The UFC is heading to Phoenix, Arizona this week for a big Fight Night card headlined by the return of Cain Velasquez, versus extremely dangerous Francis Ngannou.
This is the first UFC on big ESPN since the UFC moved providers from Fox to ESPN this year. The promotion wants to make a good impression on this major sports media platform and this stacked card is proof of that. Here in Canada, the entire card will be shown on TSN. The main card gets underway at 9pm EST.
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Cain Velasquez vs Francis Ngannou
I think Velasquez is the rightful favorite in this fight. He was considered by most to be the best heavyweight in the world just a few years ago when he was active in the UFC. Yes, he lost his belt to Fabricio Werdum in 2015 and only won one fight after that, finishing Travis Browne in 1 round in 2016, but most still considered him the best in the division. This shows through with the oddsmakers having him as close to a 2/1 favorite in this return fight against Ngannou after 2.5 years away from the octagon.
Velasquez has a clear path to victory via the takedown and ground and pound, but there are still several question marks surrounding him. He’s been away from the game for almost 3 years, he hasn’t beaten a top level opponent since 2013, he’s now 36 years old, and he has been knocked out (by JDS in 2011).
I could argue that Blaydes is a very similar fighter to Velasquez and Ngannou KO’d him in 45 seconds his last time out. People still haven’t gotten over the Miocic and Lewis fights with Ngannou, but in my eyes he’s still the most dangerous fighter on the UFC roster and he can KO anyone stiff with one connecting punch.
At these odds, I’m going to go with the new blood in Ngannou. Yes, Velasquez in his prime has the perfect style to beat him, but there are too many question marks and at 32 years old this is the time for Ngannou to make his second run at the belt.
Play: Ngannou 2.65 @ SportsInteraction.com
James Vick vs Paul Felder
Everyone was super high on James Vick before his loss to Justin Gaethje, and in just a minute and a half it seems like everyone has given up on him. I think Vick was overrated heading into that fight, by me included, but I still think he has the skills to use his range to give fits to the majority of the lightweight division.
Vick was supposed to fight Felder before getting upgraded to a crack at Justin Gaethje. Vick was the favorite against Felder in their first scheduled fight, but after his loss he’s now the underdog.
This is a tough fight for both guys and I really think it could go either way, but I do believe Vick deserves to be the favorite. Let’s not forget he has wins over Joe Duffy and Francisco Trinaldo, with fairly dominant performances in both.
Felder doesn’t have the leg kicks of Gaethje, and I expect Vick to be able to keep Felder at range while landing damaging strikes that should be enough to get a decision win.
Play: Vick 2.10 @ SportsInteraction.com
Bryan Barbarena vs Vicente Luque
I think Vicente Luque is one of the best fighters ranked outside of the top 5 in the entire UFC. He’s now 7-1 in the UFC with first or second round finishes in each of his wins. His one loss came against Leon Edwards in a fight where he just couldn’t figure out the Englishman.
Barbarena is a crafty veteran who is a tough out for anyone, but I expect Luque to be able to close the distance and land a knockout strike early on in this fight.
With another dominant performance I hope Luque at least gets a crack at a top 10 ranked opponent his next time out.
Play: Luque 1.29 @ SportsInteraction.com
Andre Fili vs Myles Jury
I was surprised to see Jury as a big favourite in this fight. He’s 2-3 in his last 5 fights and is coming off a quick knockout loss to Chad Mendes 6 months ago. His losses have come to quality opponents, but he’s never really beaten a top guy and I actually think a win over Fili would be Jury’s best win in the UFC. That said, I don’t expect it to happen.
Fili is a dangerous fighter who is inconsistent, but seems to be figuring things out. He lost a tight split decision to Michael Johnson in his last time out, and he often seems to raise or lower his level to match his opponent.
I think Fili is the more dangerous striker in this fight and as long as he is the aggressor in this fight I expect him to get a win over Jury.
Fili has never lost two fights in a row in his career, so I’m expecting a nice bounce back performance.
Play: Fili 2.55 @ SportsInteraction.com