UFC Phoenix: Francis Ngannou finishes Cain Velasquez in Arizona (RECAP)
18 February 201904:55 GMT
That's all it took for Francis Ngannou to finish Cain Velasquez after an anticlimactic finish to UFC Fight Night in Phoenix, Arizona.
Velasquez looked to close the distance, and during a close-quarters exchange Ngannou clipped the former champion with a few scruffy shots, but then Velasquez's right knee badly buckled and he fell to the mat in pain, forcing the referee to wave off the contest after just 26 seconds.
It was a disappointing end to what could have been a classic striker versus wrestler contest, and denied Ngannou the spectacular finish he hoped for.
But for Velasquez, questions now surely have to be asked about whether he can come back again if his knee requires another surgery.
Fans will cross their fingers that the injury isn't too bad and a period of rest will be sufficient before Velasquez comes back again.
As for Ngannou, he's back in the title mix again. The big question now is for the UFC matchmakers. Who will he face next?
- 04:42 GMT
IT'S MAIN EVENT TIME
It's time for the titanic heavyweight clash between power-punching knockout artist Francis Ngannou and returning former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
At his best, Velasquez is the best heavyweight in the world, but he's coming back from a three-year layoff to face the most devastating knockout artist in the UFC today.
It's as risky as it gets for a comeback fight, and Ngannou also knows this is the best possible time to face the former world champion. A win for the Cameroon-born star here will put him right back in the world title picture.
This could finish in the blink of an eye, so don't blink!
- 04:30 GMT
FELDER OUTGUNS VICK
The night's co-main event produced an entertaining scrap that went all the way to the scorecards as Paul Felder and James Vick engaged in a 15-minute battle of lightweight contenders.
Felder repeatedly hammered Vick with leg kicks that left the taller man limping his way through the contest, and the Philadelphia man also showed some superb timing as he landed a host of heavy shots on Vick, including some brilliantly-timed spinning back elbows.
The judges scored it 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 in Felder's favor, with the popular fighter saying he'd love to face Edson Barboza in a rematch, or face Justin Gaethje "as soon as possible".
- 04:02 GMT
CALVILLO EDGES OUT CASEY IN STRAWWEIGHT SCRAP
Cynthia Calvillo may not have been able to utilize her impressive submission skills, but she showed an improving striking game as she outpointed local favorite Cortney Casey over three rounds in their strawweight contest.
Calvillo started the better of the two, with Casey coming on strong down the stretch, but when the scorecards were totalled it was Calvillo who got the nod, with scores of 29-28, 29-28, 30-27.
After the fight, Calvillo respectfully asked for a fight with rising contender Tatiana Suarez in a fight she said should be a title eliminator.
- 03:25 GMT
KRON GRACIE MAKES A STATEMENT
And that statement is this: Watch out!
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu phenom made light work of flashy striker Alex Caceres with a rear-naked choke submission finish mid-way through the opening round of his UFC debut.
It was borderline effortless for the Brazilian, whose uncle Royce won the inaugural UFC tournament at UFC 1 and started the whole journey of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
A little more than 25 years later, Kron entered the octagon and continued the Gracie's affiliation with the UFC with a submission victory, the first for the family in 24 years.
He made his mark in his post-fight interview, too, telling commentator Jon Anik: "This is my first fight. Everybody else better watch their f*****g neck!"
The question now is, just how far can he go?
- 03:04 GMT
LUQUE AND BARBERENA SERVE UP A CLASSIC
Brazilian Vicente Luque and American Bryan Barberena went toe to toe in an instant classic of a welterweight contest, with Luque finally stopping the seemingly unstoppable Barberena with just SIX seconds of the fight remaining.
The bout was a back-and-forth striking battle for the entire fight, as both men traded big shots throughout the contest.
The first round saw Barberena drop Luque, who immediately attacked with two submission attempts as 'Bam Bam' followed him to the mat looking for a finish.
Barberena survived the round and came storming back in the second round to set up a thrilling finale, as both men left it all in the octagon in a breathless final round.
And with the clock winding down, Luque summoned up one final flurry that broke Barberena's stubborn resistance and earned him a last-gasp TKO victory.
The win extended Luque's winning streak to four in a row, and gave him his eighth victory inside the UFC octagon, with all eight of those wins coming by stoppage.
- 02:36 GMT
'TOUCHY' FILI GETS HARD-EARNED WIN
The man with one of the best nicknames in MMA, Andre 'Touchy' Fili, claimed the 20th win of his professional career after a smart performance against Myles Jury in their featherweight main card contest.
Fili used his jab and footwork to good effect as he outstruck Jury throughout much of the contest to earn 29-28 scores from all three judges.
His claim that he'll be the world champion by the end of the year seems a little over-optimistic, but there's no doubting that Fili is in a great place, both physically and mentally, as he prepares for the biggest year of his MMA career.
- 01:54 GMT
'FUNKMASTER' GETS THE WIN
Aljamain 'Funkmaster' Sterling produced an excellent display to defeat longtime rival Jimmie Rivera and position himself perfectly for a run at the title later this year.
Sterling kept Rivera guessing throughout the contest, and scored big with a spinning back elbow as he put 'El Terror' in trouble in the second round.
In the end, the bout went to the scorecards, with Sterling earning 30-27s from all three judges to claim the 17th win of his professional career.
- 01:15 GMT
BERMUDEZ CHOKES HIS WAY TO 14-0
Manny Bermudez showed his submission proficiency with a highly-impressive first-round tapout of fellow undefeated prospect Benito Lopez in their 140lb catchweight contest.
Bermudez dominated the grappling scrambles as he locked up a modified guillotine choke and, after some adjustment, put on the squeeze to force the tap.
Bermudez moves on to 14-0 and will surely be handed one of the bantamweight division's more experienced campaigners in his next bout.
However, he said he'd like to face another undefeated bantamweight prospect next, 'Sugar' Sean O'Malley.
- 01:02 GMT
K.G.B. GETS THE W.I.N.
Andrea 'K.G.B.' Lee faced replacement opponent Ashlee Evans-Smith in a flyweight contest that proved to be a highly competitive affair that went all the way to the scorecards.
Despite Evans-Smith looking in decent form, Lee did just enough to win each of the three rounds to earn 30-27 scores on each of the judges' scorecards and claim her second straight win since joining the UFC in 2017.