UFC’s New Home, Sunday Fight Night on ESPN

After+a+long+stay+with+Fox%2C+UFC+has+swapped+one+sports+heavyweight+channel+for+another+as+ESPN+debut%27s+its+Sunday+Fight+Night+tonight.+Cain+Velasquez+and+Francis+Ngannou+is+the+main+event+of+the+day.+Photo+courtesy+of+UFC.
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UFC’s New Home, Sunday Fight Night on ESPN

After a long stay with Fox, UFC has swapped one sports heavyweight channel for another as ESPN debut's its Sunday Fight Night tonight. Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou is the main event of the day. Photo courtesy of UFC.

After a long stay with Fox, UFC has swapped one sports heavyweight channel for another as ESPN debut's its Sunday Fight Night tonight. Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou is the main event of the day. Photo courtesy of UFC.

After a long stay with Fox, UFC has swapped one sports heavyweight channel for another as ESPN debut's its Sunday Fight Night tonight. Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou is the main event of the day. Photo courtesy of UFC.

After a long stay with Fox, UFC has swapped one sports heavyweight channel for another as ESPN debut's its Sunday Fight Night tonight. Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou is the main event of the day. Photo courtesy of UFC.

David Ibarra, Reporter

MMA has a new home.

ESPN will host a UFC Fight Night this Sunday for the first time since the network acquired broadcasting rights last May. The promotion was able to negotiate a 1.5-billion dollar deal over five years in which 42 live events will be featured on ESPN and ESPN’s streaming platform, ESPN+, annually. The partnership will kick off with 13 bouts headlined by the return of former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez taking on no. 3 Francis Ngannou.

Velasquez is no stranger to introducing the promotion to a new audience. Back in 2011, Velasquez headlined the UFC on Fox 1 card for the promotion’s debut on Fox Sports.This will be Velasquez’s first fight since the summer of 2016 at UFC 200. The former champion has been plagued with back injuries that have kept him sidelined. Now 36 and healthy, Velasquez looks towards formidable opponent Francis Ngannou for a chance to prove he is still elite and capable of being champion again.

Francis Ngannou is coming off a knockout victory of Curtis Blaydes last November. The bout served as a comeback fight for him, as he had dropped his last two prior to that. One of those fights was a one-sided fight between him and then-champion, Stipe Miocic. Suffice it to say, this Saturday night’s main event holds heavy implications in the Heavyweight division.

Betting odds have Velasquez as a slight favorite in his return to the octagon.

Velasquez, judging by his championship days, looks to be the more developed fighter of the two. It goes without saying that these two fighters compete in the heavyweight division where all it takes is one punch to change the course of the match. Look for Ngannou to keep the fight on the feet, as Velasquez holds a great advantage in the grappling department.

The main card also showcases lightweights Paul Felder and James Vick in the co-main slot. These two lightweights are competing at a chance to crack the top 10 of an already stacked division. They have a lot to prove if they want to make a case for a title shot but expect a high pace fight between these two contenders.

The women’s 155 division looks to move along as a bout between Courtney Casey and Cynthia Calvillo has top 10 implications. Both women look to prove they belong in title contention as they are both coming off wins in their last bouts.

The rest of the main card shapes up nicely as stakes in the featherweight division are heating up. Two 155 pound bouts are scheduled to take place Sunday night. All four fighters are looking for a chance to enter the top 15 rankings. Alex Caceres vs Kron Gracie should be a grappler’s delight as these submission specialists hope to make a statement.  Andre Fili and Myles Jury also look to make similar statements as they look to open the main card up with a bang. The winners of these two bouts can go on to eventually fight each other.

UFC Fight Night on ESPN takes place this Sunday, Feb. 17 live from the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Ariz. Coverage begins 2:30 p.m. Pacific time only on ESPN and ESPN+.

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