The UFC returned to where it all started, Denver Colorado for a fight night card, live and free on FOX if you live in the states or available on their Fight Pass for the rest of the world. The main card featured 4 fights that could have easily been in the main card of any UFC pay-per view and Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena was the headliner. I didn’t have the figures as I was writing this article, but I’D be very interested to see how the box-office and TV viewers for this show compared to Bellator 171 which happened the night before.
Alex Caceres (12-9-0) vs. Jason Knight (18-2-0)
The featherweights started us off with Knight as the Las Vegas favorite. I talked about Caceres’ unpredictability in my preview article and he definitely showed a good deal of that in the first round, which was a stark contrast to Knight’s straight ahead style. As predicted you could really see that Knight wanted to take the fight to the ground, but Caceres was able to stuff his first two take down attempts before finally getting taken down with about 30 seconds left in the round. Knight made up for it in the second round. He has one of the best body locks I’ve seen in MMA in a long time. He got Caceres to the ground took his back and just pummeled him with punches, forearms and elbows for nearly the entire seond round. All the while he kept trying to lock in the choke. After a could of well defended attempts he finally got it in and Caceres had no choice but to tap with 38 seconds left to go in the second round. True to his word, Knight used his post match interview to call out “Korean Superboy” Dohoo Choi. If that fight does happen it should be a great one.
#7 Andrei Arlovski (25-13-1) vs. #10 Francis Ngannou (9-1-0)
Joe Rogan in the hype package for this fight called it a “Crossroads Fight” and it certainly was. And it only took 1 punch. 90 seconds into the first round a right hook from Ngannou caught Arlovski on the chin and it was all academic from there. A few more strikes to the prone Arlovski on the canvas and the referee jumped into to stop the fight. You’d have to look at the statistics to see if Francis even took a hit in the fight, it looked like maybe two grazed him but that was it. This win will most certainly move Ngannou up in the Heavyweight rankings my guess is to at least #7 and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he fights again sometime in the next two months, probably March or April. For Arlovski, this fight effectively put an end to his dream at making a run at the heavyweight title anytime in the near future and at 38 years old this might be a signal that his days are very much numbered in the UFC. Man that was a quick fight. I can’t wait to see who they put Ngannou up against next.
#5 Donald Cerrone (32-7-0) vs. #12 Jorge Masvidal (31-11-0)
Before I get into the actual fight, I just want to take a second to talk about the crowd tonight who were fiercely in the corner of Cerrone. The boos that they rained down on Masvidal before the fight were deafening. Wow.. the end of that first round. They had been feeling each other out throughout the first with Cerrone landing a bunch of stiff kicks to Masvidal’s front leg, but he got caught and he got dropped with a stiff punch to the face and if the round was 10 seconds longer this one could have been over in the first. It only took a minute in the second round for it to all be over. Masvidal came out aggressively knowing that Cerrone was still going to be shaken up from the knock down in the first, he landed about 3-4 god knees in the clinch against the cage then tagged him with a right after catching Cerrone’s foot on a weak looking kick. That sent Cerrone sprawling to the mat and Masvidal pounced forcing Herb Dean to step in and bring an end to the fight. This is Cerrone’s first loss since 2015 and definitely puts a halt to his dreams of a title shot this year. For Masvidal this was a huge win, potentially the biggest of his career, and he threw down the gauntlet to Dana White in his post match interview basically calling out the entire welterweight division saying he wants the best of the best. This has to move Masvidal into the top ten in the division and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t have a fight against another top ten fighter very soon as he really didn’t take many shots in this fight and should be good to go as soon as the UFC calls.
#1 Valentina Shevchenko (13-2-0) vs. #2 Julianna Pena (9-2-0)
I talked in my preview article about how important this fight is in the women’s bantamweight division, but also how the winner would most likely have to wait at least 4-6 months before actually getting a title shot against Amanda Nunes, who was in the crowd for this fight. You could tell the both fighters understood what was at stake and neither of them wanted to make a mistake in the first round, most of which was spent exchanging knees against the cage. Shevchenko was able to score two take downs, but Pena stood up almost immediately from the first and looked much better fighting from the bottom than Valentina did in the second. This was another instance when if the round was 20 seconds longer it could have ended in the first as Julianna was working on an armbar as time expired. The thing that I love about the UFC is how quickly the tide can turn. Pena was dominating the second round. She had been in top control for nearly two minutes and then she gets caught in an armbar and in 5 seconds she goes from looking great to tapping out and losing the fight with 30 seconds to go in the second round.
This was a very interesting fight for both Pena and Shevchenko. Pena did a great job of not letting Shevchenko use her striking and I don’t think the loss hurts her too much as far as rankings are concerned. As for Shevchenko, she proved that she can get it done on the ground just as well as she can with her strikes. She’s fought Nunes before, and took her to the judges scorecards. The question is how quickly the UFC is going to want to schedule Nunes vs. Shevchenko 2. They had them both in the octagon together after the fight trying to “trash talk” each other, but my guess is we’re going to have to wait a while to see it.
Man if you like fights finishing quick this was the card for you. Nothing making it past the second round, two knockouts and two submissions. No one wanted their fights going to the judge’s scorecards tonight. I counted and I think it was something like 26:30 total fight time for 4 matches. I’ve seen Gracie fights that were longer than that. But hey, some nights that’s just how it goes. Great night of very entertaining fights in the “Mile High City”. The UFC is back again next week with a fight night coming from Houston.
That’s it what did you guys think of Fight Night Denver? Any of the results surprise you? Let us know in the comments.
Image from ufc.com