Cain Velasquez’s return to the octagon – and subsequent knee injury at UFC on ESPN 1 – is one of UFC’s surprising moments that wasn’t that surprising. The injury-riddled heavyweight was officially given a loss due by way of knockout, but fans and fighters around the world have debated if Velasquez’s knee gave out before any hits landed, or if a well-placed Ngannou strike caused him to buckle.
Javier Mendez–head coach of AKA—went on Submission Radio Thursday, adding a new wrinkle to the controversy.
“He did get hit with a slight arm uppercut,” Mendez told Submission Radio, “but his head moved as the knee buckled but the knee was already hurt.”
Mendez explains how Ngannou did hit Velasquez, causing his knee to go out, but Velasquez’s knee was already injured from an illegal strike from Ngannou before the fight-ending exchange.
“If you guys watch the video, the first punch Ngannou threw as Cain came to shoot,” says Mendez, “He got hit in the back of the head, an illegal shot that dazed him when he went in for the takedown, and that’s what jacked up his knee to start.”
Javier Mendez says it is in the hands of Velasquez’s management if they want to pursue an overturning of the decision, but believes the Arizona State Athletic Commission will not change the ruling, even though he believes that an illegal strike led to the fight’s outcome.
The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts state that if a foul causes a fighter to be unable to continue later in the bout, the fight ends with a technical decision win to the injured fighter if they are ahead on points, otherwise it is a technical draw.
It’s unlikely that Velasquez could prove the illegal strike to the back of the head is what caused his knee to give out seconds later.
Mendez says Velasquez brought the illegal strike to his attention but takes nothing away from Ngannou’s victory: “He’s a great fighter… the better man won, but it was a freak accident. It wasn’t Ngannou’s intent to do that; he didn’t do anything wrong.”