It's finally time to see how the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) long game worked out for one of its brightest 135-pound female stars.
More than three years after the won The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18, Julianna Pena’s odd road to a title shot pits her against Valentina Shevchenko, who meets her in a title eliminator this Saturday evening (Jan. 28, 2017) inside Pepsi Arena in Denver, Colorada. UFC on FOX 23 will also host a Welterweight battle between Donald Cerrone and Jorge Masvidal, as well as top Heavyweight prospect Francis Ngannou taking on former champion Andrei Arlovski.
All but two fights are on free television, so let’s see if we can’t turn breaking even into making a profit:
What Went Wrong At UFC Fight Night 103?
Well, we started the year in the black, but probably shouldn’t have. I truly believe, as Joe Lauzon does, that Marcin Held deserved the win in their fight. Held dominated the second round outside of one armbar attempt and I am not entirely sure why the judges weighted the attempt, which Held patiently worked his way out of, more than several minutes of positional dominance. As far as official losses, I do agree that Augusto Mendes won his fight with Frankie Saenz. Saenz’s chin didn’t hold up anywhere near as well as I expected it to and -- though he constantly popped right back up -- he struggled quite a bit with getting taken down. In short, it was a solid win from Mendes, whom I underestimated.
UFC On FOX 23 Odds For The Undercard:
Sam Alvey (-150) vs. Nate Marquardt (+130)
Raphael Assuncao (-140) vs. Aljamain Sterling (+120)
Li Jingliang (-140) vs. Bobby Nash (+120)
Jordan Johnson (-225) vs. Luis Henrique da Silva (+185)
Eric Spicely (-115) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (-105)
Marcos Rogério de Lima (-170) vs. Jeremy Kimball (+150)
Eric Shelton (-115) vs. Alexandre Pantoja (-105)
J.C. Cottrell (-140) vs. Jason Gonzalez (+120)
Thoughts: Alright, we can work with this. Assuncao looks like the best bargain, although a pittance on Pantoja wouldn’t go astray.
For all of his incredible talent, Sterling is lost when he can’t get the takedown. He’s got decent kicks, but his punches are powerless, looping things that he can’t yet chain into his shots. Assuncao is far stronger on the feet and has incredible strong takedown defense alongside top-flight grappling. He’s about as toxic a match up for "The Funkmaster" as you can find outside of the current and former champions, so be sure to invest.
While Shelton was extremely impressive on TUF, Pantoja is far more proven on the world stage and is fighting out of a better camp. Don’t go crazy, but I do think the Brazilian deserves a look.
UFC On FOX 23 Odds For The Main Card:
Valentina Shevchenko (-125) vs. Julianna Peña (+105)
Donald Cerrone (-160) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+140)
Francis Ngannou (-425) vs. Andrei Arlovski (+340)
Jason Knight (-160) vs. Alex Caceres (+140)
Thoughts: Shevchenko is my go-to pick for the event, but both Cerrone and Knight have earning potential as well.
Pena just hasn’t been busy or impressive enough for me to give her much of a chance here. She has just one fight since Oct. 2015, a fairly rote decision over Cat Zingano in which her punishing ground-and-pound was nowhere to be seen. Shevchenko has shown some quality wrestling chops and, on the feet, ought to be able to defuse Pena’s aggression without considerable issue. I’d be concerned if this were three rounds, but with five? Shevchenko all the way.
Cerrone is a monster at Welterweight. I mean, he’s always been a monster, but he’s gone from Gamera to Mechagodzilla. I’ve always trumpeted Masvidal’s skill, but a solid performance against Jake Ellenberger isn’t enough to convince he he’s finally living up to his potential.
Knight, whom I once saw referred to as "Hick Diaz" and which I will call him forever, seems like a pretty rough out for Caceres. Knight is aggressive enough to outwork him on the feet, a strong enough wrestler to put him on his back, and a skilled enough grappler to ruin his day once there. Knight probably takes too much punishment to crack the elite, but this is an extremely winnable fight for him.
UFC On FOX 23 Best Bets:
- Single bet -- Valentina Shevchenko: Bet $75 to make $60
- Single bet -- Raphael Assuncao: Bet $42 to make $30
- Single bet -- Alexandre Pantoja: Bet $21 to make $20
- Parlay -- Donald Cerrone and Jason Knight: Bet $30 to make $49.20
UFC on FOX 23 features a good contender fight and some solid matchmaking throughout. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, methinks.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live UFC on FOX 23 results on fight night, which is as good a place as any to talk about all the action inside the Octagon, as well as what you've got riding on the sportsbook.