Photos by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
On Saturday night, the UFC returned to beautiful Denver, Colorado with UFC on Fox 23. Headlined by a women’s bantamweight number one contender fight and featuring some of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster, this 12-fight card was all action, as a whopping eight of the contests on the bill ended with finishes—including all four main card bouts.
Here’s a recap of the action for those who missed it!
The Main Card:
Shevchenko Makes Huge Statement with Submission of Peña
The co-main event of the evening occurred in the women’s bantamweight division, where Kyrgyzstani striker Valentina Shevchenko took on grappling specialist and Ultimate Fighter winner Julianna Peña for a shot at the champ, Amanda Nunes.
Though this fight looked like a classic style clash, with the striking advantage in Shevchenko’s corner, and the grappling edge in Peña’s, Shevchenko actually surprised by showing off some fantastic grappling of her own. After securing two crafty takedowns in the first round, she hoisted her legs into position for an armbar in the second, and not long thereafter, she had her foe tapping.
With this incredible win, Shevchenko has earned herself a rematch with reigning bantamweight queen, Amanda Nunes, who joined her in the cage post-fight for a brief stare down. The striker turned mixed martial artist is now 3-1 in the Octagon, and 14-2 overall.
This defeat, which marks the end of a four-fight win-streak, is Peña’s first in the Octagon. Her last loss occurred all the way back in February of 2013. Now 8-3 overall, the TUF winner will have to return to the drawing board, though she remains one of the bantamweight division’s top contenders.
Masvidal Spoils Cowboy Homecoming with Second-Round TKO
Denver’s co-main event occurred in the welterweight division. In one corner, we had former lightweight title challenger Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who sought to extend his welterweight win-streak to five in front of his home town. In the other, we had unheralded veteran Jorge Masvidal, who was on the hunt for one of the biggest wins of his career.
In an outcome that registered as a significant upset, this one was all Masvidal. Though Cowboy had some success with his kicks early in the first round, Masvidal quickly began responding to these kicks with blistering, multi-punch combos. One of these combos, which occurred in the final seconds of the first round, sent Cowboy careening to the canvas in a moment that, were it not for the end of the round, would have been ruled a knockout. Though this allowed Cowboy to see round two, things didn’t go any better for him there, as he was once again dropped, and this time, finished off with a volley of strikes against the cage.
In victory, Masvidal extends his win-streak to three, and is likely to have earned himself a spot inside the welterweight top-10. He’s now 4-2 since returning to the division, and 32-11 overall.
The defeat is Cowboy’s first since he was swarmed by then lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos in December of 2015. He’s now 4-1 as a welterweight and 32-8 overall.
Ngannou Puts Arlovski Down in One
The second bout of the main card occurred in the heavyweight division, as rising talent Francis Ngannou got his biggest test yet against former champ Andrei Arlovski.
It was a classic prospect vs. veteran fight, and this time around, the prospect came out on top in the biggest way possible. After a brief feeling out process, a back-stepping Ngannou sent Arlovski flying through the air with a short right hand. A few follow-up strikes later, and the hulking French prospect was being peeled off his foe by the referee.
With this victory, Ngannou keeps his finish rate at a perfect 100%, and becomes the owner of the longest active finish streak in the UFC at 5. Now 5-0 in the Octagon, and a solid 10-1 overall, he is undeniably the hottest prospect in the heavyweight division.
Arlovski, meanwhile, now finds himself on a four-fight skid, with three of those losses coming by way of knockout. Now 25-14, it might be time for the former champ to hang up the gloves.
Knight Taps Caceres in the Second
The main card was kicked off by a compelling featherweight scrap between the ever-entertaining Alex Caceres and rising prospect Jason Knight.
Though Caceres started strong, confusing his foe with his unconventional striking and footwork, Knight stole the momentum late in the first, scoring with a huge takedown and threatening with a rear-naked choke. This trend continued into the second round, as Knight once again grounded the fight and threatened with a rear-naked choke, this time earning himself the tap.
In victory, Knight improves to 1-3 in the UFC, and a ridiculous 16-2 overall. Post-fight, the must-watch featherweight prospect made a clever callout of “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi. Here’s hoping that’s what’s next.
In defeat, Caceres falls onto a two-fight skid, having lost his second most recent fight to Yair Rodriguez. He’s now 12-10 in sum.
Alvey Captures Decision Over Marquardt
Denver’s undercard was wrapped up by a middleweight scrap between former UFC title challenger and Strikeforce champ Nate Marquardt, and brick-fisted TUF veteran Sam Alvey.
Though Marquardt had some success with his wrestling, going two for two on takedowns, the real story of the fight was Alvey’s striking. Over the course of this three round tilt, he not only landed more than his veteran foe, but landed the more damaging shots. His success in this department would earn him a unanimous decision win.
With this win, Alvey extends his win-streak to four, having taken out Eric Spicely, Kevin Casey and Alex Nicholson in the last six months. The ever active middleweight is now 30-8 overall. Marquardt, in contrast, returns to the loss column after a thunderous knockout of Tamdan McRory. He’s now 35-17-2 overall.
Assunção Edges Sterling in Close Fight
The second last bout of the undercard occurred at bantamweight, where Aljamain Sterling looked to bounce back from the first loss of his career against the division’s number four-ranked fighter, Raphael Assunção.
It was a rather slow fight that saw Assunçao land the harder punches, and Sterling land at greater volume and chew up his opponent’s legs with kicks. In the end, the judges favored Assunção’s approach, and awarded him a split decision win.
With this win, the Brazilian rebounds from a July loss to former champion TJ Dillashaw. He’s now a strong 24-5 overall, and undeniably one of the best bantamweights on earth. Sterling, meanwhile, has hit a bit of a rough patch, as he’s now on a two-fight skid. His overall record stands at 12-2.
Li Weathers Early Storm to Thump Nash
Li Jingliang’s trip to Denver very nearly went down as a disaster, as he was pummelled to the edge of consciousness in the first round of his welterweight scrap with the debuting Bobby Nash. Ultimately, however, the Chinese welterweight was able to hang in there to deliver a crushing knockout defeat in the second round, putting his foe down with a thudding right hand and burying him with follow up ground strikes.
With this fantastic win, Jingliang rebounds from a loss to Keita Nakamura all the way back in September of 2015. The Chinese star is now 12-4 in sum. Nash, meanwhile, comes up short in his anticipated UFC debut. The 26-year-old is now 8-2 overall.
Johnson Decisions da Silva for Successful Debut
Mid-way through December of 2016, Brazilian light heavyweight Luis Henrique da Silva was a strong 12-0 overall. Just over a month later, he’s suddenly on a two-fight skid.
His latest defeat occurred in Denver, as he was soundly outworked by debuting American Jordan Johnson for three rounds. Over the course of this fight, Johnson succeeded on all four of his takedown attempts, amassed a whopping 10:30 of control time, and landed 116 total strikes—more than enough to capture a unanimous decision.
With this win, the debuting Jordan moves to an impressive 7-0 overall. Da Silva, meanwhile, now sits at 12-2, and 2-2 in the Octagon.
Spicely Taps Di Chirico in the First
Italy’s Alessio Di Chirico’s latest trip to American soil did not go well, as he was tapped out by the dangerous Eric Spicely in the first round of their undercard middleweight showdown.
Spicely earned his tap with a triangle choke, failing on the first attempt, and succeeding on the second after a quick positional adjustment. The tap occurred at the 2:14 mark.
With this win, he moves to 2-1 in the UFC, and a strong 10-1 overall. Di Chirico, finally, experiences his second pro loss. The Italian is now 1-2 in the UFC, and 10-2 in sum.
De Lima Clubs Kimball in One
The first televised fight of the night went down at light heavyweight. In one corner, we had hot-and-cold Brazilian Marcos Rogerio De Lima. In the other, we had debuting Colorado native Jeremy Kimball.
Regrettably for Kimball and his many Colorado fans in attendance, this UFC debut did not go well. Though he was undoubtedly hungry for a big win, he was instead put away with a series of punches just 2:27 into the fight’s first round.
With this win, De Lima rebounds from a submission defeat to Gadzhimurad Antigulov. He’s now 4-2 in the UFC, and 15-4-1 overall. Kimball, on the other hand, has a four-fight streak derailed by this failed UFC debut. He’s now 14-6 in sum.
Pantoja Scores Split Win Over Shelton
The second bout of the night occurred at flyweight, where Brazil’s Alexandre Pantoja took on American talent Eric Shelton. After three rounds of action, Pantoja’s higher striking output and 3:50 of control time would earn him a split decision win.
In victory, Pantoja makes a successful UFC debut, and extends his win-streak to a whopping 10. His overall record now stands at a sparkling 17-2. Shelton, meanwhile, has a four-fight win-streak derailed by this loss. He’s now 10-3 overall.
Gonzales Scores Quick Sub of Cottrell
The action began in the lightweight division, where Jason Gonzales tapped JC Cottrell with a first-round D’Arce choke.
With this win, Gonzales rebounds from a first-round knockout loss to Drew Dober and improves his record to 10-3. Cottrell, meanwhile, enters onto a two fight losing streak, having lost his second most recent bight to Michel “Trator” Prazeres. He’s now 17-6 in sum.