UFC on FOX 23: Shevchenko vs Pena - Preview & Predictions
The UFC returns to The Mile High City, Denver, Colorado on Saturday night for its third event in the city’s Pepsi Centre after UFC 135 and UFC 150. Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena will meet in the main event with the winner likely to be next in line to challenge Women’s bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes.
Also on the main card, Donald Cerrone will take on Jorge Masvidal at welterweight and in the heavyweight division, Francis Ngannou and Andrei Arlovski will do battle.
Main Event: Shevchenko vs Pena
Shevchenko is an experienced striker, having competed in Muay Thai and Kickboxing at a very high level. Her first MMA fight was all the way back in 2003 but she began taking the sport more seriously in 2013. In her first fight in the UFC she took on Sarah Kaufman on short notice and got the victory.
She then faced current champion Amanda Nunes and lost a decision, although Shevchenko won the third and final round after Nunes began to tire. Last July on Fox, Shevchenko scored the biggest victory of her career when she cruised to a decision win against Holly Holm, countering the former champion consistently with shots as Holm tried to close the distance.
Pena won The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 and has compiled a perfect 4-0 record inside the octagon. She is a suffocating pressure fighter who likes to put her opponents on their backs and throw heavy ground and pound shots while advancing position.
Pena will need to get Shevchenko to the ground if she is to pick up the victory. Her aggressive striking game is perfect to be picked apart by Shevchenko’s patient counter striking. If she can get on top of Shevchenko and hurt her with strikes, that could turn the tide in her favour though.
Shevchenko proved she could go for all five rounds against Holm while Pena has never been scheduled for five rounds before. So she is an unknown in that department, making it slightly easier to lean towards Valentina in this one.
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko via Decision
Co-Main Event: Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal
Fan favourite Donald Cerrone is one of the most active fighters in the UFC, fighting as often as 5-6 times in a year. He has also been racking up victories since moving up in weight to welterweight. He has finished Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Rick Story and Matt Brown at this weight class and is quickly soaring towards the top of the division.
Masvidal is an incredibly experienced fighter who fought in Sengoku, Bellator and Strikeforce before making his UFC debut. He is currently on a two-fight winning streak after out pointing Ross Pearson and then stopping Jake Ellenberger in strange circumstances as Ellenberger got his foot caught in the cage fence.
Masvidal can do everything well but his best quality is his boxing game. He is especially adept at landing clean counter shots as his opponent comes forward.
This should suit Cerrone, who prefers kicking range. Both men are good grapplers and may cancel each other out in that department so it will come down to who can win the striking battle.
Masvidal will have to work out how to close the distance and stop Cerrone from landing hard kicks from range but Cerrone’s punches have looked much improved in recent outings, especially against Rick Story.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone via Decision
Andrei Arlovski vs. Francis Ngannou
Arlovski is a former UFC champion but his prime was a long time ago. He has a lot of mileage on the clock and it is starting to tell as he is currently on a three-fight losing run. Even now though, Arlovski is quick and he has a great right hand.
It is his main offensive weapon and it packs a lot of power so he is still very dangerous. His chin has deteriorated and now any shot that lands clean to the head has the potential to be a knockout blow, which is not ideal when fighting Ngannou.
Ngannou is a huge athletic heavyweight, he weighs 260 pounds and he looks every bit of it. He burst into the UFC with a scintillating knockout of Luis Henrique and has finished three more fights since then to go 4-0 in the UFC. Although, in all fairness, this will be a huge step up in competition for him.
Ngannou is a striker who moves incredibly well for his size and hits very hard although we are yet to see him tested by someone of Arlovski’s calibre. In his last fight he pulled off a submission over Anthony Hamilton which highlighted his freakish strength and showed that his grappling is improving. He will need to sharp in the clinch against someone of Arlovski’s experience.
While Arlovski certainly has the skills to beat Ngannou, I just don’t trust his durability at this stage of his career and I think Ngannou will land a big shot and take him out.
Prediction: Francis Ngannou via Knockout
Alex Caceres vs. Jason Knight
This should be an exciting featherweight fight. Caceres has a deceptive amount of UFC experience and is a solid fighter. He has a flashy arsenal of kicks from the outside and a good volume punching game based on his movement and speed.
Knight is a great submission fighter with an excellent guard game but he has improved the other aspects of his game tremendously and is on a two-fight winning streak. These improvements revolve around building a pressure based striking game and he has looked very good in those two wins.
I think Knight’s volume will cause problems for Caceres and Knight is too dangerous on the ground for Caceres to want to take him down. This is going to be a fun and interesting fight either way.
Prediction: Jason Knight via Decision