Once upon a time, Cain Velasquez the king of heavyweights. Actually, as the biggest, most fierce UFC champ, he was – at the time – the king of all UFC fighters. But that was a long time ago.
Injuries sidelined him to a ridiculous degree. Since 2013, he’s fought twice, losing one of those bouts to Fabricio Werdum. When Velasquez returns to the cage to face Francis Ngannou at the UFC on ESPN+1 show in February, it will be a year and a half since he last fought.
Will Velasquez be at least a fraction of the fearsome beast he was years ago? Not likely, because, you know, people get old. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Ngannou knocks his old butt out.
But no matter which way the fight plays out, at least we’ll have this awesome story Shaun Al-Shatti wrote about Velasquez on MMAFighting. Here’s a sample, but definitely read it all.
The last serious sighting of Cain Velasquez came 30 months ago, when the former two-time heavyweight champion stopped by the UFC’s bicentennial show to remind the fight game of his terrifying brilliance by ripping apart Travis Browne as if tasked with the easiest job in the world. It was short. It was violent. It was vintage. He melted back into the heavyweight ether after that, as he is wont to do, a ghost who reanimates himself every so often just to prod the UFC’s big boys with the knowledge that their house is still haunted by an infrequent force beyond their control.
Those 30 months feel like an eternity today. Gaze around the heavyweight kingdom and UFC 200 may as well be a lifetime ago. New records have been established, new legends have been anointed. In Velasquez’s absence, one of his dearest friends — Daniel Cormier, the same man who once abandoned his own weight class out of loyalty to his teammate — returned to retake the throne for AKA. But finally the time has come: At last, Velasquez is indeed back, set to kick off his latest comeback tour on Feb. 17 against Francis Ngannou at the UFC’s inaugural showcase on ESPN. And make no mistake, as the narrative of Cormier’s impending retirement hangs in the air in 2019, there is a plan in place for the erstwhile king.