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Finally, former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Cain Velasquez will return to action after more than two years of hiatus. Present to welcome him is knockout artist Francis Ngannou, who had just bounced back from back-to-back losses by running over Curtis Blaydes at UFC Fight Night 141.
The top heavyweights will clash at the Talking Stick Resort Arena on Feb. 17 at UFC on ESPN 1. Can Velasquez ward off cage rust and control Ngannou with his wrestling? As fans await the result of this colossal encounter, here are some figures that have brought Velasquez to the highest levels of the sport.
110: Wins against 10 losses compiled after four years of wrestling for Kofa High School, during which time he won the 5A Arizona Wrestling Championship twice. Velasquez is a two-sport high school athlete as he also played football for three years. In his senior year, he served as a captain for both the wrestling and football teams.
285: Weight division was where he won the NJCAA championship, wrestling for one season as a college freshman at Iowa Central Community College. He then transferred to Arizona State University where he wrestled for three seasons, placing fifth in the entire country in 2005 and fourth in 2006. He finished college with a record of 86-17.
118: Seconds was all he needed to impress fans in his professional debut. Right after college, Velasquez tried MMA and joined American Kickboxing Academy. He entered his first fight on Oct. 7, 2006 at Strikeforce: Tank vs. Buentello, where he TKO’d Jesse Fujarczyk in the first round.
4: Consecutive first-round TKO finishes to begin his career. After his win over Fujarczyk, Velasquez earned three more stoppages in round 1, two of which were in the UFC. His victims were Jeremiah Constant, Brad Morris and Jake O'Brien. In all, he has tallied nine first-round finishes.
3: Fights in 2009, which is his most active year yet. He stopped Denis Stojnic, decisioned Cheick Kongo and finished Ben Rothwell. Velasquez was later hounded by injuries so he was only able to fight once in 2015 and again in 2016.
31: Significant strikes landed on Brock Lesnar in their UFC 121 affair. A few of those were hard enough to end the fight at 4:12 of round 1. With the victory, Velasquez earned the UFC heavyweight championship.
341: Combined significant strikes landed on Junior dos Santos in three fights. They first met at the main event of UFC on Fox 1, where he lost the title via TKO in the first round. He regained it at UFC 155 with a one-sided decision victory. Their last meeting was a bloody war that saw Velasquez getting his hand raised again.
4: Post-fight bonuses earned in the UFC. Velasquez was given Knockout of the Night honors after stopping Stojnic, Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Performance of the Night honors in his most recent TKO victory over Travis Browne.
36: Years of age. Velasquez was born on July 28, 1982 in Salinas, California. The Mexican-American heavyweight is an NCAA Division 1 wrestler, a Guerilla jiu-jitsu brown belt under Dave Camarillo and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Leandro Viera.