Coming off the heels of the Fight Night in Phoenix, the UFC is back with their second event of 2017 and once again the women of the UFC are getting top billing. This is a pretty stacked card from top to bottom with 12 fights if you want to watch them all. I think the 4 main card fights are probably strong enough to headline a pay-per view, maybe you need a title fight in there, but honestly the Pena vs. Shevchenko fight should be an interim title fight, but more on that later. As with all our previews we’re only going to be talking about the fights on the main card so let’s get right into it.
Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres (12-9-0) vs. Jason “The Kid” Knight (18-2-0)
Caceres is known for his unpredictability. He’s got a nice mixture of striking and submission skills despite not really looking for a lot of take downs. While Knight on the other hand is definitely going to look to take this one to the ground as he’s a Jiu-Jitsu specialist. Looking at the tale of the tape, Caceres has a slight reach advantage, but how much that actually factors into a fight between these two is a big question as odds are good that a lot of the fight is going to be spent on the ground. Their records are also a bit deceiving as this will be their 22nd and 21st fight respectively, but Caceres will have his 16th fight under the Zuffa umbrella while Knight will only be inside the octagon for the 4th time. These two are in a very crowded featherweight division and both need a good showing to try to crack the top 15 and move towards a shot against Jose Aldo. Knight has been talking a lot of smack recently and says once he KO’s Caceres he’s going to call out #11 ranked Dooho Choi. Knight is favored by the Vegas odds makers in this one and I’m going to agree, but I think this one might go to the score cards and if the past few events are any indication any thing can happen when the fight is in the judges hands.
#7 Anderi “The Pit Bull” Arlovski (25-13-0) vs. #10 Francis “The Predator” Ngannou
If there is a division in the UFC that needs an injection of charisma it is the UFC heavyweights. Don’t get me wrong there are enough “big names” Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez or Stipe Miocic in the division, but I can remember the days when the heavyweights ruled the UFC. I love the story of this fight. This isn’t about two guys talking trash about each other but rather the old gunslinger and former champ, Arlovski, looking to have one more run before he steps away from the cage and ends his 17 year career. On the other hand, we have the up and comer, who 3 years ago was living on the streets of Paris, but has put the heavyweight division on notice that he is a force to be reckoned with. Let’s be honest here, this one is most likely going to end with a knock out. That’s not to say that these guys can’t get it done on the ground, Francis finished off Anthony Hamilton with a vicious kimura in the first round last month and has won 4 of his 9 fights by submission. Francis has a 6 inch reach advantage, which means Alrovski is going to have to work hard to get inside. He’s a big underdog and has shocked the world before, but I don’t see this one going to he judges cards and Francis’ only loss was by decision. I have him winning this by KO/TKO in either the 1st or 2nd.
#5 Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (32-7-0) vs. #12 Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (31-11-0)
The “busiest” fighter in the UFC will be looking to extend his 4 fight winning streak when he takes on the man he called out after knocking out Matt Brown with a brutal head kick back at UFC 206. Masvidal has won his last two fights and is looking to prove himself in the welterweight division. Tale of the tape on these guys isn’t gonna give you much to go off of if we’re being honest. Height, reach and leg reach is nearly identical and age isn’t a factor as they are 33 and 32 respectively. If you look at the caliber of fighters that they’ve faced throughout their careers, the advantage goes to Cerrone and he definitely has the better ground game with half of his wins coming via submission. All that being said I still expect to see some fire works and haymakers in the first round before Cerrone eventually takes it to the ground. I don’t see the Cowboy losing at home and I can’t wait to see who he calls out when the dust settles.
#1 Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (13-2-0) vs. Julianna “The Venezuelan Vixen” Peña (9-2-0)
I mentioned at the top of this article that I think this fight should be for the interim women’s bantamweight title. But why? You might ask, is Nunes hurt? No. Calm down and let me tell you why. So… Nunes has already called out the winner of the Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie fight for the women’s featherweight title at UFC 208. She want’s to be the female equlivilent of Connor McGregor and hold two belts at the same time. For the UFC this fight makes sense regardless of who the featherweight champ ends up being as it could easily headline a pay-per view. However, this leaves both of these ladies out in the cold. Again! They had to sit by and watch as Rhona Rousey got to jump the line and get a title shot that they both could make a claim at deserving. Now, if the UFC does the “Superfight” it delays their title dreams for even longer.
Enough of that rant, let’s get into the fight. Peña was the first woman to ever win The Ultimate Fighter and is undefeated in the UFC. Shevchenko’s only loss in the UFC was at the hands of Nunes who she took to the judges scorecards back at UFC 196. Both women are well rounded in their fightng styles, I’d give the advantage to Shevchenko in the stand up and Peña on the ground and the tale of the tape puts them at nearly identical. Vegas has Shevchenko as the favorite in this one and in a five round fight that’s probably a safe bet. Whoever wins is most likely gonna have a while to wait until they get a crack at Nunes and honestly I think if Peña wins the match would probably happen faster than if Shevchenko takes it.
So that’s our preview. The UFC produced a really nice “Road to the Octagon” video that you can find here. I definitely recommend checking it out. It may not be what you’re looking for if you want a technical break down of the fighters, but it does give a really nice look at the real people and what they go through while they are training.
I’m certainly more excited for these fights than I was for the fight night in Phoenix. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments.
Image from UFC.com