Valentina Shevchenko is known as a striker, but she sure has a pretty great all-round game. She demonstrated that in spades in her headlining UFC on Fox 23 bout against Julianna Pena, hitting two beautiful takedowns out of the clinch in the first and ultimately submitting her opponent with a slick armbar late in the second round.
Pena was looking to dominate the fight in the clinch from the start, and while she did fairly well there, she certainly wasn’t overwhelming. Shevchenko took advantage of Pena spamming knees to get those takedowns and took the first round on top, though Pena threatened with her own armbar attempt late. In the second, Pena spent a lot of time on top but it was Shevchenko who deftly secured an arm, flattened out, and bent it at an ugly angle to get the tap.
- This clearly means we’re going to see a rematch between Shevchenko and Amanda Nunes for the women’s 135-pound title. As for Pena, it’ll be interesting to see where she goes from here.
- What a performance by Jorge Masvidal. His vaunted boxing was on point for the whole fight, he showed a lot more aggression than he has lately, and he still has power. I’ve always thought Masvidal is incredibly talented, but seems to fight up or down to the level of his opponent. He takes fights off. Well, it was easy to get motivated against Donald Cerrone, and it showed. That was not what most people expected at all.
- With that being said, that fight should have absolutely been stopped in the first round. Cerrone wasn’t defending himself for at least four punches before Herb Dean made a move to stop it, and he was moving in before the horn went either way. Cerrone’s night was over then. The second round was just useless punishment for him.
- We’ve said this about every Francis Ngannou fight so far, but - that’s a scary, scary man. He took his time against Andrei Arlovski, making sure he had the right range to land a counter. And when he did - holy hell. The left scored, and the right actually lifted Arlovski off of his feet before he crashed to the mat. He may have landed a shot or two to the back of the head during the finish, but it was already over by then anyway.
- Who do you give to Ngannou next? Someone else beatable so you have a viable heavyweight title contender? Or do you throw him in there with a monster of the division for his next bout? It seems like the former is much more likely.
- Jason Knight vs. Alex Caceres wasn't exactly a Fox-level fight, but it was a decent start to the show. Caceres was his usual elusive self, but once Knight got hands on him on the floor, it was over. I like the Korean Superboy callout though.
- Sam Alvey vs. Nate Marquardt was absolutely terrible. Alvey won. Next.
- I can't quite put my finger on what Aljamain Sterling is missing, but there's something. He is clearly a talented grappler and kicks hard, but his hands just don't seem to put fear into his opponents. And I don't like how often he drops his hands. He baited Raphael Assuncao once, trying to look for the counter, but he just got clubbed with a right hook. That's not going to work. Their fight was super close, and it was a matter of volume over damage (or vice versa) for the first half of the fight, but I thought Assuncao won and the decision was correct.
- Bobby Nash and Li Jingliang put on a hell of a war. Nash got hurt early in the first, then dropped his opponent late and looked to still have him in trouble early in the second. Jingliang showed off his durability though, clubbing Nash with two huge shots that turned the lights out. It wasn't exactly technically brilliant, but it sure was fun. I hope it wins fight of the night.
- Jordan Johnson looked excellent in his UFC debut, pumping out the jab early and then spending the last two rounds on top of Luis Henrique da Silva. By the end of the second, Frankenstein had nothing left in the tank. I know it's in Denver, but that was not a good look.
- Johnson got KO'd in the post-fight interview by Brian Stann though. Simple questions led to blank stares. That was my favorite part of the whole card to that point.
- The first two fights on the TV card ended quickly. First, Jeremy Kimball seemed to just slip, but ate some punches against the cage from Marcos Rogerio de Lima and it was over. Then Eric Spicely got taken down, but pretty much immediately secured a triangle and that was that.
- The Fight Pass bouts provided some quality action. The opener saw J.C. Cottrell largely dominating his bout with Jason Gonzalez, until Gonzalez secured a sneaky D'Arce choke to get the win. The flyweight bout between Alexandre Pantoja and Eric Shelton featured two rounds of excellent scrambling and striking before they gassed out in the third. The bout was very close, with Pantoja squeaking out a split decision victory.