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UFC on ESPN: N’Gannou vs. Velasquez results and post-fight analysis

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Mookie Alexander recaps the UFC’s first fight card on ESPN television, as Francis N‘Gannou put away Cain Velasquez

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Welp.

Cain Velasquez’s return to the Octagon lasted 26 seconds, and it ended with him getting the combination of knocked out and injured at the same time. His knee gave out after Francis N’Gannou landed an uppercut, and then he ate two more punches while in pain from the knee injury before Jason Herzog stopped the bout.

I don’t know what else to add to that. The UFC’s first ESPN+ show ended in 32 seconds. Somehow its ESPN TV debut ended even more quickly. N’Gannou has terrifying power and Velasquez is a man who has not fought since July 2016. His body broke down on him over the years and there was always the huge risk that getting thrown in there against a murderous puncher in N’Gannou could lead to a bad outcome.

N’Gannou has certainly bounced back well from the Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis losses, as he’s knocked Curtis Blaydes and Velasquez out in under a minute each. That’ll bring back some goodwill that he squandered from the absurd Lewis fight. As for Cain? I’m actually just sad. That was a pro-Cain crowd, it was a big moment for him, and you could tell how devastated he was.

As for the overall event quality? It was way better than both Bellator shows — an ankle-height barrier to clear — and we did have multiple entertaining fights and quality finishes. It’s a shame that the fans in Phoenix were about as impatient and unappreciative as possible. What a terrible crowd they were.

More thoughts coming your way:

Main Card

  • Despite the boos from that shitty-ass crowd, Paul Felder and James Vick turned in a hell of a fight, with Felder the clear winner on the scorecards. He landed the majority of the cleanest and hardest strikes, plus he really beat up Vick’s lead leg to the point of switching stances. It’s a nice victory over a top-10 opponent for Felder, who wants the Edson Barboza vs. Justin Gaethje winner. Yes, please. To either one, especially a Gaethje fight.
  • We got a mostly kickboxing match betwen strawweights Cynthia Calvillo and Cortney Casey. It was not good to watch, and Calvillo evidently did enough to get a unanimous decision. She then called out Tatiana Suarez, which is a fight I think she’d get ragdolled in, but it could get made anyway. There has been talk of Suarez fighting Nina Ansaroff at UFC 237, so we shall see.
  • Kron Gracie’s long-awaited UFC debut was a walk in the park. As soon as he got the body lock and took Alex Caceres down, it was just a matter of time before he’d have Caceres tapping. About 40 seconds after the takedown, the rear-naked choke was sunk in and that was that. It’s the first time anyone named Gracie has won a UFC fight since 1994, and it’ll be interesting to see how Kron is matched up at 145.
  • WOW! Vicente Luque and Bryan Barberena put on an early Fight of the Year contender with 14 minutes and 54 seconds of pure action. Luque was knocked down in a round one he was mostly winning. Barberena was rocked at the end of a round two he was mostly winning. Round three was up in the air and then Luque knocked Barberena out with only six seconds left. I have no idea what the hell Barberena’s head is made of, but it must have some strands of Roynelsonium in there, mixed in with concrete. Both men ought to get bonus checks worth more than $50,000. That was awesome. And Luque is a contender in this welterweight division, it’s time for a ranked opponent.
  • Andre Fili survived a spinning backfist knockdown in round two and otherwise was too much for Myles Jury to handle. The two featherweights engaged in a good scrap devoid of takedowns and filled with kickboxing, and it was Fili’s jab that largely dictated things, busting Jury’s face up early and often.

Preliminary Card

  • What an outstanding performance by men’s bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling. I didn’t think he could win a mostly range kickboxing match vs. Jimmie Rivera, but he did just that, both with his boxing and preferred volume kicking. Rivera did a great job stopping the takedowns, but little else, and Sterling has the biggest win of his career. He’s made significant improvements to his game and is clearly a top-5 guy at 135 lbs. Aljo proved this dumbass staff wrong.
  • Bantamweight submission specialist Manny Bermudez maintained his undefeated record by choking out Benito Lopez, who suffered the first loss of his career. Bermudez did miss weight (badly) and was apologetic, but he intends to stay at 135, and expressed interest in taking on Sean O’Malley. Whether he gets that fight or not, sign me up for more Bermudez fights, because he’s a talented dude.
  • Women’s flyweight Andrea Lee looked really impressive against Ashlee Evans-Smith, dominating her foe with quick combination striking and excellent work off the counter, as well as stout takedown defense. It was a deserved shutout decision win that should see her get a bigger step-up in competition, especially in a division that needs compelling contenders.
  • In typical Nik Lentz fashion, the lightweight veteran won a grueling, somewhat ugly affair with Scott Holtzman by unanimous decision. I thought Lentz won it but think Holtzman had a case considering he had the more damaging blows. The crowd certainly wasn’t happy with the decision, and they hated that Lentz dared to take Holtzman down multiple times.
  • Renan Barao looked good until he didn’t. The former UFC bantamweight champion easily won round one against Luke Sanders, then Sanders turned the tables in round two by closing the distance and forcing some boxing exchanges. Barao’s chin could not withstand Sanders’ power, as the Brazilian was dropped with a left hand and knocked out with the follow-up ground strikes. Barao is 1-6 in his last 7 and his UFC career has to be over, while Sanders likely saved his spot on the roster with a much-needed victory.
  • Strawweight Emily Whitmire picked up her first stoppage win over her professional career, taking down and choking out Alexandra Albu in just 61 seconds. That was impressive and damn near flawless from “Spitfire.”