UFC on ESPN 1 goes at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday 17th February. UK fans can follow a blow-by-blow account of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s latest promotion live on BT Sport. The main event – Cain Velasquez v Francis Ngannou – carries a 5.00am start time, closer to setting your alarm early than staying up late, perhaps.
Bookmakers offer punters the chance to add a little more drama to the occasion with a winning bet; you’ll find an array of tempting markets and prices on offer, including fight winner. Have your say on the victor of each contest and nick a slight profit over the course of the evening, or aim higher and throw a few predictions together to build a punchy accumulator, offering a shot at big returns for small stakes.
If big odds singles are more your thing you may be interested to hear there’s plenty going on in the method of victory market. Here you are challenged to not only call the winner but say how they will achieve the result – points, submission or TKO.
That’s when your research will come in handy. Flick through the form of both warriors and look for clues. Is one competitor on a run of KOs? Back them to win the bout by KO/TKO. Are they a more technically-minded combatant? Try your luck on them grabbing victory courtesy of the scoring judges. It’s more difficult than picking a winner, of course, but the prizes are well worth shooting for.
Top of the Bill Treat
Followers have a top of the bill treat to look forward to as Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou lock horns in the heavyweight division. Chief support comes in the form of James Vick v Paul Felder at lightweight; with the Main Card also promising exciting bouts such as Cortney Casey v Cynthia Calvillo at women’s strawweight; Alex Caceres v Kron Gracie featherweight; Vicente Luque v Bryan Barberena welterweight and Andre Fili v Myles Jury in the featherweight category.
There’s more to be had if tuning in early for the Preliminary Card where viewers get the chance to catch on the careers of Jimmie Rivera; Aljamain Sterling; Ashlee Evans-Smith; Andrea Lee; Scott Holtzman; Nik Lentz; Renan Barao; Luke Sanders; Jessica Penne; Jodie Esquibel and Aleksandra Albu.
More than enough to hold your attention into the wee small hours of Sunday; however, our team of sports betting experts and MMA judges choose to concentrate on the main event, picking apart the form of both men before advising where best to play your stake money.
Predator on the Prowl
32-year-old Cameroonian Francis Ngannou goes into this contest as the number three ranked heavyweight in the UFC and will understand the importance of building on that standing this year, starting with an eye-catching performance and win over Velasquez. Based in America, The Predator fights out of Las Vegas, Nevada where he represents the MMA Factory and UFC Performance Institute.
With an aggressive style based on his boxing background, Ngannou idolised Mike Tyson during his early career in the fight game and his journey took him to Paris. A rags to riches tale, he was homeless and hopeless until earning a spot at a gym where he was advised to try mixed martial arts as an alternative. It proved to be a perfect fit and he’ll climb into the octagon for this clash with a professional record reading 12 wins from 15 starts, with eight of his victories coming back way of knockout, the other four by submission, showcasing his power. The defeats on his record at present all came on the scorecards and that will catch the eye of Velasquez who will set out to avoid the heavy attacks and take this bout into the latter stages.
Ngannou Written Off
Bookmakers don’t appear to be overly impressed by Francis Ngannou, judging by the pre-fight betting. They are confident enough Ngannou will leave empty-handed they are trading a chunky 2/1 – top price with Bet365 – to anyone who disagrees. That’s sure to catch the eye of value hunters but there’s a better price to be had if following the form.
It’s obvious from Ngannou’s stats he’s a man who likes to rough up opponents and use his physical attributes. The longer the contest goes on the more chance there is of his powerful, yet severely limited, approach backfiring. Therefore, if you are going to back Francis for the win it would make sense to get your cash down on the KO/TKO result as its highly unlikely he’ll win favour with the scoring judges. The submission is a possibility; however, you can write off the points win. It’s a big price for a reason. The underdog has lost two of his last three but claimed the spare last time out when beating Curtis Blaydes into submission inside the first round.
Cain seeking the Treble
Cain Velasquez is a two-time former heavyweight champion and has ambitions of completing the treble and returning to the summit of the sport. The 36-year-old from California has a style showcasing his Muay Thai, Wrestling and BJJ background, resulting in an all-rounder who is competent in all aspects of the sport, mixing hard hitting attacks with a well-schooled ground game.
The father of two fights out of San Jose where he trains in the American Kickboxing Academy. A pro MMA fighter with a 16-bout CV, he has won 14 of his starts so far, losing the other two. Of his two defeats, one was by knockout and the other submission – music to the ears of The Predator who will surely test that chin to the max during this clash.
Bookies have him Backed
Bookmakers are falling over themselves to support Cain Velasquez to win this fight and we must say we are in agreement with the odds-makers. If you plan on supporting the jolly, you’ll find Coral’s 2/5 as the general price available in the betting ring at the time of writing. That’s a strong stance, but it’s difficult to argue against their approach. He has won five of his last six fights, including victory over Travis Browne last time out, achieved on UFC 200 thanks to a big-punching assault in Las Vegas.
The latter also earned him a performance of the night bonus and it would come as no surprise to see him add another victory to his column here. Playing the method of victory market and we’d prefer to take Cain Velasquez to win by KO/TKO. He certainly has the power to pull it off and the fact his opponent is expected to come at him – the majority of this bout set to take place in the middle of the octagon – only boosts our chances.
This will be an entertaining headliner but one we don’t think you should take your eyes off as it could explode from the first buzzer. Each of Cain Velasquez’s last three wins have all come inside the distance and a fourth at a decent enough price will do for us. Good luck if you decide to follow our thinking and enjoy what will be a stunning night of mixed martial arts action.