The Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado plays host to the UFC on Big Fox. Headlining the card, is a bantamweight title eliminator between Valentina Shevchenko and Juliana Pena. Shevchenko, is coming off her biggest win to date, defeating the former Women’s Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm. A win over Pena, would solidify a rematch against the current UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes. The first contest between the two saw Nunes as the victor, but had the fight been a five round fight, it appeared Shevchenko would of won. As for Pena, the TUF 18 winner has stringed off four straight victories including the latest over former UFC Bantamweight title challenger Cat Zingano at UFC 200. A victory over Shevchenko would all but guarantee a title shot for the Venezuelan Vixen.
Co-Headlining the card, on paper is bound to be your “Fight of the Night” as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone takes on Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal. Cerrone, comes into the bout on the heels of a four fight win streak. The winning streak could be attributed to the move up to Welterweight, which has Cerrone looking as vicious as ever, finishing all four of his opponents. As for Masvidal, he comes into this bout on a two fight win streak, most recently finishing Jake Ellenberger (albeit oddly). This win streak comes at a good time for Masvidal, as he dropped three of his prior four fights via split decision.
There are a bunch of other awesome fights on the card, so let’s just get to the Predictions!
UFC on FOX 23 Main Card:
135 lbs.: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena – This is a huge fight in the Women’s bantamweight division, as the winner is going to get a crack at the title against Champion Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko is a striker, with vicious leg kicks and a solid jab. Her counter-attacks can frustrate opponents, just ask Holly Holm, whom she defeated decisively (49-46). As for Pena, she’s a grappler. Her striking is not very good, but her grappling abilities are superior and her top control is absolutely suffocating. Her ability to grind has her one fight away from a title.
As for a prediction, I’m siding with Shevchenko. I think her ability to keep distance and counter striker will slow down Pena’s ability to grapple and take this one to mat. Also, I’m not sure of Pena’s conditioning to last five rounds. She showed good cardio in three, but the Championship round make or break fighters. I think it breaks Pena considering her pace. So with that, I have Shevchenko taking this one by decision and challenging Amanda Nunes in a much anticipated rematch.
170 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal – This could either result in you’re “Fight of the Night” or in a highlight reel finish by one of these men. Cerrone brings to the table a dynamic striking game, with leg kicks that wilt or down right drop opponents. His grappling and ground game is elite, but little used, as Cerrone has found a home knocking out opponents on the feet. As for his combatant Masvidal, the former backyard brawler is one of the most well rounded fighters. He can strike with the best of them, has a chin, is a solid wrestler, can defend takedowns, can grapple…you name it.
As for a prediction, I’m siding with Masvidal. While Cerrone is going to have his moments, I just favor Masvidal to make this ugly, while using his athleticism to pick apart Cerrone. I just wasn’t really all that impressed with Cerrone against Matt Brown, as he looked very hittable. Masvidal can crack and we’ve seen Cerrone wilt before. So with that, I have Masvidal via a third round knockout.
265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Francis Ngannou – This one is going to end in the first round and by knockout. While the obvious trend is to side with Francis “The Predator” Ngannou, who’s entered the Octagon four times and finished all four of his opponents, I’m not going too. Arlovski is a seasoned veteran, whose lost three in a row and his career could be on the line here. And while anything can happen in a Heavyweight bout, I’m leaning towards the technical striking of Arlovski to pull this one out. Ngannou hasn’t faced the caliber of fighter like Arlovski and it will show…Arlovski via KO!
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Jason Knight – Another fun fight! This should be a great scrap, as these two men come to brawl. Caceres is mainly a striker and good one at that, which is why he’ll need to keep this one upright. However, Knight is scrappy and mixes in takedowns with his high volume striking. As much as I would like to side with Caceres due to UFC experience and his close fight against a stud in Yair Rodriguez, I just can’t. He’s too inconsistent and Knight is the right amount of well rounded to edge this one out via decision.
Prelims (FOX Sports 1)
185 lbs.: Sam Alvey vs. Nate Marquardt – It’s tough to see Marquardt keep going, especially when you’re winning one and then losing the next by knockout. He’s got nothing to prove and with 53 fights under his belt, it would of been nice to see that highlight reel knockout over Tamdan McCrory be his last. Anyways, Alvey is an absolute slugger on the feet and I expect this one to not make it out of the first round. So with that, I have Alvey taking this one via knockout.
135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Aljamain Sterling – This fight so good! Two top ranked bantamweights, both whom saw long winning streaks end and look to get back into the title picture at 135 lbs with a win here. Both men are well rounded, with Sterling perhaps holding the striking advantage and Assuncao the grappling. However, the one difference in this fight could come down to conditioning. Assuncao has shown the ability to look fresh throughout three rounds, meanwhile Sterling’s gas tank cost him dearly in his lone loss against Bryan Caraway. Normally i’d side with Sterling due to his athleticism and striking, but Assauncao looked pretty good in his last fight against T.J. Dillashaw. All things considered, for being out for nearly two years and putting up a competitive fight against the Former Bantamweight Champion is solid in my book. So with that, I have Assuncao edging out Sterling via decision.
155 lbs.: Li Jingliang vs. Bobby Nash – Never heard of Bobby Nash, but Li Jingliang is an absolute grinder, which is why his nickname is “The Leech”. However, his last two wins have come via first round knockouts…you know what, make it three!
205 lbs.: Henrique da Silva vs. Jordan Johnson – No clue who Johnson is, but I’ve seen Da Silva fight a handful of times. He looked to be a bright prospect in a thin Light Heavyweight division, but in his last fight, he showed massive regression. His gas tank and takedown defense became non-existent. Throw in the fact that he just fought last month and this fight is in Colorado, high altitude…and I’m siding with Johnson via knockout.
185 lbs.: Eric Spicely vs. Alessio Di Chirico – Not sure who Di Chirico is, but I’ve seen Spicely get starched by Sam Alvey and then upset Thiago Santos. That’s two tough fights, especially being paired up against a killer in Thiago Santos just after you got finished by Sam Alvey. However, Spicely submitted Santos and is going to do the same against Di Chirico.
205 lbs.: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Jeremy Kimball – Poor Kimball. He’s making his UFC debut on short notice in his home state of Colorado against a man who averages just over 2 minutes per UFC fight. You’d have to go back to 2013 to find the last time a De Lima fight made it out of the first round. So with that, I have De Lima via first round knockout.
Prelims (UFC Fight Pass)
125 lbs.: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Eric Shelton – Fun fight! Both men are making their UFC debuts, as they unfortunately both fell short on the Ultimate Fighter 24. Anyways, Shelton will look to keep this one on the feet, where he will hope to technically pick apart Pantoja. However, Shelton will have to avoid Pantoja’s takedowns, as well as his aggressive striking. And while Pantoja’s striking may not be the best, he’s got good leg kicks and comes at you in volume. He also has shown to have a chin on him, which is another reason why I’m siding with him to edge this one out via decision.
155 lbs.: J.C. Cottrell vs. Jason Gonzalez – No clue, Cottrell via decision