Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title challenger Francis Ngannou returns to the Octagon on Feb. 17 at UFC on ESPN 1 when he faces off against former champion Cain Velasquez in what could prove to be a fight to determine the No. 1 contender in the division.
Ngannou is one of the most feared strikers in the sport due to his outrageous punching power; however he’s coming up against Velasquez who is not only is an outstanding wrestler but has the cardio to ensure he makes his opponents work the entire fight.
If there is one big question mark over Ngannou’s skillset it would be his wresting defense, which was severely exposed when he took on Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title last January. Most fans believe if “The Predator” doesn’t land an early shot to put Velasquez away, it could be a long night for the 32-year-old.
In a recent edition of the Joe Rogan MMA podcast, UFC color commentator Rogan spoke with UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw about how good Ngannou could be with the right trainers, stating that his physical gifts are uncanny for a person as big and powerful as he is (transcribed via MMA News):
“Ngannou doesn’t know how to wrestle so that’s part of the problem, but if he did, holy f---,” Rogan said. “He can move fast man, that guy moves like a cat. He scares the s--- out of me. If he knew what everybody else knew, I just think he’s so physically gifted. When you see him punch people, it’s a different thing. The power is just preposterous, it just doesn’t even make any sense. If that guy can get with a guy like Duane [Ludwig] and start moving and not just rely on throwing hammers, but setting stuff up and switching stances. I don’t know if you can do that with that kind of weight. How long can a guy like that move around?”
UFC on ESPN 1 takes place Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Talking Stick Resort Casino in Phoenix, Arizona. It is scheduled to be headlined by the Velasquez vs. Ngannou heavyweight match, with a lightweight bout between contenders Paul Felder and James Vick as the co-main event. The main card and later prelims will be broadcast on ESPN's flagship channel, while the early prelims will air on ESPN+.