The UFC hits our screens on Sunday night this week. And with two-time former heavyweight champ, Cain Velasquez set to return, you might want to plan your Monday morning excuses now.
After what seems like forever, two-time former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is set to return to the octagon. But anyone thinking he’d be handed a soft-touch tune-up fight is sorely mistaken.
Nope, Velaquez has been given the single most devastating power puncher in the UFC today, hulking Cameroonian Francis “The Predator” Ngannou, in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday night.
It’s a classic David versus Goliath matchup. Velasquez isn’t a big heavyweight by any means. Ngannou, by contrast, most certainly is. But Cain has shown throughout his career that he’s more than happy to step into the octagon with the biggest of the UFC’s big guns and chop them down to size. Just ask Brock Lesnar, Junior dos Santos and Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva.
But when you’re up against Ngannou you’re up against the most deadly puncher in the UFC. If he connects cleanly, it’s nighty-night time. He starched Andrei Arlovski and nearly knocked Alistair Overeem’s head clean off his shoulders. If Cain isn’t on his A-game, the same could befall him, too.
But if there’s one thing Velasquez has had time to do it’s prepare, and for what must be the first time in a long time, he’s coming into the contest injury-free. A fully-fit motivated Velasquez is just about as good a heavyweight as you’ll find in MMA. If he isn’t too rusty after three years away, he should have the game to overwhelm Ngannou, who will always have a puncher’s chance all the while he’s standing. Cain, in almost every area of the game, is better than the Cameroonian, so if he’s fit, he should win.
Expect Cain to close the distance from the very start, take him down and pound on him mercilessly. Expect him to rinse and repeat this round after round until either Ngannou breaks, or the final klaxon sounds.
Lightweights James Vick and Paul Felder will do battle at 155lbs in a battle between strikers with contrasting styles.
Standing at six foot four, Vick is incredibly tall for a lightweight and he should have a significant reach advantage over Felder on the night. But Felder is granite-tough and if he can get inside Vick’s jab, he has the striking arsenal to give “The Texecutioner” a tough night.
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Felder is the slight underdog to win the fight, at Evens, but there should be more value on “The Irish Dragon” claiming a decision victory if the markets open up before fight night. If they do, that’s your bet.
Cortney Casey vs Cynthia Calvillo
Cortney Casey is a 9/4 underdog to beat Cynthia Calvillo in their strawweight main card bout, and I think that’s an outstanding price for a fighter who is a lot better than her recent record suggests.
Casey has gone to a split decision in each of her last three bouts, losing to both Felice Herrig and Michelle Waterson, but getting the nod against Angela Hill in her most recent outing. Casey is a better striker than Calvillo, and hasn’t been finished in almost three years. If she can keep it on the feet, she could well upset the applecart and earn herself a decision win.
Bet: Back Cortney Casey to beat Cynthia Calvillo @ 9/4
UFC Phoenix Treble pays 7/1:
Cain Velasquez to win @ 1/2
Paul Felder to win @ 1/2
Cortney Casey to win @ 9/4
*All prices correct at time of posting