The UFC’s first full card on ESPN took place on Sunday night from the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona with Francis Ngannou stopping Cain Velasquez in 26 seconds.
Velasquez and Ngannou were fighting by the cage when Velasquez appeared to twist his left knee while Ngannou was going for a short right uppercut. Velasquez went down and was screaming in pain as Ngannou attacked the former heavyweight champion with strikes prompting referee Jason Herzog to stop the fight.
For Velasquez, a combination of injuries and contract issues to a 2 ½ year hiatus with his last fight taking place in July 2016 when he defeated Travis Browne at UFC 200.
Velasquez was unsure about his future in the post-fight press conference, stating that he was 100% healthy and was ready for this fight. He felt a pop in his knee and cited the injury as the cause rather than an uppercut from Ngannou.
Ngannou has been smart to push for a fight with Velasquez’s teammate and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. The realistic options for the next title challenger are Stipe Miocic and Ngannou, who fought each other in January 2018 with Miocic dominating Ngannou in that fight. Cormier has been pushing hard to fight Brock Lesnar but there is no deal in place between Lesnar and the UFC.
The card drew an announced attendance of 14,269 to the Talking Stick Resort Arena and live gate of $1,400,000.
The Fight of the Night bonus was an easy decision to award to Vicente Luque and Bryan Barberena. The two had an early contender for fight-of-the-year with Luque stopping Barberena with six-seconds left in the fight.
The two Performance of the Night bonuses went to Kron Gracie and Luke Sanders. Gracie had a solid promotional debut submitting Alex Caceres in the opening round after taking his back on the mat and locking in a tight rear-naked choke. Sanders dropped the opening round to former bantamweight champion Renan Barao but rebounded in the second by dropping Barao and punishing him with three brutal shots to the face before the referee dove in.
In the co-feature, Paul Felder defeated James Vick to bounce back after a loss to Mike Perry. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported that Felder suffered a collapsed lung after a shot to the ribs in the third round. The injury is significant enough that he is being replaced on commentary for next Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event in the Czech Republic.
Here are the results from the card:
*Emily Whitmire def. Aleksandra Albu by rear-naked choke at 1:01 of Round 1
*Luke Sanders def. Renan Barao by knockout at 1:01 of Round 2
*Nik Lentz def. Scott Holtzman by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Andrea Lee over Ashlee Evans-Smith by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Manny Bermudez def. Benito Lopez by guillotine choke at 3:09 of Round 1
*Aljamain Sterling def. Jimmie Rivera by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Andre Fili def. Myles Jury by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Vicente Luque def. Bryan Barberena by TKO at 4:54 of Round 3
*Kron Gracie def. Alex Caceres by rear-naked choke at 2:06 of Round 1
*Cynthia Calvillo def. Cortney Casey by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Paul Felder def. James Vick by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Francis Ngannou def. Cain Velasquez by knockout at 0:26 of Round 1