Denver should be in for quite the treat. The main event will feature two women that are possibly slated for a title shot at the Women’s Bantamweight strap in the near future, and it’ll be between two gritty ladies that can be a threat on from anywhere in the octagon.
It’s just one of the many intriguing matchups, as seasoned veterans Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Andrei “Pitbull” Arlovski, and promising up-and-comers such as Francis Ngannou are also on tap.
Read on below and see which fighters you could put your money on!
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UFC on Fox 23: Shevchenko vs. Peña
Main Event – Women’s Bantamweight
Shevchenko (13-2) will be coming off two good performances. This past July, she dominated the division’s former champion, Holly Holm, and earned the unanimous decision victory. A few months before that, she gave current title-holder Amanda Nunes a tough challenge before losing the three-round war in a debatable decision.
“The Bullet” is arguably the most decorated female Muay Thai kickboxer in the MMA today, so expect her to display a great array of striking. What makes it even scarier is her counter skills are also top-notch, which actually allowed her to comfortably operate in the Holm fight.
Such patience, however, could either be too perfect or too dangerous against Pena (8-2), who’s as aggressive as they come. Pena, the first female Ultimate Fighter, has now built a four-fight winning streak with her ability to ferociously attack non-stop. In that stretch, she earned rightful wins over Cat Zingano and Jessica Eye, as well as first-round TKO wins over Milana Dudieva and Jessica Rakoczy.
Her ground game has also improved, thanks to being under the tutelage of world-renowned jiu-jitsu coach Luiz Claudio.
Writer’s Prediction: Shevchenko wins in unanimous decision.
Cerrone (32-7) is, and probably will be for at least the next several years, the busiest fighter in MMA. If all UFC cards could have his name, he’d probably go for it.
“Cowboy” has fought four times (the maximum for any fighter) every calendar year since 2013, and his start for 2017 should be good. He’s always been an elite kickboxer, and the jump to Welterweight last year has showcased it pretty well. All of his fights in the division have been decisive finishes (three TKOs and one submission), with the last two coming via vicious head kicks. His combined 17 stoppages in the WEC and UFC are the most among ALL fighters.
Masvidal (32-11), too, has loads of fights under his belt. He and Cerrone are pretty much alike, as both simply love to scrap and get their names in every UFC event possible, which also makes it extra interesting that Masvidal himself asked for this matchup. “Gamebred,” as you may remember, called Cerrone out in early December in his post-fight interview, where he destroyed veteran power-puncher Jake Ellenberger in the first round.
Masvidal has 12 TKO wins, seven of which were in the first round.
Writer’s Prediction: Cowboy wins via TKO.
After having a great comeback stretch where he won six-straight fights from 2013 to 2015, Arlovski (25-13) has now lost three in a row, all of which are finishes – two TKOs and one submission. Still, “The Pitbull” brings a lot to the table: experience, power, striking, and resiliency. In his 25 victories, 17 were by TKO/KOs, 11 of which were in the opening round. His style is definitely something that Ngannou has never faced before.
A fighter fast on the rise, meanwhile, is Ngannou (9-1). In the last 13 months, the Cameroonian went from being the typical, fascinating newcomer to being projected as the UFC’s next big star, thanks to owning various dangerous skills. Eight of his nine wins have been finishes (five TKO/KOs and four submissions), and with Arlovski having a history of getting finished quick, we could be looking at another stoppage victory for Ngannou.
Writer’s Prediction: Ngannou via TKO.
Caceres (12-9) is a very active, flashy fighter that likes to move around. He thrives on being a showman in the match and you can bet that he’ll try to put on a show with his kicks, back fists and more; imagine Eddy in the Tekken video games. With such style, however, “Bruce Leroy” is either finishing people or he’s the one getting finished – 15 of his 21 fights have ended in a TKO/KO or submission.
Caceres’ penchant for being flashy could be the perfect foil against Knight’s (16-2) classic, no non-sense approach to fights, which is pure mixed martial arts. The Mississippi native has shown in his previous fights that he likes to take down his opponents and display his ground-and-pound abilities, but he could also throw a bomb and/or get in a brawl when he’s on.
Of Knight’s 16 wins, nine were submissions and two were TKO/KOs, and seven came inside the first round.
Writer’s Prediction: Knight wins via TKO.
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