A pivotal women’s bantamweight showdown headlines UFC on Fox 23 when Valentina Shevchenko attempts to put herself into title contention when she faces TUF 18 winner Julianna Pena, who hasn’t lost in the UFC.
This fight headlines a solid card of action from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Many of the fights are 50-50 and don't hold much value, but there are a few fights that could draw your interest and betting dollars.
The main event is your classic battle between striker and grappler as Shevchenko brings her muay thai striking skills into the Octagon while Pena has demonstrated an exceptional ground game. In a few places you can find Pena at a +100 while Shevchenko holds as a -130 favorite. It's truly a nightmare fight for UFC oddsmakers as it will be a five round showdown between two fighters with distinctly different strengths.
For her part, Pena has proven to be impressive with four straight victories in the UFC after peeling off three straight wins in The Ultimate Fighter. She's strong and gutsy, which presents a multitude of problems for the skilled Shevchenko. However, Pena will have to get inside on the Soviet to nullify her distinct striking advantage. Shevchenko wasn't terribly impressive but she managed to beat former champion Holly Holm by unanimous decision last July.
The question will be if Pena can find her way inside to take Shevchenko down or if Shevchenko's striking will be too much for her opponent. Either way, it's too close to call and a fight you should stay away from.
The co-main event finds Donald Cerrone in an exciting fight with Jorge Masvidal. Cerrone has been on a tear since jumping up to the welterweight division and has gone 4-0 with four straight finishes. But Masvidal is extraordinarily durable and hasn't been stopped since 2009 when Toby Imada slapped on a highlight reel inverted triangle. Cowboy currently can be found at a -150 while Masvidal is as high as a +140. It's hard to deny Cerrone as his welterweight run has been a revelation of sorts. This should be an excellent showdown but I'm inclined to take Cerrone at +140 and would take a swing at this fight going under 2.5 rounds at +180. When Cerrone is on a roll, he's hard to stop.
The other fight that holds some intrigue if you're willing to take a shot is Andrei Arlovski vs. Francis Ngannou. It is highly unlikely that this will see the final bell but with the over of 1.5 rounds being at +170, there's a chance that these two don't let it go until the second round out of respect for one another. What's surprising is that Arlovski is a +340 underdog. You can find much, much worse options to take a chance on. Arlovski may be on a three-fight slide but he's a dangerous fighter that is fully capable of changing the fight with one punch. It's the biggest step up in competition for Ngannou, who has never seen the final bell in a fight he has won.
You'll be taking a huge chance on Arlovski's fragile jaw but at +340 in the heavyweight division, it's worth it. And if you want to bundle the wager for even more value, you can double down with this fight going over a round and a half.