The UFC makes its way to the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado for UFC on FOX 23. The main event of the evening is a contender match up in the bantamweight division between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena. The co-main should be a good one as Donald Cerrone goes up against Jorge Masvidal in a battle of welterweights.
The four-fight main card rounds out with Francis Ngannou, who will be looking to continue moving up the heavyweight rankings, taking on Andreai Arlovski and Alex Caceres vs. Jason Knight in a battle of featherweights.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 3 p.m. CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 4 p.m. CT for the prelims. Switch over to FOX for the main card starting at 8 p.m. CT.
Valentina Shevchenko (13-2) vs. Julianna Pena (9-2) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Shevchenko -160; Pena +130
Valentina Shevchenko is 2-1 since coming to the UFC. She lost a decision to Amanda Nunes at UFC 196, but rebounded by taking a decision from Holly Holm at UFC on FOX 20. Julianna Pena is 7-0 under the UFC banner with her latest win coming by decision over Cat Zingano at UFC 200.
This is clearly a fight between two different styles. Pena has below average striking and an excellent ground game, while Shevchenko is one of the best strikers in MMA but has a below average ground game. The question is who will be able to execute their game plan better? If Pena has success getting the fight to the ground I can see her either grinding out a decision or getting the sub in the later rounds. On the other hand, if Shevchenko is successful in stuffing Pena’s takedown attempts and forces her to stand and strike then I think she finishes on the feet. The winner of this fight should get the next title fight against Nunes.
This is a tough fight to predict. It’s not a fight I have any confidence in laying money on as I think there are better opportunities on the card.
Pick: Pena by decision
Donald Cerrone (32-7, 1 NC) vs. Jorge Masvidal (31-11) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Cerrone -160; Masvidal +130
This should be the main event. I expect an excellent fight between these two. Donald Cerrone has been on tear since he lost to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 17. He has rattled off four straight wins with his latest coming by knockout over Matt Brown at UFC 206. Jorge Masvidal is 2-2 over his last four fights. He’s currently on a two-fight winning streak with his most recent win coming against Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale.
Both fighters have excellent cardio, so I don’t expect either one to gas out early. Both also like to stand and strike so this is the odds on favorite to be Fight of the Night. Aside from two wins by knockout, the majority of Masvidal’s fights go to decision. 16 of his last 20 fights all went to the judge’s scorecards. Donald Cerrone’s last four wins were all stoppages. Cerrone is a finisher and although Masvidal is tough as nails I don’t see him slowing Cowboy down.
Pick: Cerrone by decision
Andrei Arlovski (25-13, 1 NC) vs. Francis Ngannou (9-1) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Ngannou -375; Arlovski +290
The UFC is desperate need of young, talented fighters in the heavyweight division. They are hoping Francis Ngannou is one of them. He’s 4-0 under the UFC banner with all four wins by stoppage. In fact, all nine of his career wins are either by submission or knockout. Needless to say Ngannou has power. He is also solid on the ground and is surprisingly quick for a guy his size. When hi steps into the cage on Saturday night he will be facing his toughest challenge to date in Andrei Arlovski.
UFC veteran Andrei Arlovski comes into Saturday’s bout on a three-fight losing streak. Arlovski was finished in all three fights. His last win came by decision against Frank Mir at UFC 191 back in September of 2015. All that said, I do expect him to give Ngannou some trouble early on. I think he’ll come out aggressively and pressure Ngannou. Ngannou has flaws in his game, but at Arlovski’s age I don’t think he has the ability to take advantage of them
Pick: Ngannou by TKO
Alex Caceres (12-9, 1 NC) vs. Jason Knight (18-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Knight -145; Caceres +115
Jason Knight is an up-and-comer in the featherweight division. After dropping a decision to Tatsuya Kawajiri in his UFC debut he’s rattled off two straight wins. He is a well-rounded fighter and a win here against Caceres will be the biggest of his career. Knight’s advantage may lie in his takedowns and ground game. I think if he can get Caceres to the ground with ease it’s his fight.
UFC veteran Alex Caceres was on a two-fight winning streak until dropping a decision to Yair Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night 92. Caceres has a ton of experience from fighting top-level fighters. He does everything fairly well including his striking and jiu-jitsu. Caceres has the advantage on the feet so I see him keeping distance while avoiding being taken to the mat.
This is a another tough fight to predict.
Pick: Knight by decision
Prelims Quick Look
Alvey over Marquardt
Assuncao over Sterling
Li over Nash
da Silva over Johnson
Spicely over Di Chirico
de Lima over Phillips
Early Prelims Quick Look
Pantoja over Pantoja
Gonzalez over Gonzalez
Enjoy the fights!
The Fighting Champion
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