UFC on ESPN Preview – Return of the King

Former Heavyweight Champion of the world Cain Velasquez makes his long-awaited return to the UFC cage when he faces “The Predator” Francis Ngannou in the main event of the First UFC Event on ESPN. Cain gets to make his return in his Collegiate state of Arizona as he previously wrestled Division 1 for Arizona State University. Ngannou looks to build momentum in the division after his knockout victory over Curtis Blaydes.

Featherweight: Andre Fili (+130) Vs. Myles Jury (-147)

This is a great matchup for two Featherweights who are sitting right outside the top 15 of the division and a win will likely propel them to getting a number put next to their name. Myles Jury most recently was defeated by Chad Mendes within a round, while Fili most recently lost a split decision to Michael Johnson. Even though they are both coming off of losses, they are similarly 2-1 in their last three fights. Now, because I felt like Jury had more impressive performances, I’m going with him. Myles Jury Def. Andre Fili

Welterweight: Vicente Luque (-435) Vs. Bryan Barberena (+350)

Anyone who has been reading these knows that I am very high on Vicente Luque as a prospect and feel he should be given more opportunities to face higher caliber opponents. Thankfully, Bryan Barberena qualifies as one. Barberena has made his mark on the UFC as a Hype-Train Derailer as he defeated prospects Sage Northcutt and Warlley Alves in consecutive fights. Recently Barberena has gone 2-2 with impressive wins over clearly overmatched opponents in Joe Proctor and Jake Ellenberger and losses against higher caliber fighters in Leon Edwards and Colby Covington. Vicente Luque has won 7 of his last 8 fights all by finishes, his lone loss was to current top 10 Welterweight Leon Edwards. I believe that Luque will climb into the top 15 with a win on Sunday. Vicente Luque Def. Bryan Barberena

Featherweight: Kron Gracie (-300) Vs. Alex Caceres (+200)

If there ever was a fighter entering the UFC as a huge favorite only because of the last name, Kron Gracie is the fighter. A member of the historic and legendary Gracie Clan and son of Rickson Gracie, Kron Gracie is a 4-0 MMA prospect with plenty of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition experience. He is also coming off of an impressive submission victory of UFC Veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri. Kron has a lot of potential, but Alex Caceres is no slouch for a debut fight. Caceres is very battle tested for a man with a 14-11 record. Alex recently took on Martin Bravo and won the fight via a split decision. To be honest, I believe that Caceres is being used as Hype Fodder, a pawn that the prospect Gracie can beat so the UFC can build hype around the Gracie Family. I think it’s scummy but from a business perspective, it’s pretty smart. Kron Gracie Def. Alex Caceres

Women’s Strawweight: Cynthia Calvillo (-323) Vs. Cortney Casey (+273)

Cortney Casey’s last three fights have gone to Split Decisions and she only managed to win the most recent one over Angela Hill. Cynthia Calvillo came off a bullcrap suspension and defeated Poliana Botelho within a round. I feel like this fight will take go the distance, but Calvillo pulls through in the end. Cynthia Calvillo Def. Cortney Casey

Lightweight: James Vick (-114) Vs. Paul Felder (+101)

I’m going to make my bias very known here. I am a Paul Felder Fan. He won his last three fights at lightweight against tough opponents in Alessandro Ricci, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira and managed to finish each one of them by TKO with Elbows. The much rangier Vick will need to keep the fight on two feet and out point Felder if he is to win. He pretty much needs to act like Floyd Mayweather in the Cage. Vick will more than likely be a little hesitant early on in the fight as he was just stomped by Justin Gaethje back in July and Felder can take advantage of the opportunity. Now, don’t take my advice if you’re betting because I am being very Pro-Felder here, Nonetheless, Paul Felder Def. James Vick

Heavyweight: Francis Ngannou (+140) Vs. Cain Velasquez (-160)

Cain Velasquez is, in many fan’s minds, the best Heavyweight of all time. While I consider the best Heavyweight ever to be his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Daniel Cormier, I can absolutely see where people get the idea. Cain was the first man to Knockout Brock Lesnar and he was able to get Knockout Victories in all but 2 of his 14 wins. The craziest thing about Cain throughout his career has been his Cardio. In a division where even the top competitors get gassed easily, Cain has been able to push the action as shown in his 2nd and 3rd fights with Junior Dos Santos, he even garnered the nickname “Cardio Cain”. That nickname may have cost him in the long run as he lost his belt to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188 where the High Mexico City altitude played a large roll in Cain Falling into Werdum’s Guillotine Choke. Cain only went to Mexico City two weeks before the fight while Werdum arrived in Mexico City about two months before the match. The positive for Cain in this fight is that Phoenix is not a Mile and a Half above sea level and his opponent Francis Ngannou has shown that he gets tired in later rounds. If Cain makes it through round one without taking a Ngannou Moonshot, he should take a late round stoppage victory. Cain Velasquez Def. Francis Ngannou

Other Selections:

Bantamweight: Jimmie Rivera (-150) Def. Aljamain Sterling (+130)

Bantamweight: Manny Bermudez (-190) Def. Benito Lopez (+165)

Women’s Flyweight: Andrea Lee (-170) Def. Ashlee Evans-Smith (+150)

Lightweight: Nik Lentz (+156) Def. Scott Holtzman (-179)

Women’s Strawweight: Jessica Penne (-141) Def. Jodie Esquibel (+125)

Bantamweight: Luke Sanders (-175) Def. Renan Barao (+155)

Women’s Strawweight: Emily Whitmire (+109) Def. Aleksandra Albu (-121)

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