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Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez - 2/17/19 UFC on ESPN 1 Pick, Odds, and Prediction

Game
Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez
Date & Time Sunday February 17, 2019, 11:30 PM (EST)
Location
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Phoenix, Arizona
The Line
The Line: Ngannou +187 / Velasquez -225 -- Over/Under:
TV Channel
ESPN
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MMA | Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Francis Ngannou and Cain Velasquez fight Sunday during UFC on ESPN 1 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Francis Ngannou enters this fight with a 12-3 record and has won 64 percent of his fights by knockout. Ngannou has won six of his last eight fights and is coming off a November win over Curtis Blaydes. Ngannou is averaging 1.97 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy percentage of 36 percent. Ngannou is averaging zero takedowns with an accuracy percentage of zero percent. Ngannou snapped a string of back-to-back losses with a quick first round knockout that earned performance of the night. Ngannou looked like his old self in the dominating effort and now seven of his last eight wins have come by knockout. There’s no surprises with Ngannou, as he lands 68 percent of his strikes standing up, stands at 6’4” and has an 83-inch reach. Ngannou wants to unleash his striking power, and when he connects, the fight is pretty much finished. You can make a case Ngannou is the most powerful striker in the sport, and he defends takedowns at such a high level that his opponent is forced to fight his style. The one downside for Ngannou is conditioning, as he puts a lot into his strikes and his losses are the only times his fight made it out of the second round. Survive the early avalanche against Ngannou, and you may have a shot. This will be Ngannou’s first career fight in Arizona.

Cain Velasquez enters this fight with a 14-2 record and has won 86 percent of his fights by knockout. Velasquez has won five of his last six fights and is coming off a 2016 win over Travis Browne. Velasquez is averaging 6.49 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy percentage of 57 percent. Velasquez is averaging 4.61 takedowns with an accuracy percentage of 42 percent. Velasquez hasn’t fought in two and a half years, so it’s going to be interesting to see which version of the now 36-year-old we’re going to get. When in good form, Velasquez is a constant pressure fighter who is effective with his strikes in all areas and doesn’t give his opponent much of a chance to land a clean shot due to the way he closes off the octagon. Velasquez is an effective takedown artist with a vicious ground and pound, and he’s one of the more well conditioned fighters regardless of division. Velasquez also has a deep wrestling background, so he’s a rare heavyweight who can handle his business on the ground if need be. A really balanced fighter you can trust anywhere the fight goes, but the long layoff makes you question just how much rust  there is with the former heavyweight champion. This will be Velasquez’s first career fight in Arizona, the state in which he went to school.

Velasquez is the more balanced fighter, and the last time we saw him, he put together a first round knockout that earned performance of the night. Velasquez probably should be the favorite considering he has  serious edge on the ground and he closes well standing up, so it won’t be as easy for Ngannou to line up a clean strike. The problem is Velasquez has been out of the octagon for two and a half years, so there’s reason to question if you’re getting the same fighter you last saw. It usually takes guys a round or two to knock the rust off, and that’s all Ngannou needs to put you to sleep. I also find tremendous value in getting knockout artists at plus money, as even if they’re outmatched, they need just one shot to cash your ticket.

There’s extreme value with Ngannou as an underdog against somebody who hasn’t fought since 2016. I’ll take it.

Pick:
Francis Ngannou +187

Randy Chambers has been with Sports Chat Place since 2014 and covers everything from the NFL to WNBA and tennis. Nobody works harder in this business in terms of content produced and amount of sports covered. Formerly a lead college football writer with Bleacher Report and has had his work featured at Fox Sports, CBS Sports and various other outlets.

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