to Return In February Against Francis Ngannou

By Nathan Zur Dec 14, 2018

It seems that former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez may make his long-awaited return to the Octagon next February in the first event of the UFC’s new broadcast deal with ESPN.

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani first reported the possible matchup on Twitter although nothing official has yet been released by the UFC.

The 36 year-old Velasquez last competed inside of the Octagon at UFC 200 in July 2016, defeating Travis Browne by TKO. If the booking ends up being made official, it will be an interesting case of history echoing itself, as Velasquez was one-half of the UFC’s debut event on Fox in 2011. There he lost his heavyweight title to Junior dos Santos via stunning first-round knockout. He would go on to win his title back from dos Santos and defeat him in the rubber match.

The heavyweight landscape has changed significantly in Velasquez’s absence, with his team mate Daniel Cormier now the undisputed champion. With Cormier set to retire by the end of next March, it seems the perfect time for his longtime training partner to make another run at the title.

Ngannou (12-3) returned to the winner’s circle last month when he blasted his way through perennial contender Curtis Blaydes to put the heavyweight division back on notice. Before that win over Blaydes, “The Predator” had suffered back-to-back losses, first to Stipe Miocic in a title fight back in January and then an uncharacteristically timid performance against Derrick Lewis in July.

UFC Phoenix takes place on Feb. 17 in Phoenix, Arizona. While it does not yet have an official headliner -- pending confirmation of the Velasquez-Ngannou booking -- it also features a lightweight bout between James Vick and Paul Felder and an intriguing bantamweight matchup between Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling.


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