The UFC returns to Denver (where it all began) for UFC on FOX 23. While there's no title on the line this weekend, there are plenty of title implications. The winner of Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena will likely take on Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight title sometime this spring or summer. Shevchenko is ranked no. 1 in the official UFC rankings, and Pena is no. 2, so this fight has a lot riding on it.
At welterweight, ultra-busy Donald Cerrone is ranked no. 5 while Masvidal is ranked no. 12 with a 2-2 record in his last 4. That said, Masivdal's last two losses come via split-decision to Lorenz Larkin and Benson Henderson. Not bad opponents, and the fight could've gone either way. Cerrone has his hands full, but a win could put him firmly in a no. 1 contender fight.
That's two (2) potential fights on this card that can lead directly to a championship fight.
But wait, there's more!
Valentina Shevchenko def. Julianna Pena via armbar submission (round 2)
Jorge Masvidal def. Donald Cerrone via TKO (round 2)
Francis Ngannou def. Andrei Arlovski via KO (round 1)
The former heavyweight champ got clocked by the Frenchman Ngannou, who has yet to see a judge's decision.
Jason Knight def. Alex Caceres via rear naked choke submission (round 2)
Aside from the first few minutes, Jason Knight dominated Caceres with a dominant ground game. In general, Knight was just too strong for Caceres, who has won 2 of his last 6 fights.
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Sam Alvey def. Nate Marquardt via unanimous decision
Marquardt had the homecage (???) advantage, but Smilin' Sam eventually found his range and started busting the vet up with heavy combos. It wasn't a great fight (the altitude seems to be affecting the fighters) but this was Sam's 4th win in a row, and he's moving up in the world with a win over Marquardt.
Raphael Assunção def. Aljamain Sterling via split-decision.
After starting his career 12-0, Sterling has now dropped his last two by split-decision. This wasn't the most thrilling fight, and Sterling failed to press the action. Had he done that even a little, he may have won.
Li Jingliang def. Bobby Nash via KO (round 2)
Jordan Johnson def. Luis Henrique da Silva via unanimous decision
Eric Spicely def. Alessio Di Chirico via triangle choke submission (round 1)
Marcos Rogério de Lima def. Jeremy Kimball via TKO (round 1)
Fight Pass Prelims
Alexandre Pantoja def. Eric Shelton via split-decision
Jason Gonzalez def. J.C. Cottrell via d'arce choke Submission (round 1)