Discovering Little in Phoenix

ufc-espn1A heavyweight fight is always something that has gotten people excited in combat sports as they are often the fighters who bring fireworks.

This fight was slightly more important as it was not only a heavyweight fight highlighting the first card on ESPN, it was a chance to see two heavyweights and their development.

The development for both fighters came from very different places and for very different reasons but one was going to show that they had done enough to be a contender.

For Francis N’Gannou the development was far more straightforward as this was a classic case of too much too soon in the UFC.

N’Gannou was a major development in 2017 when he became the most exciting prospect in the heavyweight division in the last decade.

He was knocking people out left and right and was one of the hardest punchers in the division all at only 30 years old.

He was going to be great but the UFC, desperate for a star in the division, pushed him to the top quickly.

After knocking out Alistair Overeem with a highlight reel KO he was anointed as the next one but got a rude awakening when he lost to then-champion Stipe Miocic.

That fight and his follow up loss against Derrick Lewis exposed the fact that N’Gannou was simply not ready for his title fight.

He was shown to have no ground game and a limited gas tank and putting his future into question.

N’Gannou came back with a win late is 2018 but the questions still linger about just how good he is or can be in the heavyweight division.

His main event spot on one of the biggest cards in the UFC’s history was his chance to show just how far he had come.

It was a chance to show that despite the issues he had experienced he has learned and grown into the prospect that many thought he could be in 2017.

He was going to get a big test in that growth though as he was set to take on a former champion who many considered to be one of the best.

Cain Velasquez’s development was less about the growth of a fighter and more about the challenge of coming back after a long layoff.

Velasquez never really needed to grow as a fighter because to many he was one of the best fighters in the division.

When he won the title it was assumed that he was going to go down as one of the greatest ever but he ran into a streaking Fabricio Werdum.

Before he could get that rematch though a back injury sidelined him and after a successful comeback more injuries keep him out even longer.

The former champion was set to return o the limelight as the main event in Phoenix after a two-year layoff.

That is never an easy thing for any fighter as ring rust has proven to be real time and time again.mma-sidebar.fw

Although some fighters don’t believe in ring rust, more than one fighter has struggled in a return after a long layoff.

Velasquez was set to try to show that in those two years he had not only stayed at the same skill level but had gotten better.

It is hard to do when part of that time off has been spent recovering from multiple injuries and great fighters have struggled.

This was his chance to show everyone that his champion status is far from old and that he was ready to get right back into the mix.

As big as this fight was for the heavyweight division with a younger prospect facing a living legend it was more important for each fighter.

This was their chance to prove they still belong among the best of the best and with that on the line they had to go out with something to prove.

At the end of the fight neither really got to prove anything about where they are right now as a fighter.

They came out as expected with Velasquez looking to use his speed to stay away from the power but he wasn’t able to do it to perfection.

He got inside on N’Gannou and ate a big uppercut putting him on the mat and twisting his knee setting up the finish.

N’Gannou got the 26-second knockout proving that his power is still there but there is no evidence that his ground game or his stamina is any better.

Meanwhile, Velasquez made an early mistake and never really showcased his talents in the fight.

N’Gannou took the win to start off 2019 but nobody knows if he is any better now while it’s hard to say if Velasquez suffered ring rust because there was no time to see.

Not much was figured out but for the time being N’Gannou is on his way back to the title picture and Velasquez will need to prove he’s can still do it in his next fight.

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