Welcome to F4WOnline.com's live coverage of UFC On ESPN 1: Ngannou vs. Velasquez, which is taking place at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Octagon heads back to Phoenix for the first time in just over two years for their first full main card airing on ESPN headlined by a heavyweight knockout artist welcoming a former UFC champion back to action.
Heavyweight power house Francis Ngannou goes for his second straight win as he takes on former two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez in the five-round main event. Ngannou is coming off a 45-second win over Curtis Blaydes in November. Velasquez fights for the first time since UFC 200 in July 2016, as injuries and contract talks have delayed his return, but arguably the greatest UFC heavyweight of all-time is looking to get back to action and a title shot with an impressive win.
In the co-main event, it will be a lightweight battle between action fighters as James Vick takes on Paul Felder. Also on the main card is a women's strawweight bout between Cortney Casey and Cynthia Calvillo, as well as a featherweight bout pitting Alex Caceres against the UFC debut of Kron Gracie. Prelims will air on ESPN, as well as ESPN+, capped off by a pivotal bantamweight bout between Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling.
Follow along with our live coverage of the event beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern time with preliminary action all the way through the main card.
ESPN+ PRELIMS | 6 PM ET/3 PM PT
> Aleksandra Albu (3-0, 2-0 UFC) vs. Emily Whitmire (3-2, 1-1 UFC)
Whitmire gets a takedown 10 seconds in. She's the much larger fighter as she used to fight at bantamweight. Albu briefly up. Whitemire takes her back and secures a rear naked choke and gets the quick tap.
Official result - Emily Whitmire (4-2) by submission (rear naked choke) at 1:01
That was the fastest submission in UFC strawweight history. She was so happy in her post-fight promo. She talked about how much she loved Phoenix. She plans to keep training hard and hopes to fight again soon.
> Renan Barao (34-7 1 NC, 9-6 UFC) vs. Luke Sanders (12-3, 2-3 UFC)
Bantamweights* (Barao missed weight by 2 pounds)
Barao backs up Sanders with a front kick early. A leg kick from Barao stumbles Sanders. Sanders with a punch combo. Barao with a kick combo, including a hard body kick but slips after throwing another. Sanders lets him up. Sanders' body is already starting to redden. Sanders bleeding from the forehead after a high kick. Sanders keeps trying to clinch but Barao wants to stay standing. Body strikes landed are 18-4 for Barao through 4 minutes. Barao lands a hard high kick and Sanders has a mouse under his left eye. Sanders throws down Barao at the end of the round but he gets right up. 10-9 Barao
Nice punch exchange 30 seconds in with Sanders landing the hardest one. Barao still throwing a variety of kicks. Sanders lands a nice punch combo that rocks Barao and then an elbow to the head. Sanders knocks Barao down and finishes him with punches. Barao was out cold when he hit the canvas.
Official result - Luke Sanders (13-3) by TKO (punches) at 1:01 of Round 2
Sanders said it's been a tough camp and he almost didn't make it to the fight. He put over Barao as a legend of the sport.
ESPN PRELIMS | 7 PM ET/4 PM PT
> Scott Holtzman (12-2, 5-2 UFC) vs. Nik Lentz (29-9-2 1 NC, 13-6-1 1 NC UFC)
Lentz gets off the first punch combo. Holtzman controlling the center of the Octagon. Another punch combo from Lentz that backs up Holtzman to the cage. Holtzman connecting with leg kicks. Holtzman with a nice punch combo. Lentz with a takedown attempt but Holtzman defends well. Lentz briefly gets him down but Holtzman right up. Lentz controlling the back, though, and landing knees to the back of the legs. Lentz keeps fighting for the takedown but never loses control of the back. He's tripping Holtzman to get him down and trying to secure a body lock each time nad Holtzman has no answer for it. 10-9 Lentz
Holtzman pushing the pace to start round 2. Both guys landing nice kicks early. Holtzman rocks Lentz with a punch combo and goes for a desparation takedown but misses badly. Lentuz with a mouse under his left eye. Head strikes are 37-16 for Lentz. Lentz landing some hard punches of his own. He's cut under his right eye now as well. Holtzman landing more punches to the head and Lentz bleeding from the nose. Holtzman defending a takedown attempt but allows Lentz to control the clinch. Lentz gets him down briefly. Holtzman up but Lentz secures a guillotine. It's a weird angle and Holtzman doesn't tap and gets up. Lentz controlling the back again though. Lentz gets another takedown with 30 seconds left. Holtzmn up quickly but Lentz still controlling him He's 5/11 on takedown attempts. Tough round to score. I go 10-9 Holtzman and 19-19 overall
Holtzman's corner told him he lost both rounds and needs a finish. It's probably better to say that when you've got a close round and he might be right. Holtzman advancing to start and hurts Lentz with some punches to the head. Lentz firing back with punches as well. Holtzman blocks a takedown attempt. Lentz with a punch/kick combo. Holtzman landing hard punches but not even phasing Lentz. Lentz takes the back standing but Holtzman manages to break free. Lentz takes the back and drags Holtzman to the canvas. Hotlzman up but Lentz still controlling his body. Lentz 7/15 on takedown attempts now. Holtzman with elbows to the head as Lentz is working for the takedown. Elbows are doing damage and Lentz is barely holding on. Holtzman advancing and Lentz' face is a bloddy mess. Holtzman landing hard punches standing and then a flying knee. Lentz with another takedown but Holtzman right up. Lentz controlling the body. 10-9 Holtzman, 29-28 but last two rounds were really tough to score.
Official result - Nik Lentz (30-9-2) by unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
Crowd booed the decision. Lentz said he's a tough opponent and probably a top 5 guy.
> Ashlee Evans-Smith (#12, 6-3, 3-3 UFC) vs. Andrea Lee (#14, 9-2, 1-0 UFC)
Lee landing the harder punches to start. Smith with front kicks that are landing hard. Lee with a kick/punch combo. Lee with a counter punch combo. Smith almost exclusively throwing kicks and knocks down Lee with one but lets her back up. Lee down again and right up. Lee moves forward with a punch combo. Lee landing a lot of combos but not doing damage and Smith's kicks are landing harder, making it difficult to score. Smith lands a series of jabs that back up Lee. Lee with a late takeddown and ends the round controlling the back. 10-9 Lee but very close
Significant strikes are 46-30 for Lee. Lee lands some kicks early and then attempts a takedown but stuffed. Lee with a punch/kick combo. Smith fires back with punches. Lee backs up Smith to the cage with punches and landing knees to the body. Smith bleeding from a cut under her left eye. Smith gets a takedown and lands right in side control. Smith just laying on her, not even attempting ground and pound. Lee gives up her back in and gets to her feet with 2 minutes left. Smith did no damage on the ground. Lee blocks a takedown attempt. She has a cut on her nose know as well. Lee with a 30-3 advantage in round 2 in significant strikes landed. Nice punch exchange with 30 seconds left. Lee blocks another takedown attempt and lands punches and knees to the body. 10-9 Lee, 20-18
Lee's corner said that Smith had a tell when she's about to shoot for a takedown. Lee lands a hard uppercut 45 seconds in. Smith attempts a takedown and Lee blocks it and lands some strikes in the process. Body punch combo from Lee. Lee with kicks to the legs and body. Smith is landing occasional punches but no combos. Smth stuffed on a takedown and Lee briefly attempted a front choke but let it go. Lee backs up Smith with a punch combo and Smith attempts another takedown but stuffed. Nice punch exchange with a minute left. Lee attempts a takedown and ends up controlling the cage clinch. Lee stuffs a takedown attempt. Smith does end up on top as the round ends. 10-9 Lee, 30-27
Official result - Andrea Lee (10-2) by unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
> Benito Lopez (9-0, 1-0 UFC) vs. Manny Bermudez (13-0, 2-0 UFC)
Bantamweights* (Bermudez missed weight by 4 pounds)
Bermudez gets an early takedown and working for a rear naked choke but Lopez works him back to guard. Bermudez landing hard punches to the head and body. Lopez to his feet but Bermudez still controlling his body. Lopez takes control of the clinch. Bermudez with a couple of attempts at a standing guillotine. He uses that to drag Lopez to the ground. Bermudez secures a D'Arce choke and gets a quick tap.
Official result - Manny Bermudez (14-0) by submission (D'Arce choke) at 3:09
Bermudez wants to fight another unbeaten bantamweight next and brought up the names of Brad Katona and Shawn O'Malley. Either fight would be good and I could easily see them booking him against Katona.
> Jimmie Rivera (#5, 22-2, 6-1 UFC) vs. Aljamain Sterling (#7, 16-3, 8-3 UFC)
Sterling with a takedown attempt to strt and ends up controlling the cage clinch. Rivera takes control as the ref warns them to improve position. Crowd booing so they separate, which they like. Both guys throwing kicks from distance while standing. Rivera stuffs another takedown attempt. Rivera with elbows to the head. Ref warning them early to improve so he's probably not going to let this go ontoo long. Sterling manages to get Rivera into the air but Rivera manages to fight off the takedown. Sterling with foot stomps. Crowd booing heavily again. Ref breaks them up with 90 seconds left. Rivera with a takedown attempt after ducking a head kick. Sterling with light punches to the head and Rivera targeting the body as he works for the takedown. 10-9 Sterling but close round
Sterling lands some kicks to open and Rivera gets a quick takedown. Sterling attempting a triangle from his back and kicks off Rivera to get to his feet quickly. Rivera blocks a takedown. Boos starting already less than a minute into the round. Sterling with knees to the legs. Ref warns them to improve. Rivera takes control and separates. Rivera with a punch combo. Sterling connects hard with a spinning back fist. Sterling has Rivera backed up and hurt. Sterling landing hard jabs and then punch combos. Rivera has dropped his mouth piece three times and the ref warns him if it happens again, he'll lose a point. Rivera blocks a takedown attempt with a front headlock. Rivera with punches to the body and then lets Sterling up. Sterling with a nice punch/elbow combo and has a 30-8 advantage in significant strikes landed this round. 10-9 Sterling, 20-18 overall
Rivera catches a kick and Sterling slips but Rivera lets him back up. Sterling stuffed on a takedown attempt. Sterling landing jabs from distance and keeping Rivera's back to the cage. Rivera landing occasional punches but his output has really slowed since hte first. Sterling ahead 74-31 in signficant strikes landed. Sterling slips while throwing a kick and Rivera pounces on him and moves into half guard. Sterling to his knees and then up fairly easily. Punch combo from Rivera. Rivera lands some punches and chases Starling briefly but Sterling regains center control. Rivera blocks a takedown attempt and has a guillotine as the fight ends. 10-9 Sterling, 30-27 overall
Official result - Aljamain Sterling (17-3) by unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Sterling asked for a rematch with Marlon Moraes, saying he got lucky the first time they fought. He thinks they should be fighting for the next title shot.
ESPN MAIN CARD | 9 PM ET/6 PM PT
> Andre Fili (18-6, 6-5 UFC) vs. Myles Jury (17-3, 8-3 UFC)
Both guys keeping their distance early. Fili is landing occasional jabs from distance. Jury lands a couple punches but Fili way more active. Fili lands a hard jab that may have broken the nose of Jury as he's bleeding immediately. Jury starting to time his jabs better in the 2nd half of the round. Crowd getting restless as not a lot happening. Fili mixing in leg kicks. Jury lands some shots that hurt Fili in the last 30 seconds. 10-9 Fili
Jury throwing jabs and leg kicks early. Fili answering back with jabs of his own and targeting the nose, which the corner stopped from bleeding between rounds. Head strikes are 16-9 for Fili. Nice punch exchange with both guys landing hard shots. Loud boos from the crowd. Not sure why cause action has picked up. Maybe something going on off camera. Jury has closed the gap this round in significant strikes landed and actually has more in the 2nd. Jury knocks down Fili with a spinning back fist and all over him with punches on the ground. Jury moves into mount but only 30 seconds left. Fili kicks him off and works Jury back to guard. Jury landing punches to the body as the round ends. 10-9 Jury, 19-19
Fili landing jabs to start the round. Jury with body kicks. Jury pushing the action but neither guy landing a ton in the first half. Jury starting to taunt Fili, who is still landing more jabs. Significant strikes are 26-14 Fili in round 3 with a minute left. Jury with a nice punch combo with 15 seconds left but too little, too late. 10-9 Fili, 29-28 overall
Official result - Andre Fili (19-6) by unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
Fili said he loves the sport but doesn't get paid enough, which surprisingly draws some boos. Says he'll be a future world champion.
> Vicente Luque (14-6-1, 7-2 UFC) vs. Bryan Barberena (14-5, 5-3 UFC)
Barberena gets a nice hometown pop as he's announced as being from Arizona. Barberena gets off the first punch combo while retreating. Barberena landing leg kicks. Luque is pushing the pace. Luque with a kick/punch combo. Luque hurts Barberena with punches but Barberena firing back, which the crowd love. Luque just picking Barberena apart though. Barberena with a nice punch combo. Luque mixing in elbows with his punches to the head now. They clinch in the center and trade body punches. Luque with a 23-8 advantage in head strikes landed with 90 seconds left. Barberena drops Luque with a punch and goes to the ground but Luque takes the back and secures a choke. Angle is not quite wrong but Luque squeezing. Barberena somehow escapes. Luque transitions to a D'Arce choke. Barberena escapes and landing punches and elbows as the round ends. 10-9 Luque
Both guys firing punches at the start of the round. Barberena looks fresher. Barberena with a nice punch combo 45 seconds in. Barberena rocks Luque with punches to the head. Luque answers with elbows to the head. Barberena walking away with his hands down. Barberena with elbows and punches the the head. Luque starting to target the body more. Barberena with a nice punch combo. Crowd exploding every time Barberena lands anything. Barberena cut under his right eye. Barberena with a nice punch combo. Barberena with a 60-54 advantage in significant strikes landed. Head kick lands flush from Luque. Luque cut under his right eye now. Great punch combo from Luque. Barberena with a great punch combo with 30 seconds left. Both guys throwing bombs and crowd going nuts. Barberena down after a body shot. Luque takes the back but Barberena up. Great round. 10-9 Barberena, 19-19
Both trade leg kicks early. Great punch exchange with both guys landing hard shots. Head kick from Luque backs up Barberena. Knee to the body followed by punches from Barberena. Signfiicant strikes landed are 97-95 for Luque. Both guys land hard shots to the head and get rocked. In 40 combined fights, neither has ever been knocked out, which explains a lot. Barberena turning up the pace at 2;00 and lands a ton of unanswered shots. Luque starts to block some of them and then firing back with elbows and punches to the head. Knee to the body from Barberena. Series of elbows to the head from Luque and Barberena fires back with punches. Barberena has a 37-28 advantage in head strikes landed this round with 90 seconds left. Luque with a punch/kick combo and Barberena briefly down but Luque lets him up. Both guys firing bombs with 30 seconds left and the crowd is going nuts. Luque landing hard shots. Barberena down and collapses and the ref stops it. This was one of the best fights you will EVER see and worth going out of your way to see.
Official result - Vicent Luque (15-6-1) by TKO (punches) at 4:54 of the 3rd round
They embrace before the post-fight interview and both are going to get to speak. Luque says he's getting married next month and his face won't look too good. Luque says he's a top ten fighter and just proved it. His 8 wins by finish are tied for 4th most in welterweight history. He may have needed the finish to get the win in a close fight and he pulled it out.
Barberena got a standing ovation from the crowd. He put over Luque as a warrior. He says he'll keep improving, get better and bounce back.
> Alex Caceres (14-11 1 NC, 9-9 1 NC UFC) vs. Kron Gracie (4-0, 0-0 UFC)
Gracie lands the first strike of the fight that backs up Caceres, a punch. Gracie takes the back standing. Gracie drags him to the mat, while still in back control. Gracie with a body lock and working for the rear naked choke. Gracie secures the choke. Caceres fights it for longer than he probably should've and taps as he was about to pass out.
Offiical result - Kron Gracie (5-0) by submission (rear naked choke) at 2:06
Gracie started his promo by saying "Whoomp, there it is". Crowd didn't quite know how to take that. He says he'd like to fight again as soon as possible. Nick Diaz was shown in his corner but not identified. He swore and the audio was cut out and he apologized for it.
> Cortney Casey (#11, 8-6, 4-5 UFC) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (#12, 7-1, 4-1 UFC)
Casey pushing the pace to start. Calvillo with a takedown attempt blocked and then lands a punch/kick combo. Casey with a punch combo. Casey lands a punch combo and tries to push Calvillo to the cage but she breaks away. Nice punch exchange with Casey getting the best of it. A couple of wild exchanges where both women land a bunch at the 3 minute mark. Calvillo with a partial takedown but lets Casey back up without going to the ground with her. Calvillo does some damage with a punch combo. 10-9 Calvillo, close round
Calvillo with an 18-8 advantage in leg kicks landed and that's her main weapon early in round 2. Both throwing shots from distance and not really engaging and crowd starting to get restless 90 seconds in. Calvillo rocks Casey with a punch and takes her back standing. Calvillo kind of working a head and arm choke but Casey escapes and they separate. Casey blocks a takedown attempt. Calvillo with a punch combo with a minute left. Casey starting to land leg kicks at the end of the round. Crowd doing the wave and Anik thinks they're reacting to the fight, which they've completely lost interest in. Calvillo closes with a great punch combo. 10-9 Calvillo, 20-18
Casey's lead leg really bothering her between rounds because of all the kicks she's absorbed. Crowd booing again a minute in as they're again not egnaging much. Calvillo takes it to the cage clinch after eating some punches. Calvillo catches a kick and attempts a takedown but gives it up fairly quickly. Boos getting really lound at the midway mark of the round. Punch combo from Calvillo at 3;00 as the crowd starts singing the OLE song. Casey starting to throw more in bunches now but missing most of them. Calvillo with a punch combo. Calvillo with punches to the body and another leg kick. Total strikes in round 3 are 19-11 for Casey. Punch/kick combo from Calvillo. Both ladies throwing down like crazy at the end of the fight and the crowd finally cheers. 10-9 Casey, 29-28 Calvillo overall
Official result - Cynthia Calvillo (8-1) by unanimous decision (30-27; 29-28 x 2)
Crowd boos the decision despite the fact that Calvillo and Casey embraced afterward. Boos get louder during her promo even though she was putting over her opponent by saying how tough the fight was. They just didn't care about her unfortunately. Says she wishes she'd have performed better and asked for a top 5 fighter next. Brought up the name Tatiana Suarez, which drew more boos. Then she spoke in Spansh and they cheered. Weird.
> James Vick (#10, 13-2, 9-2 UFC) vs. Paul Felder (15-4, 7-4 UFC)
Both keeping their distance early. Vick lands a body kick for the first contact of the fight. Felder connects with a punch combo that stuns Vick. Vick really targeting the body early. Vick with a punch combo. Vick really making good use of his reach by connecting and backing away before Felder can reach him. Felder does connect with a spinning elbow and also starting to land leg kicks. Crowd getting restless again. Felder takes it to the cage clinch with a minute left. They separate quickly. Felder rocks Vick with 15 seconds left and takes him to the cage. Vick trying to just hold him and ride out the round. 10-9 Felder
Vick grabs the next standing but Felder fights off the choke. Vick in control of a cage clinch. Crowd booing heavily at the clinch work. Felder takes control and separates. Crowd booing so loud you can barely hear the commentators. Nice punch exchange follows with both guys landing hard. Felder continuing to land leg kicks. Felder rocks Vick with a punch combo. Vick lands a nice combo that backs up Felder. Felder with a spinning elbow that gets blocked but looked good. Vick clinches up on the cage. Cue the boos. Separation on their own. Vick lands a flying knee that backs up Felder. Felder with a punch combo. Felder with a hard leg kick that hurts Vick and he switches stances. 10-9 Vick, 19-19
Felder teasing the leg kick and Vick switches stances a couple times in the opening minute. Spin kick from Felder lands to the body of Vick. Felder with a punch combo and then clinches up on the cage. Felder with an elbow to the head and separates. Vick throwing leg kicks now. Felder lands a couple more and Vick is limping. Knee/punch combo from Vick. Nice punch combo from Felder. More leg kicks from Felder, 19 so far in the fight. Felder rocks Vick with a left hook to the body. Vick connects with a punch combo and moves in for a takedown. Felder defending well. They separate on their own. Great punch exchange with both guys landing hard. Felder clinches up on the cage with a minute left. Vick takes control. Separation with 30 seconds left. Felder with a 57-46 advantage in significant strikes landed and 23-14 in the 3rd round. 10-9 Felder, 29-28 overall
Official result - Paul Felder (16-4) by unanimous decision (30-27 x 2; 29-28)
Felder said that UFC is in his hometown of Philadelphia and he won't be ready to fight but he'll be working the show and he wants Justin Gaethje, win or lose, for his next fight. Good callout.
> Francis Ngannou (#3, 12-3, 7-2 UFC) vs. Cain Velasquez (14-2, 12-2 UFC)
Cain is the massive crowd favorite here, returning after almost 3 years away and N'Gannou is booed as heavily as Cain is cheered. For the first time I can recall, at least pre-fight, Cain looks old.
Cain bouncing around a lot early and throwing kicks. N'Gannou lands hard punches and knocks Cain down. Cain twisted his knee on the way down and N'Gannou finished him with punches.
Official result - Francis Ngannou (13-3) by TKO (punches) in 26 seconds
Ngannou dedicated the fight to his aunt, who just passed away. He promised the fans that he's back. Says he's honored that Cain accepted the fight.
Jon Anik called Cain a future Hall of Famer and Cain asked the fans to give it up for Francis and they gave him a nice ovation. He says he let himself get to close and paid the price. He says he'll fight again as soon as he feels good again. He apologized to the fans and they gave him an ovation anyway.