CURRENT RECORD: 8-4
The Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado is the venue for UFC on Fox 23 this Saturday and headlining the event is an exciting women’s bantamweight battle between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena. Former kickboxing champion; Valentina Shevchenko, will come into this bout full of confidence having won an unanimous decision victory over ex-champion Holly Holm last time out. But her opponent Julianna Pena won’t be lacking in confidence either as she is currently riding a four fight winning streak. Both women will have an eye on a title fight this year and victory for either woman here could propel them to that summit. In the co-main event or to the people of Denver “The real main event”, hometown hero Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will be looking to claim his fifth straight victory at welterweight when he takes on the experienced Jorge Masvidal. Elsewhere on the card, there are exciting dust ups between heavyweight top prospect Francis Ngannou and the veteran Andrei Arlovski, Raphael Assuncao and Aljamain Sterling clash in an interesting bantamweight bout and Nate Marquardt looks to continue his resurgence as he takes on “Smile’n” Sam Alvey. There are plenty of standout fights that will guarantee action, so be sure to be tuned in so you don’t miss out.
As always, I will now break down all the main card fights, give my predictions and of course, put my own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO vs. JULIANNA PENA
This fight pins two women on top of their game against one another. Shevchenko is a decorated kick boxer and Muay Thai fighter who has amassed an MMA record of 13-2. Her two losses have come against accomplished fighters in Liz Carmouche and most recently at UFC 196, current champion Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko controls the distance incredibly well and is dangerous coming forward or when throwing a counter. Julianna Pena compiled a record of 4-2 before entering the TUF house, after winning the tournament “The Venezuelan Vixen” then rattled off four straight victories, including most notably beating Cat Zingano last time out at UFC 200. Pena is most lethal when she takes the fight to the mat, where she can dominate an opponent with her jiu-jitsu. I expect Pena will want to get this to the ground as quickly as possible but if she fails I don’t think she will have much success on her feet. I think Shevchenko controls this fight from the start and dictates the pace throughout; she may get the finish but more than likely she’ll win on the cards.
Schevchenko by decision.
DONALD CERRONE vs. JORGE MASVIDAL
The roof may explode off the Pepsi Center when “Cowboy” begins his walk to the Octagon. Cerrone is beloved by the local fans and he will be aiming to put on a show for them. “Cowboy” has looked fantastic since moving to welterweight, winning all four of his fights last year and finishing them all inside the distance. Cerrone has deadly kicks that he uses to set up his quick combos; he pushes forward, constantly firing shots. Jorge Masvidal bounced back from his first ever back to back losses by firstly beating Ross Pearson comprehensively and then following that up by knocking out Jake Ellenberger. Masvidal is an experienced fighter having fought 42 MMA fights, winning 31 and losing 11. “Gamebred” has some crisp boxing and holds knockout power in his hands; he also has a solid chin that has only been breached once in his career. Masvidal will be a tough task to overcome but I fully expect “Cowboy” to pass this test with flying colours.
Cerrone by submission.
ANDREI ARLOVSKI vs. FRANCIS NGANNOU
Francis “Predator” Ngannou has nine wins to his name and not one has gone to a decision yet, with five coming by KO and the other four by submission. Ngannou is a scary dude with serious one punch knockout power and a well-balanced skill set. This fight will be his fifth time stepping into the Octagon and possibly his stiffest test to date. 2017 marks Andrei Arlovski’s 18th year as a mixed martial artist and in that time frame, he has fought some of the best heavyweights in the world. But the former heavyweight champion is now 37 years of age and searching for his first victory since 2015; he has lost his last three fights in a row and has been finished in all three also. Arlovski has a commanding jab that he leads with and he is a technically gifted boxer but it’s his defence, not his attack, which is the concern. Of late, Arlovski has been eating too many shots and his chin can’t withstand it anymore and when facing a heavy hitter such as Ngannou, that can only mean bad news. Once Ngannou doesn’t over sell himself when firing the big shot then I can’t see Arlovski wining this. Ngannou to get the KO finish early.
Ngannou by KO.
ALEX CACERES vs. JASON KNIGHT
At only 24 years of age, Jason Knight has built up an impressive record of 18-2, including going 2-1 in the UFC. “The Kid” has a great opportunity to continue his rise with a victory of Alex Caceres. Knight can hold his own on the feet but when the fight goes to the ground, he begins to shine; 9 of his 18 victories have come by submission. Since the move to featherweight, Alex Caceres has gone 2-1, dropping a split decision to top prospect Yair Rodriquez last time out. “Bruce Leeroy” is very well rounded but has yet to set the world alight in his UFC career thus far, although since the move in weight class he has begun to show enhancements. Knight will be looking for the takedown throughout but I believe Caceres’ defence will hold up and he will be able to avoid being stuck on the mat for long. On the feet, Alex Caceres should inflict enough damage to get the nod from the judges.
Caceres by decision.
Best of the Rest.
Nate Marquardt vs. Sam Alvey
Alvey to win.
Raphael Assuncao vs. Aljamain Sterling
Sterling to win.
Li Jingliang vs. Bobby Nash
Jingliang to win.
Luis Henrique da Silva vs. Jordan Johnson
Henrique da Silva to win.
Alessio Di Chirico vs. Eric Spicely
Spicely to win.
Jason Gonzalez vs. J.C Cottrell
Cottrell to win.
Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Jeremy Kimball
De Lima to win.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Eric Shelton
Pantoja to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 12 predictions in an accumulator is about 1244/1.
The inbetweener bet: Henrique Da Silva, Alvey, Ngannou and Cerrone all to win is 8/1.
The conservative bet: A Double Chance on Cerrone to win by submission or KO is 5/1.
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