Take a closer look at the exciting four-fight main card at UFC Fight Night: Shevchenko vs. Pena and which fighters might leave with another victory on their record.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena
Two of the fiercest fighters the women’s bantamweight division has to offer meet Saturday in the UFC Fight Night from Denver main event with a shot at the title on the line.
Shevchenko is a crafty striker who managed to get the best of former boxing champion Holly Holm over five rounds in her last fight and will present Pena will a unique set of challenges from the opening bell. “Bullet” touts a diverse striking skillset and while she averages just 2.67 strikes landed per minute -- just above the UFC average of 2.5 -- she is very accurate when she decides to unload.
In her bout against Holm, Shevchenko displayed excellent footwork that allowed her to counter an aggressive Holm and escape exchanges without absorbing much damage. She’ll need many of those skills against Pena, who will certainly look to pressure “Bullet” and put her on her back.
Pena is relentless in her attack, which could spell trouble against a talented counter-puncher like Shevchenko if she isn’t controlled or disciplined in her attack. But the “Venezuelan Vixen” has no problem eating a few punches in order to get her hands on an opponent, plant them on the canvas and unleash her ground-and-pound.
If Valentina can keep this fight standing, she should be able to handle Pena convincingly. However, that all changes if Pena is able to drag the fight to the canvas.
Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko by decision
Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal
The UFC Denver main card is stacked with exciting fights, including a welterweight tilt between Donald Cerrone and Jorge Masvidal.
Masvidal, who has been calling Cerrone out for months, is an excellent boxer and has used those tremendous stand-up skills to win six of his last nine fights, including back-to-back wins at welterweight after spending most of his career at lightweight. His footwork and head movement keep him out of trouble during exchanges and his stiff jab should prevent Cerrone from loading up with his punch-kick combinations.
Cerrone was one of the welterweight division’s best fighters in 2016 and looks to continue that trend against Masvidal. “Cowboy” is best when he presses forward with his accurate combinations but that will be a challenging feat against a fellow striker in Masvidal.
Cerrone is a master, offensively, but he’s not necessarily the hardest fighter to hit, as evidenced by his 4.7 strikes absorbed per minute (UFC average is 2.5). If Masvidal can capitalize on the openings, and there will be openings, he could walk away with a big win to start 2017.
Prediction: Jorge Masvidal by third-round TKO
Andrei Arlovski vs. Francis Ngannou
Francis Ngannou faces his toughest test to date when he battles former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski on Saturday night.
Ngannou has grown tremendously since making his debut in 2015. He’s finished all of his opponents and even pulled off a slick win against Anthony Hamilton by kimura, a submission he says he had just learned in the locker room before entering the Octagon.
He’s got ridiculous power in his hands and hasn’t taken much damage in his career, absorbing just 32 significant strikes over four fights. However, he’s never faced a fighter as talented as Arlovski.
The former champion has fallen on tough times lately, losing his last three fights after winning his first four upon his return to the UFC. Arlovski can do everything inside the Octagon but his chin is highly questionable.
I’ve got a bad feeling that if Ngannou connects, it will be another disappointing evening for “The Pit Bull”.
Prediction: Francis Ngannou by second-round TKO
Alex Caceres vs. Jason Knight
The UFC Denver main card kicks off with a high-flying affair that could end up as the Fight of the Night.
Alex Caceres, one of the more dynamic strikers in the featherweight division, looks to get back in the win column against aggressive grappler Jason Knight.
Knight makes his money on the canvas, with 12 submission wins under his belt, but endeared himself to fans with his Diaz-like attitude while trading hands with opponents inside the Octagon. He’s thrown over 200 strikes in each of his last two fights and he doesn’t land a necessarily high rate, his pace and pressure is tough for many fighters to deal with.
Caceres, though, is coming off a split decision loss to another action fighter in Yair Rodriguez. Caceres will want to counter Knight’s aggression with his long jab and batter his legs and body with kicks to slow down the relentless featherweight.
“Bruce LeeRoy” should be fast enough to avoid much of what Knight throws his way, and in just a three-round fight, that will be the difference.