Cain Velasquez made his long-awaited Octagon return tonight against feared French striker Francis Ngannou in the main event of the UFC’s first event of ESPN. At one time Cain was considered the undisputed king of the heavyweight division, having dethroned then-champion Brock Lesnar in a dominating performance back in 2010 at UFC 121. Unfortunately, injuries would plague the Mexican-American’s career, and from 2011-2014 he would fight just 5 times, going 2-1 against Junior Dos Santos and defeating Bigfoot Silva twice.
Cain would lose his heavyweight title in spectacular fashion at UFC 188 when he was submitted by Fabricio Werdum with a guillotine choke. Persistent knee injuries would see Velasquez have a further 20 months out of action before a triumphant return at UFC 200, where he defeated Travis Browne via first-round knockout. This fight also showed a new aspect of Velasquez’s striking that hadn’t previously been seen: a frighteningly fast spinning wheel kick.
Once again, Cain’s return to competition proved to be short-lived, as further injuries continually delayed his return to the Octagon prior to tonight. Francis Ngannou meanwhile came into tonight’s fight looking to parlay the momentum he had gained by getting a decisive first-round knockout over fellow heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes in November 2018. Ngannou came into this year looking to rebound from a relatively disappointing 2018, having suffered his first UFC losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis.
At his open workout for tonight’s fight, Cain showed the unrelenting pace, and punching power that had become staples of his career before it was dogged by injury. Meanwhile, Ngannou showed off his freakishly powerful strikes that earned him the record of the highest punching power ever measured by the UFC.
Throughout fight week, both fighters had commented on how they were getting along with one another and had no reason to manufacture tension. However, such high-level athletes were always going to be all business in the Octagon. The fight lasted just 26 seconds, here’s the super slo-motion video: