UFC Phoenix had been centered around the return of former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, who was coming back from a 31-month layoff from a due to back surgery and taking time off to spend with his family after the birth of his son last year.
In front of a raucous crowd at the Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday night, his opponent, Francis Ngannou, strolled right in and crashed the party, knocking out Velasquez in 26 seconds.
“It was very fast,” Ngannou said during his post-fight interview. “I didn’t realize what happened.”
WOW! @Francis_Ngannou gets it done in Arizona! #UFCPhoenix pic.twitter.com/xGF4ziuAZA
— UFC (@ufc) February 18, 2019
Velasquez (14-3) didn’t waste too much time, as he came right at Ngannou and attempted a couple of head kicks that Ngannou was able to move out of the way of. Realizing that method didn’t work, Velasquez went for a takedown, but Ngannou made him pay with a short uppercut to which Velasquez’s knee buckled as he screamed in agony.
Seeing Velasquez in trouble, Ngannou (13-3) uncorked a series of hammerfists and the referee came in to stop the fight. After a shaky start to 2018 in a title loss to then-champion Stipe Miocic and to Derrick Lewis, the native of Cameroon has knocked out Curtis Blaydes and Velasquez in just 71 seconds in his last two fights.
Here is what happened at UFC Phoenix.
UFC Phoenix results
Francis Ngannou blasts Cain Velasquez in 26 seconds
11:53 p.m.: Ngannou def. Velasquez by knockout at 0:26 of the first round. Velasquez came out throwing a couple head kicks. Ngannou hit a glancing straight right hand to the forehead and a left hand behind the head. Velasquez tried for a takedown, but Ngannou stuffed it. Ngannou hit Velasquez with a short uppercut and almost simultaneously his left buckled from under him. Couple hammerfists from Ngannou and it was all over.
11:43 p.m.: It is now time for the main event as former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez squares off with No. 3-ranked Francis Ngannou in heavyweight action.
Velasquez (14-2) returns to the Octagon for the first time in 31 months due to having surgery to repair an issue where his spine was pinching his sciatic nerve, ongoing contract negotiations with the UFC and the birth of his son, Cain Jr. The 36-year-old last fought at UFC 200 in July 2016, where he blasted through Travis Browne inside one round.
Coming into 2018, Ngannou (12-3) was getting ready to challenge Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight championship at UFC 220 in January 220. Many expected Ngannou to become the new sheriff of the division. However, Miocic had other ideas in mind and used his wrestling and constant pressure to stymie the native of Cameroon to win a lopsided decision. Then at UFC 226, Ngannou curled up into a shell and put on one of the worst showings in UFC history to lose a decision to Derrick Lewis. Not all was lost in 2018 for the 32-year-old when he steamrolled through Curtis Blaydes in November in just 45 seconds.
If Velasquez can get past the first round, it’s his to lose as Ngannou’s cardio isn’t up to snuff.
Paul Felder chops down James Vick in return to lightweight
11:35 p.m.: Felder def. Vick by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). A systematic win for Felder, who was at a four-inch disadvantage. Instead of going punch for punch, Felder threw one vicious leg kick after another to nearly snap Vick’s left leg in two. Doing so allowed Felder to go upstairs and make Vick compete on just his left leg. That’s the best we have seen from Felder in a long time. If he continues to fight like that, a new contender can emerge at 155 pounds.
11:10 p.m.: It is now time for the co-main event of UFC Phoenix, as No. 10-ranked James Vick takes on Paul Felder. Vick (13-2) had his four-fight winning streak snapped when he got knocked out by Justin Gaethje in 87 seconds back in August. Felder (15-4) returns to 155 pounds after a one-time trek to welterweight, losing by split-decision to Mike Perry at UFC 226.
Should be a fun one. If you are looking for a grappling match, this won’t be for you.
Cynthia Calvillo earns gritty decision win over Cortney Casey
11:04 p.m.: Calvillo def. Casey by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). A tough victory for Calvillo and a fight that she needed to be in. Known for her submission and takedown prowess, Calvillo wasn’t able to get Casey to the mat. So, Calvillo bit down on her mouthpiece and went strike for strike to now win back-to-back fights. You learn a lot about fighters when their preferred method of competing doesn’t work. A lot of credit to Calvillo and one she will remember.
10:35 p.m.: Now at UFC Phoenix, No. 11-ranked Cortney Casey battles No. 12-ranked Cynthia Calvillo in women’s strawweight action. Casey (8-6) has lost two of her last three, but did win in her last time out, winning a split-decision against Angela Hill. After losing the only fight of her career to Carla Esparza, Calvillo (7-1) bounced back with a first-round submision win over Poliana Botelho.
Calvillo and Casey are action fighters, so don’t expect anything less here.
Kron Gracie chokes out Alex Caceres to make successful UFC debut
10:26 p.m.: Gracie def. Caceres via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:06 of the first round. Well that didn’t take Gracie long whatsoever. After stunning Caceres with a two-punch combination and getting him to the back of the cage, Gracie took Caceres’s back and threw him to the mat. You knew what was coming next, as Gracie immediately took the back, locked in the choke and Caceres tapped out instantly.
Great way to introduce Gracie to a worldwide audience. If he can show striking like he did here then watch out. He doesn’t have to be Conor McGregor. Gracie just has to be good enough to help set up his takedowns, so he can grab a submission and go from there. The impressive win caught the attention of the biggest name in the sport.
Enter the mix young son.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) February 18, 2019
10:17 p.m.: Coming up next at UFC Phoenix, Kron Gracie fights Alex Caceres in featherweight action. Gracie (4-0) comes from the famed Gracie family. He’s the youngest son of Rickson Gracie and grandson of Hélio Gracie. Caceres (14-11, one no-contest) has stumbled of late, having lost three of his last five.
This is designed to be a setup fight to introduce Gracie on the big stage. Can Caceres come in and spoil the party?
Vicente Luque knocks out Bryan Barberena in ‘fight of the year’ contender
10:08 p.m.: Luque def. Barberena by knockout at 4:54 of the third round. An unbelievable fight that was non-stop action for 15 minutes and without a doubt the best fight of the year so far in 2019. After a fantastic standup battle in the first two rounds, we were treated to a scintillating third round as well. Luque and Barberena continued to trade the heavy leather until a right uppercut down the middle by Luque finally started to break the armor known as Barberena’s chin. Luque followed up with a right hand and a knee that sent Barberena crumbling to the mat. A series of short shots from Luque proved to be too much and the referee waved it off with six seconds remaining.
Luque has now won eight of his last nine fights. Give these guys a bonus. They deserve it.
9:56 p.m.: How are Luque and Barberena still standing? They stood there for four minutes and 55 seconds and just exchanged one punch after another. It took a knee by Luque with five seconds left in the second round to send Barberena down. What a fight!
9:50 p.m.: What a first round! Luque and Barberena showed a little bit of everything. Luque delivered a series of heavy of strikes that Barberena just walked through like it wasn’t a big deal. Barberena went on to drop Luque with a straight left hand. Once on the mat, Luque reversed position and locked in a deep rear-naked choke. Somehow, Barberena escaped and reversed position at the end of the round to get on top of Luque and landed some heavy shots. Best round so far in 2019.
9:45 p.m.: Up next at UFC Phoenix, Vicente Luque faces Bryan Barberena in welterweight action. Luque (14-6-1) is on a great run having won seven of his last eight and winning all of those via stoppage. Like Luque, Barberena (14-5) is on a good streak as well, having won four of his last six and winning three by stoppage. Expect an all-action affair.
Andre Fili wins kickboxing battle over Myles Jury
9:37 p.m.: Fili def. Jury by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). The name of this fight was who could fight better on the feet and it was Fili. He popped the jab and there was nothing Jury could do it about it.
Fili controlled the striking in the first round and busted up Jury’s nose. Jury started off the second round well by letting his hands loose. Fili quickly regained control by staying on the outside and popping the jab and continuing make blood gush from Jury’s nose. The round took a complete turn when Jury dropped Fili with a spinning back fist and blasted Fili with some ground-and- pound punches before the round came to a close. With the fight hanging in the balance in the third round, Fili went to back to what was working and kept pumping the jab to start his 2019 with a win.
Don’t get why Jury was so tentative. When he let his hands go, he was effective. He’s in trouble, as he’s lost back-to-back fights in what is becoming a deep featherweight division.
9:10 p.m.: Kicking off the main card of UFC Phoenix, Myles Jury and Andre Fili square off in featherweight action. Jury (17-3) looks to get back on the winning track after losing to Fili’s teammate at Team Alpha Male Chad Mendes in July at UFC Boise by first-round TKO. Fili (18-6) had a modest two-fight win streak broken when he lost a narrow split-decision to Michael Johnson in August.
A good way to start the main card that features two guys who are evenly matched.
9:00 p.m.: Welcome to Sporting News’ live coverage of UFC Phoenix. Get the refreshments and don’t miss any of what should be an exciting night of action.
UFC Phoenix undercard results
- Aljamain Sterling def. Jimmie Rivera via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27); Bantamweight
- Manny Bermudez def. Benito Lopez via submission (D’Arce choke) at 3:09 of the first-round; Bantamweight
- Andrea Lee def. Ashlee Evans-Smith via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27); Women’s Flyweight
- Nik Lentz def. Scott Holtzman via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28); Lightweight
- Luke Sanders def. Renan Barao via TKO at 1:01 of the first-round; Bantamweight
- Emily Whitmire def. Aleksandra Albu via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:01 of the first-round; Women’s Strawweight
UFC Phoenix fight card
- Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez; Heavyweight
- James Vick vs. Paul Felder; Lightweight
- Cortney Casey vs. Cynthia Calvillo; Women’s Strawweight
- Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie; Featherweight
- Vicente Luque vs. Bryan Barberena; Welterweight
- Andre Fili vs. Myles Jury; Featherweight
- Jimmie Rivera vs. Aljamain Sterling; Bantamweight
- Benito Lopez vs. Manny Bermudez; Bantamweight
- Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Andrea Lee; Women’s Flyweight
- Scott Holtzman vs. Nik Lentz; Lightweight
- Renan Barão vs. Luke Sanders; Bantamweight
- Aleksandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire; Women’s Strawweight
UFC Phoenix latest news
– Francis Ngannou tells Sporting News the road back to challenging for the heavyweight title stars with Cain Velasquez.
– After nearly being gone for almost three years, Velasquez explains to SN why this was the correct time and place to make his return.
– Plenty of notable names are on UFC Phoenix. SN looks at Vicente Luque being the one to watch out for.