A Fighter’s Tour: Vacation In Vietnam!

Celebrating my 23rd birthday in the bar on level 52 of the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

New Scars

A big part of my gig here at MMAmania.com for the previous five years has been recapping my own martial arts experiences and mixed martial arts (MMA) career. From my first fight as an amateur in 2014 at the age of 18 to my second professional win back in July, I’ve written about each step of the journey and tried to take readers along for the ride as best as possible.

In the seven months since my July victory (LINK), however, it’s been radio silence. A few days after that bout, I received test results from a recent MRI confirming I had an acoustic neuroma: a benign tumor inside the inner ear. For the concerned, it was no result of head trauma, more pulling one in 100,000 bad odds. Google the term if you’d like more info, but the short version is that I had to have it removed surgically in a procedure that qualifies as neurosurgery.

After a few months of waiting on referrals, my two teams of surgeons at UC Davis Medical in Sacramento, Calif., successfully removed the tumor in an 11-hour procedure near the end of Nov. 2018.

Post-Surgery Swollen Head

That’s a great result for me, but one with consequences, too. As a result of the acoustic neuroma, I have no hearing in one my ears. To be frank, I don’t find it to be a big deal. There was also the issue of balance, as I had to retrain my brain against vertigo and learn to walk normally again. I figured most of that out in the first week, though, so the bigger issue for me came in the form of recovery. Shockingly, medical experts are against the combination of brain surgery and combat sports … at least right away. After surgery, I was scheduled a significant amount of recovery time before being allowed back in the gym. Nearly three months post-surgery, I’m still forced to be wary of Intracranial Pressure, only allowed to do certain exercises and drills despite looking and feeling perfectly healthy.

At six weeks, though, I was allowed to fly.

I’m not one for melancholy, so before surgery I realized the opportunity here. In my more than nine years of martial arts experience, I had never taken more than one week away from the gym — usually the week after a fight, as I only do my strength and conditioning workouts in an attempt to recover from camp and the fight itself. Unasked for or not, I suddenly had a pretty big window of non-gym or severely limited gym time available. I wasn’t going to waste it.

Six weeks and one day post-surgery, my girlfriend Jordan and I boarded the 14-hour China Airlines flight from San Francisco, Calif., to Taipei, Taiwan, the main connecting airport en route to Hanoi, Vietnam. To answer the inevitable, “Why Vietnam?” queries, there are a few reasons.

  1. Since the beginning of our relationship, Jordan and I both shared a dream of traveling to Asia. We made a whole list of travel goals at one point, and the top of that varied list was actually a mutual vote for Japan. Which brings us to reason #2 …
  2. Expense. Our vacation had to be cheap; I am an MMA fighter, remember? With that, our scope narrowed a bit to South East Asia. Sadly, I had to save Thailand for the future, too, because going to homeland of Muay Thai without kicking things would be a true sin.
  3. Food. Jordan and I love the Vietnamese food we’d have in the States, and Vietnam is well-known for its delicious and cheap street food.
  4. Anthony Bourdain: The travel host, author, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt loved Vietnam and described visiting as a life-changing experience. I’ve read three of his books — including this piece’s partial namesake A Cook’s Tour on the plane ride over — and they did a great job of convincing me.

Within five minutes of finding my seat on the 747, I was trying to keep my laughter quiet. China Airlines is not an American company and thus does not force its staff to tolerate the usual buffoonery we all endure on flights. The stewardesses sped around the plane, appearing and disappearing behind curtains, emerging from any angle to reprimand idiot passengers for trying to open bags in the aisle or sitting in the wrong seat. Any level of incorrect behavior — from the accidental to the obnoxious — was shut down with a quick “Stop!” or “You will sit!” There was no forced customer-service politeness, only blunt efficiency. It was hilarious to watch.

I think I’d do well in Singapore (ONE FC hit me up!).

MMA in Vietnam

After about 24 hours door-to-door, we arrived at our Airbnb in Hanoi. We had about 20 minutes to help the host rewire a light bulb and get dressed before our scheduled tour with some local college students would arrive. It’s a great program: the college students make a couple bucks and get a chance to practice their English, while tourists get an educational tour from actual locals (LINK).

In an unexpected twist, the tour also granted me the MMA tie-in necessary for this article. My career posts tend to run at a ratio of about 80 percent fighting and 20 percent me — be it tattoos or post-fight celebrations or some interesting event that occurred in the lead up, I try to interject some personality to avoid creating too generic of a “Got in a fight last night … and dominated!” post that any fighter could write.

But, I wasn’t allowed to do MMA on the trip. Going to Thailand and kicking pads? That’s a post that writes itself. Vietnam is not internationally known for a combat sports culture, though, nor would I be able to participate if it was.

Luckily, I found out early on the tour that one of our guides, Duy, is a giant fight fan. I didn’t intend to bring up my career as a fighter — be wary, for folks who immediately blab about their fighting career without provocation are generally to be avoided at all costs. However, Duy asked how we came to be in Vietnam, which lead to the whole surgery conversation and how I had to take time off from my career, a career I simply described as physical work. When Duy asked further, I had to spill the beans.

Duy asked for a face-off pic at the end of our tour. Kindly ignore the fact that I’m wearing the same shirt in half of these pictures, we didn’t check any bags.

“Have you ever heard of UFC?” is generally my go-to opening phrase for figuring out how to explain my fight career, and immediately Duy was pumped.

“Bro, I love UFC! On Youtube, I watch all the Embedded episodes!” Realizing I had a real fight fan on my hands, I backtracked and began explaining that I’m not in UFC, but Duy was already way ahead of me. We talked being an unsigned fighter (poverty), the work that goes into preparing for a fight (a lot), and whether or not everyone is on steroids (not in my experience). When he found out I was a member of Team Alpha Male, I got hit with the immediate, “What’s the real story with Cody and T.J.?!?” We talked about the upcoming super fight between between Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo, which I actually watched on the plane ride back to the states.

I had questions for him as well. Is there an active MMA scene in Vietnam? The couple Google searches I did prior to the trip revealed little, other than at least one MMA gym existing in Ho Chi Minh City. Duy explained to me that an MMA gym had recently opened in Hanoi, and that there was a popular jiu-jitsu academy nearby as well.

Here in North America, it’s easy to get cynical in regards to UFC’s supposed expansion. “Fastest growing sport on the planet!” is repeated ad nauseam and seems to directly contradict the crappy television ratings that frequently bounce back from random events with no major headliner. It’s easy to forget countries like Vietnam, who may not have a representative in the Octagon yet but is beginning to host events more often and develop new fight teams.

Among his generation, fighting really is a sport of growing popularity.

Food in Hanoi

For the food and travel bits of our stay in Hanoi, pictures are superior to lengthy descriptions.

Bun Cha is Hanoi’s signature dish. A sweet, vinegary broth is served with all the fixings on the side: patties of fatty pork, green papaya, hot red chiles, fresh herbs, and a giant helping of cold rice noodles are to be thrown into the bowl in whatever portions you prefer.

“Oc,” or river snails, sauteed in tamarind sauce at the tiny blue table of a street side Bia Hoi (fresh beer) stop.

A staple of cafes, egg coffee features an egg white blended with sweetened condensed milk and poured into hot coffee, creating a rich, sweet mixture.

Banh Mi Op La: In Vietnamese, Banh Mi means both the sandwich and the baguette itself. In this case, it’s a crunchy baguette served with a fried egg as well as a side of chili-soy sauce.

Immediately after the Banh Mi, we squeezed in another breakfast of Pho, the classic Vietnamese beef noodle soup, at a quick chain restaurant.

For more than six decades, the French colonized Vietnam as part of French Indochina, and the result — besides years of brutal oppression and a hard-fought, bloody revolution in the ‘40s and ‘50s — is a lasting influence on the country. Many of the country’s most famous landmarks and government feature beautiful French architecture. Common Vietnamese street foods like the Banh Mi and Banh Xeo (a sizzling egg crepe) show obvious French influence. Perhaps most telling is the national coffee culture: coffee is sold on every block, whether in thousands of small cafes or from a cart on the side of the street. Both are busy late into the night, well past when American coffee shops have shut their doors.

Another lighter consequence of the French occupation is a high number of amazing French restaurants. Late Saturday night, we made an impromptu stop at La Badiane, an acclaimed restaurant in the French Quarter of Hanoi. The original plan was to do lunch on Sunday (cheap!), but a Google search while walking the alleys revealed them to be closed Sunday. The prices may have been higher, and we may have been dramatically under-dressed, but this was our one chance.

A pan-seared breaded sea bass with mushroom and red wine sauce — the single best piece of fish in our collective lives.

A similarly delicious crab risotto with Parmesan emulsion

Sights

Sadly, our trip only allotted about two total days to explore the city of Hanoi, which was far from enough. We sacrificed two days of our time in northern Vietnam to visit Halong Bay, a fantasy landscape of tall limestone islands jutting out of a grass-colored bay. It’s a massive attraction and commonly appears on lists of natural world wonders. It’s a place you simply can’t miss.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

A three hour bus ride from Hanoi covers about 110 miles of travel to the bay. The most popular way to experience Halong Bay is via small cruise ship, and we opted for the overnight tour. While on board, we did a cooking lesson, kayaked, saw an oyster pearl farm, and explored a deep cave.

Top deck

A cloudy sunrise at Hoan Kiem Lake. In the heart of Old Quarter, Hanoi, locals gather early in the morning to do Tai Chai, dance classes, and exercise by the water.

On the weekends, the streets around Hoan Kiem Lake are shut down. Instead, the streets are filled with new food stands, a giant screen showing the national soccer team’s game, and children riding around in dozens of remote controlled cars.

The narrow, busy streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Our guides’ motorbikes in front of West Lake

An intimidating French guillotine in Hoa Lo Prison. Before the prison gained notoriety as a POW camp in the American-Vietnam War as the “Hanoi Hilton,” the French held political prisoners and dissidents there. It is now a museum.

The Hanoi Citadel and flag tower, built in the 11th century

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in the French Quarter. Vietnam’s population is largely Buddhist, but there are sizable groups following Catholicism, Hinduism, and Islam as well. The result is a blend of beautiful pagodas, churches, and mosques throughout the country.

Jordan has never been happier than during our visit to a Cat Cafe. We spent a couple dollars on cat food and Pâté, ensuring we were the center of attention among Jordan’s new friends.

After four days in northern Vietnam split between Hanoi and Halong Bay, we boarded a plane early Monday morning and left for Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, the long-time capital is a vastly different city and environment. Rather than the misty northern winter (it wasn’t actually very cold), we were heading to sweltering heat and soul-crushing humidity.

Two (Hopefully) Quiet Americans

Saigon is a massive city. The headlining picture of this article features Jordan and I on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower in its sky bar. If you walk 360 degrees around the entire bar, you will not see the end of the cityscape — it’s massive buildings divided by a different rivers as far as the eye can see.

There is money in Ho Chi Minh City. At one point, we walked through a gigantic mall, maybe 10 levels total, that largely featured luxury brands. The buildings are bigger, cars are more common, and rush hour is actually even more intense. The feeling of “Old Vietnam” is more prevalent in Hanoi, where it seeps from every building and narrow alleyway, but it permeates through Saigon as well if you stray from the standard tourist path. The hectic nature of Vietnam in general can be overwhelming, but both cities actually do a very nice job of providing centers of calm, often in the form of green parks and pagodas.

As the former capital of southern Vietnam and base of U.S. military operations, our shared and recent history is harder to avoid in Ho Chi Minh City. Learning more about the war than what high school and Apocalypse Now taught me was not a central goal in this trip, but it was still the most eye-opening experience in a journey filled with completely new adventures.

On our second day in Saigon, we visited the War Remnants Museum, the most popular museum in the city. Once titled the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression before the relationship between the two countries normalized, the museum is a must-see among tourists for a reason.

Now, it’s run by the Vietnamese government, and the placards around the museum certainly make their agenda and bias clear. At the same time, no spin was really required to unsettle or horrify anyone with eyes or a conscious. Brutal, often award-winning photographs of napalm and death filled the walls. An entire room dedicated to those born with defects from Agent Orange decades later. Excerpts from the Russell Tribunal, a European committee that condemned the war back in 1967, years before it would end. Millions dead. The names of a whole village wiped out, exclusively made up of women who tended to be under the age of 16 or over 60. And their children.

It’s a difficult topic to talk about as a U.S. citizen. From what I remember of my scholastic education, we were simply taught that the war was a mistake, but never learned to what extent. Furthermore, any sympathy shown toward the Vietnamese or criticism of the U.S.’ involvement is easily misconstrued as anti-American or anti-soldier because of protesters’ shameful treatment of soldiers returning from the war.

Graham Greene’s 1955 novel The Quiet American is widely known as the quintessential Vietnam book. The novel takes place during the Vietnamese revolution against the French, focusing primarily on a love triangle while the war rages on. Throughout the personal drama, Greene explains how the West did not understand the country they were inhabiting nor how to possibly win this endless war. Nearly a decade before American combat troops were on the ground, the Englishman predicted further American involvement, the war, and the outcome. He was not alone in his foresight, either; President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara acknowledged the war as unwinnable as early as 1965. Americans and Vietnamese died en mass for another eight years before Operation Homecoming.

After the museum, I didn’t know exactly what to do with all the information I learned. I still don’t. But, I think more people should have it.

Saigon Eats

Leaving an experience like the War Remnants Museum and trying to return to fun tourist mode is difficult. It’s made easier, though, by the incredible friendliness of the folks in Vietnam, who largely seem to hold no ill will over battles that are still less than 50 years old.

A mix of fruit from the Mekong Delta. Each morning in Saigon, we grabbed fresh smoothies from a shop in the bottom of our apartment complex for about $ 1. They tasted better than the Jamba Juice smoothies that sneak sherbet into the final product.

Jordan doesn’t eat meat, but cheerfully accompanied me to a steakhouse and watched me eat snails. To show my appreciation, we went on a vegetarian food walk through Saigon. Pictured above are vegetarian version of Mi Quang, a central noodle dish, and Com Tam (broken rice). The soybean patty in the Com Tam was the ugliest and best meat substitute I’ve ever tasted.

Speaking of that steakhouse… A Chateaubriand from B3 Steakhouse for my 23rd Birthday

I wasn’t not going to drink cobra rice wine.

A papaya salad seated on our rental bike from a well-known street vendor in Saigon. The story I’m told is that The Papaya Lady put her daughter through college by selling thousands of these papaya salads at about $ 1 a piece. Inside the bag are slices of papaya, peanuts, beef jerky, and dressing. Add chili sauce until your face burns.

Bon Bo Hue: a central dish featuring pork blood in the broth

I had to message Duy on Instagram to get the name of my favorite street food I tried during our trip. Banh Trang Nuong sees a sheet of rice paper placed over a charcoal grill and folded over like a quesadilla. Warm and melty inside is a mix of pork, chicken, scallions, quail eggs, chilis, and some hot sauce. Delicious!

We didn’t leave Saigon until mid-day Saturday, meaning we had a few hours to occupy ourselves after checking out. I hauled my heavy back pack maybe a mile to Chef Thien, another French restaurant, and nearly died in the heat and humidity. Totally worth it

Sights

In addition to the vegetarian foods tour, we went on a longer day trip that took us to both the Cu Chi Tunnels to the north and the Mekong Delta to the south. The delta was beautiful, the tunnels terrifying. At one point, we crawled forty yards through a tunnel expanded twice the size for us large tourists. Well, I’m a Flyweight and professional athlete, and after forty yards I was pretty ready to get out. It’s hot and cramped, and the compact nature of the tunnel means there isn’t enough Oxygen. Several minutes was more than enough, but some of the soldiers who fought in that area were forced to hide underground for a mind-boggling 21 years. We also saw some displays of the different types of traps used in the war … yikes!

An example of an entrance/exit to the tunnels

Jordan’s shiny silver head hidden in the Cu Chi Tunnels

Nothing better than getting permission from your guide to follow your impulse.

Canoeing down a channel of the Mekong Delta

Sun setting over the dock

A flower shop in a Cambodian neighborhood

A neighborhood that was largely destroyed during the Tet Offensive

A friendly Iguana we met

A taste of Saigon rush hour

My favorite example of random Vietnamese friendliness. After dinner, we walked around District 1 for some beautiful sights and famous landmarks, and we wanted to get a picture in front of city hall. We asked a pair of Vietnamese ladies to help us out with the photo, and they more than answered the call. Despite being in a seriously busy area, they successfully shooed other people away and yelled at a van to move. They took a dozen pictures on our phone before deciding they were unhappy with the quality. Then, they used their own camera and emailed us the pictures.

The Central Post Office in District 1

Lifetime Souvenir

During our tour in Hanoi, we walked through a house built in the 18th century where a well-known rich family had lived. On the walls hung a variety of scrolls and paintings, one of which featured some phoenixes extremely similar to the one tattooed on my chest from four years ago. I asked our guides about it, and they explained that the phoenix is one of the four holy animals in Vietnamese culture.


Now, I’ll readily admit that I got my phoenix in America because I simply liked the art and was tired of waiting for the perfect idea. I won my second amateur fight and got it done the next day. As it happens, I stumbled upon a bit of meaning.

I couldn’t just leave it there. I had considered getting a tattoo while in Vietnam before the trip, but checking out Bob Tattoo near Bui Ven Street confirmed it for me. The past work was beautiful, the ink and equipment shipped from the West, and the shop seemed very sterile. I’ve been tattooed enough to make educated decisions. We did admittedly pay up a bit for the western cleanliness and equipment standards, but going cheap on tattoos is generally not a wise plan, and the prices were still very fair.

I had a vague idea of possibly getting an ouroboros — a snake eating itself and symbol for infinity/rebirth, which would tie well with the Phoenix — but instead I landed on a second of the four holy beasts.

It’s a difficult location for pictures. Done by Dung Black of Bob Tattoo in Saigon, Vietnam

Jordan, meanwhile, decided to go with a peony. Unlike her usual preference, she went colorful.

Tattoo done by Bob of Bob Tattoo in Saigon, Vietnam

Tam Biet!

I didn’t expect to be able to go on a trip like this for at least a couple years. The gym does not allow for time off, and I have work besides that, writing here and occasionally driving for Lyft. Jordan is just as busy, splitting her time between college, a dental office, and sushi restaurant.

I also didn’t expect to have a tumor. I am not an “Everything Happens for a Reason”-type person, but I do believe in making the most of bad situations. I knew we wanted to do this, and suddenly we had an opportunity.

So we did it.

This trip also inspired me as a mixed martial artist. As a professional fighter from Team Alpha Male, jiu-jitsu brown belt, and fight analyst, I’m qualified to teach just about anywhere. I’ve always thought the idea of teaching somewhere overseas sounded neat, but actually being in another country made the concept real. Could I live in a place like Vietnam and teach jiu-jitsu? After my experiences there, that sounds fantastic. Fighting is a game of uncertainty, so every back up plan that falls into my lap is a welcome one.

Similarly, one of my goals in fighting has always been to travel. To fly free somewhere distant, stay in a paid hotel, fight, and then explore the area is a dream. As a West Coast transplant, I’m never going to make serious money by selling 300 tickets in California, so I might as well fly somewhere else to fight. In a year or two, getting flown out to fight will be a realistic option assuming all goes well (seriously ONE FC, call me).

And hey, maybe in another couple years, I’ll talk to the big bosses here at MMAmania.com and do some type of multimedia story on kicking down a banana tree in Thailand.

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Cain Velasquez to Fight This Weekend, Then Disappear Again Into the Netherworld

Like some sort of primeval beast of legend, long lost heavyweight star Cain Velasquez will emerge from the shadows to face Francis Ngannou at UFC on ESPN+2 this weekend. Then, no matter the outcome, he once more disappear into the netherworld, invisible but for the highlight reel clips.

I mean, that’s at least what it feels like.

Thanks to a never-ending slew of injuries, the dude has been on the sidelines far more often than in the Octagon since, well, since forever. Velasquez was even the champ – more than once – and he rarely fought.

So yeah, we’re getting him in the main event of the UFC’s next big ESPN bash. But you can bet it will be years before Velasquez is in the cage again. If ever.

Anyway, here’s a video of Velasquez in action. Because you probably forgot what that looks like.

The post Cain Velasquez to Fight This Weekend, Then Disappear Again Into the Netherworld appeared first on Caged Insider.

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UFC On ESPN 1 Odds, Under Dogs And Best Bets!

Get a detailed breakdown of the betting lines for UFC on ESPN 1, which is set to hit Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., this weekend (Sun., Feb. 17, 2019), including best bets, underdogs, favorites and much more!

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez gets an unfriendly welcome back to the Octagon this Sunday (Feb. 17, 2019) when he takes on Francis Ngannou inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., headlining the promotion’s first-ever ESPN Fight Night. Down at Lightweight, James Vick and Paul Felder attempt to rebound from recent defeats at each others’ expense, while Cynthia Calvillo looks to continue her resurgence against Cortney Casey and Kron Gracie makes his Octagon debut against Alex Caceres.

We’re juggling way too many subscriptions these days; therefore, let’s see if we can’t pay for them all in one fell swoop.

What went wrong at UFC 234?

Well, the main event imploded, but we came out unscathed. Devonte Smith, Ricky Simon and Jalin Turner all performed up to expectations.

UFC On ESPN 1 Odds For The Undercard (ESPN+, ESPN):

Jimmie Rivera (-145) vs. Aljamain Sterling (+125)
Manny Bermudez (-200) vs. Benito Lopez (+170)
Andrea Lee (-190) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (+165)
Scott Holtzman (-175) vs. Nik Lentz (+155)
Jessica Penne (-160) vs. Jodie Esquibel (+140)
Luke Sanders (-185) vs. Renan Barao (+160)
Aleksandra Albu (-155) vs. Emily Whitmire (+135)

Thoughts: See, UFC 234 organizers? This is what competitive matchmaking is supposed to look like. Practically every line here is reasonable and accurate.

Which is, unfortunately, not ideal for my line of work.

Emily Whitmire seems like a solid underdog investment, though. Albu’s had just one fight in almost four years and looked mediocre against Kailin Curran in that bout. Whitmire’s the more technical striker and Albu’s combination of poor fight IQ and overuse of brute force with her takedowns opens up Whitmire’s ground game.

In addition, a bit on Andrea Lee could work, too. Ashlee Evans-Smith’s wrestling has been sorely underwhelming in the Octagon and Lee should be able to tear her up on the feet.

UFC On ESPN 1 Odds For The Main Card:

Cain Velasquez (-165) vs. Francis Ngannou (+145)
James Vick (-115) vs. Paul Felder (-105)
Cynthia Calvillo (-300) vs. Cortney Casey (+250)
Kron Gracie (-350) vs. Alex Caceres (+290)
Vicente Luque (-360) vs. Bryan Barberena (+300)
Myles Jury (-150) vs. Andre Fili (+130)

Thoughts: This sounds dumb even to me, but I’m sorely tempted to lay down a pittance on Alex Caceres.

Kron Gracie is a monster on the mat, but has been out of action for two years, is still developing his striking, and largely relies on pulling guard to get to his world. It’s a lot harder to trap someone against the edge of the Octagon than the Rizin’ ring, too, so his tendency to just wade in until his opponent runs out of room to retreat isn’t going to be effective. Caceres can win this by staying at range and just picking him off all night, and seeing as we’ve got a bit of a buffer set up after those early successes, I’d say it’s a possibility worth investing in.

UFC on ESPN 1 Best Bets:

  • Single bet — Emily Whitmire: $ 40 to make $ 54
  • Single bet — Andrea Lee: $ 38 to make $ 20
  • Single bet — Alex Caceres: $ 20 to make $ 58

Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez is the sort of compelling match up the Heavyweight division is short on these days; therefore, you better not miss it. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live UFC on ESPN 1 results on fight night, which is as good a place as any to talk about all the action inside the Octagon, as well as what you’ve got riding on the sportsbook.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 1: “Ngannou vs. Velasquez” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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Cain Velasquez to Fight This Weekend, Then Disappear Again Into the Netherworld

Like some sort of primeval beast of legend, long lost heavyweight star Cain Velasquez will emerge from the shadows to face Francis Ngannou at UFC on ESPN+2 this weekend. Then, no matter the outcome, he once more disappear into the netherworld, invisible but for the highlight reel clips.

I mean, that’s at least what it feels like.

Thanks to a never-ending slew of injuries, the dude has been on the sidelines far more often than in the Octagon since, well, since forever. Velasquez was even the champ – more than once – and he rarely fought.

So yeah, we’re getting him in the main event of the UFC’s next big ESPN bash. But you can bet it will be years before Velasquez is in the cage again. If ever.

Anyway, here’s a video of Velasquez in action. Because you probably forgot what that looks like.

The post Cain Velasquez to Fight This Weekend, Then Disappear Again Into the Netherworld appeared first on Caged Insider.

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Dos Anjos Will Drop For Little Balls And Red Panties

Cutting weight sucks and some fighters are sick and tired of doing it.

That includes former UFC lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, who recently jumped up to the 170-pound weight class to score wins over the likes of Neil Magny and former champion Robbie Lawler, among others.

Unfortunately for Dos Anjos, he was unable to hang with wrestling powerhouses like Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman, who out-muscled the Brazilian en route to consecutive decision wins, leaving the longtime veteran 3-2 in the welterweight division.

But it will take more than a pair of lopsided losses to chase him back to 155 pounds.

“A super fight with Conor (McGregor) for example, I think it would be worth the drop in weight,” Dos Anjos told the inimitable Helen Yee (via BJPenn.com). “As things get tougher, he tends to break. If everything goes his way, he’ll grow balls but when things get bad for his side, his balls shrink. I’m not afraid to take any shots, [a fight with Conor] would be better than my last fights where I fought big wrestlers trying to wrestle me and hold me down and stuff like that.”

And no McGregor fight would be complete without a pair of red panties.

Dos Anjos is responsible for changing history. Originally paired off with McGregor at UFC 196, the Brazilian withdrew due to injury, paving the way for Nate Diaz to step in and upset the “Notorious” apple cart by way of second-round submission.

In between that fight and their UFC 202 rematch, Dos Anjos coughed up the title to Eddie Alvarez, who went on to fight (and lose to) McGregor at UFC 205 in late 2016. Now, almost three years later, none of the aforementioned fighters are wearing gold.

I blame this.

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Midnight Mania! UFC Phoenix Is For Heavyweight’s Future

Bringing you the weird and wild from the world of MMA each and every weeknight

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

This weekend will (allegedly) see a clash between the long-departed Cain Velasquez, and one-time superstar in waiting Francis Ngannou. Velasquez was considered a lock for greatest heavyweight of all time before injuries derailed his career. He lost to Fabricio Werdum at altitude in Mexico City, a performance that was akin to watching Bane dismantle Batman in the third Christopher Nolan movie. “You merely adopted exhaustion. I was born into it!” Werdum took the best shots Cain had to offer, and then tapped him when an exhausted Cain shot in, desperate to get top position. Ngannou’s first-ever loss had a similar feeling, as Stipe Miocic took his first-round aggression, then ground him down for four rounds as the hulking giant struggled to stand and breathe, much less fight back.

Since then, Velasquez beat the tar out of Travis Browne at UFC 200, and hasn’t fought since, while Ngannou lost a gunshy snoozefest to Derrick Lewis, then blasted Curtis Blaydes in a matter of seconds.

The thing is, Cain’s teammate Daniel Cormier, the current heavyweight champion, is retiring soon. He has between one and three fights left in him. Who will replace Cormier once he is gone? Aside from Stipe Miocic, the best candidates are probably the two men clashing this weekend, and their respective performances will tell us a lot about their future in this division.

Cain has the potential to assert himself the once-and-future king. Ngannou was Stipe Miocic’s toughest test; if Cain can pass the same test, we will have a gauge to measure him by. Have the years of injury and age finally caught up to him? Is he the same force that once smashed Brock Lesnar and dominated the division? It is impossible to know until we see him in the cage.

On the other hand, Cain is the perfect test for whether Ngannou learned his lessons from the Stipe loss. Although the fight showed us a lot of technical flaws, conceivably he could have won that bout had he not gone buckwild in the first round and used up his gas tank. Unfortunately, the Curtis Blaydes win told us nothing except that he realized he needed to get past the fear of engaging we saw in the forgettable Lewis performance. Unless he repeats the feat and flatlines Cain instantly, this fight will give us those answers, good or bad. If they are good, Ngannou is likely the division’s future. If they are bad, he could still become champion someday, but his window of opportunity could be pushed much further back.

The future of a division is riding on Sunday’s main event. Who emerges victorious will do so over themselves, as much as their opponent.


Insomnia

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Wing walking! Thank you, Derrick Lewis, for sharing this video with us.

Robert Whittaker is no dummy. While they aren’t the only MMA promotion in the world, the UFC owns something north of 85% of the market share, giving them a lot of market power that allows them to depress fighter wages more or less without consequence. At least they paid Kelvin Gastelum, though.

Combat sports this weekend are fun. MVP vs. Paul Daley will finally show us if MVP has the goods or not.

Woah, calm down dad

If the Avengers had her on their side Thanos would never have gotten all the Infinity stones.

Slick

This would have been better

We are going to have a lot of questions answered about Johnny Walker after he faces off with Misha Cirkunov at UFC 235

I love how unapologetically nerdy Israel Adesanya is.


Random Land

Firstly, this is cool, but secondly, stop scaring the octopus so much, maybe

Opportunity was supposed to last for 90 days, and made it 15 years. A dust storm probably covered her solar panels, and if she doesn’t have power when winter comes the cold will finish her, finally putting an end to an amazing journey.

Sleep well, Maniacs! A better tomorrow is always possible. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook @Vorpality

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Cain Velasquez to Fight This Weekend, Then Disappear Again Into the Netherworld

Like some sort of primeval beast of legend, long lost heavyweight star Cain Velasquez will emerge from the shadows to face Francis Ngannou at UFC on ESPN+2 this weekend. Then, no matter the outcome, he once more disappear into the netherworld, invisible but for the highlight reel clips.

I mean, that’s at least what it feels like.

Thanks to a never-ending slew of injuries, the dude has been on the sidelines far more often than in the Octagon since, well, since forever. Velasquez was even the champ – more than once – and he rarely fought.

So yeah, we’re getting him in the main event of the UFC’s next big ESPN bash. But you can bet it will be years before Velasquez is in the cage again. If ever.

Anyway, here’s a video of Velasquez in action. Because you probably forgot what that looks like.

The post Cain Velasquez to Fight This Weekend, Then Disappear Again Into the Netherworld appeared first on Caged Insider.

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Velasquez On Ngannou’s Punching Power: ‘Ford Escorts Suck!’

Cain Velasquez is back in action for the first time in two and a half years, and while that’s a pretty long time in and of itself, it doesn’t capture the reality of how little we’ve seen him lately. The past five years have seen him compete just twice, so to say we’re excited about the return of a healthy and happy Velasquez is an understatement.

He’ll be taking on the hard hitting Francis Ngannou this Sunday February 17th at UFC on ESPN 1. To put it simply, Francis has made his reputation off knocking his opponents into orbit. Before UFC president Dana White went sour on Ngannou, he couldn’t stop talking about the Cameroon native’s punching power. He once compared it to being hit by a Ford Escort, a comment that Velasquez mocked during a media event interview.

”Ford Escorts suck,” Velasquez said (video via MMA Fighting). “They’re weak. Weak ass Ford Escort. Is that the best [White] could come up with? He said ‘Ford Escort, that’s it. That’s the one.’”

When asked what car he’d use to describe his raw power, Cain demurred.

”I dunno, it’d be better than that,” he said. “Anything would be better than that. They don’t even make Ford Escorts any more, do they? It should offend Francis, not me. I wasn’t called a Ford Escort.”

After a six fight UFC win streak, Ngannou hit a two fight losing skid that had some questioning his heart. But a rebound 45 second KO win over Curtis Blaydes in November showed his Ford Escort power was still there. Will he be able to tap into that before Velasquez takes him down? A big unknown in that equation is whether Cain has lost a step or two while he’s been away.

At 36 years old, Velasquez isn’t exactly ancient by heavyweight standards. But if you factor in all the miles he’s put on his body and the endless back and knee problems, Velasquez is a car you’d definitely want checked under the hood before you bought it.

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UFC 234 Results: Adesanya Wins, But Lets Anderson Silva Bang, Bro

Last night’s UFC 234 main event was noticeably lacking in terms of having a hometown champ defend his belt against a dangerous challenger. However, what it did have was ultra-hot rising star Israel Adesanya trying out his next-level striking skills against the man who first introduced the world to next-level striking skills: Anderson Silva.

And thankfully, Adesanya let Silva bang, bro.

For three rounds, Adesanya danced, flicked out strikes at improbable angles, and scored points. But for three rounds, the former champ did the same, and though he was noticeably a step behind and a bit slower, he scored here and there.

It was actually quiet thrilling to see a younger version of Silva in the cage against the older version.

We so rarely get to see our old heroes go out gracefully. They usually get brutally maimed and murdered by the next generation hungry for blood. So it was cool to see Silva do his thing, and come away with just some dings and bruises.

The post UFC 234 Results: Adesanya Wins, But Lets Anderson Silva Bang, Bro appeared first on Caged Insider.

Caged Insider

Ben Askren, King Of Twitter, Mows Down Danis, McGregor

Don’t ever play the logic game with “Funky.”

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion, Conor McGregor, trained jiu-jitsu under Dillon Danis (again) ahead of his Khabib Nurmagomedov title fight at UFC 229 last October in Las Vegas.

Danis was so confident in McGregor’s abilities, he went on record to suggest “Notorious” could defeat “The Eagle” in a straight-up grappling match, roughly one month before McGregor was submitted by Nurmagomedov in round four of their headlining affair.

So do we blame the teacher or the student? Let’s ask Danis.

Then Ben Askren with the flash knockout (words you may never hear again):

That’s not to suggest Askren is loyal to little brother Nurmagomedov.

The “Funky” welterweight just likes to make trouble with every available fighter, regardless of weight class. When he’s not busy trolling “Marty from Nebraska,” the former Bellator MMA and ONE Championship titleholder is prepping for his Robbie Lawler fight at UFC 235.

Just don’t expect him to ever call out McGregor.

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