UFC on ESPN 1 Predictions - The Return of Cain Velasquez

Profile Picture: Adam Spradling

February 15th, 2019

With Sunday night jam packed with entertaining action, it's time for some UFC on ESPN 1 predictions! This card comes to you live (and totally free given that you have ESPN) on Sunday, February 17th at 9pm ET. Get ready for a wild card filled with some truly talented up and comers. Of course, the main event is the draw, so that's where we'll start because it's time to see Cain Velasquez back in action.

Those of you in New Jersey can bet on the UFC on ESPN's inaugural event by signing up to our sportsbook!

Cain Velasquez -165 vs. Francis Ngannou +130

It has been well over two years since we've seen Cain Velasquez appear on our television screens, and what a treat it is for the UFC to roll him out on a free event televised by the world wide leader. The two-time heavyweight champion last blasted Travis Browne in to another stratosphere until a knee injury sidelined him for what's felt like an eternity. Will he still have the same gas tank that made him an elite champion in the heavyweight division, or will age finally catch up to the 36-year old fighter?

Standing in Cain's way is the hard hitting, knockout specialist, Francis Ngannou. The Predator is fresh off of a win over Curtis Blaydes after suffering the first set of back-to-back defeats in his career. If you're betting on Ngannou, you're hoping that he can land one of his trademark uppercuts to detach Velasquez's head from his neck. But as we saw in the fight against both Lewis and Stipe, Ngannou is having trouble delivering his finishing blow to opponents at the top tier of the division.

Velasquez is still, arguably, one of the top-five in the division despite his absence from competition. He is so well rounded, so tough to beat, and doesn't stop coming at you. His engine is ridiculous, and while there will be some rust, Velasquez was always a defensive mastermind as well. He knows how to wear out opponents, stay safe and avoid danger. He learned a hard lesson against Junior dos Santos in 2011 when he lost the heavyweight strap for the first time. His loss to Stipe was understandable given the talent of Miocic. Nagannou has not proven that he's on that level just yet.

This is an epic and titanic battle to headline the first major card on ESPN, but Cain Valasquez is the play even if the juice is thick. He's only lost two fights in his entire, historic career. Ngannou is uber powerful, but isn't tactful enough to steal this one from a returning legend.

UFC on ESPN 1 Predictions: Velasquez -165 
UFC on ESPN 1 Predictions

James Vick -120 vs. Paul Felder -105

This fight is as much of a toss-up as the odds indicate. Vick has been on the recipient of a soft push by the UFC, but failed to get past Justin Gaethje in August 2018 making this particular fight a potential last straw for him. Felder is a worthy opponent who is 15-4 SU but coming off a split decision loss to Mike Perry at UFC 226. Both guys will be gunning to keep their hopes alive in the UFC, but Vick's 5-inch height advantage is going to be the difference in this fight.

UFC on ESPN 1 Predictions: James Vick -120

Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie

It's impossible to fade Kron Gracie here in any capacity. As his surname implies, Gradcie is a master grappler who tore through Rizin FF in Japan with a 4-0 SU record that included four submission finishes. Caceres is a solid veteran who is 4-6 SU in his last 10 fights and has a lifetime record of 14-11-1. His last major victory was five years ago against Sergio Pettis. There are times where you can absolutely take a flier bet on a longshot in UFC betting, but this isn't one of them. Caceres is in for the ride of his life.

UFC on ESPN 1 Predictions: Gracie via Submission

Vicente Luque -420 vs. Bryan Barberena +300

If you're looking for a longshot chip shot, this is the fight to back the dog. Luque and Barberena are both standup fighters, who will trade punches in the center of the octagon. Luque is certainly more versatile, having ended 7 fights by knockout, 6 by submission and just one by decision. He's a finisher, and a frightening character. Barberena is a wild man who takes too many risks, but the 29-year old is 5-3 SU in the UFC with two wins over Jake Ellenberger and a victory against Sage Northcutt on his hit list. I wouldn't lean heavy on Barberena because Luque is a much more controlled and credited competitor (as the odds indicated), but he's definitely worth a small play considering how hard it is to make money on the favorite.

UFC on ESPN 1 Predictions: Barberena +300

Andre Fili +125 vs. Myles Jury -155

The star for Myles Jury dimmed a little when he lost to Chad Mendes last summer, dropping his overall record to 17-3 SU. But he seems to be more at home in the featherweight division. Andre Fili is nice filler to get Jury some traction in the win column, but he is no stepping stone. Fili grades out as a perfect test match for the UFC brass to see if Jury really has anything left as a main event talent.

UFC on ESPN 1 Predictions: Jury -155