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UFC on FOX 23: Shevchenko vs Pena Betting Preview

Julianna Pena(8-2) @ Valentina Shevchenko(13-2)

  • Where: Pepsi Center. Denver, CO
  • When: January 28, 2017 5:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Pena (+105) vs Shevchenko (-135)

Prize-fighting on basic cable has been a real bummer at times throughout its history, with matches often involving shabby has-beens and dubious prospects. But fans of mixed martial arts who abstain from PPV (and don’t live near a friendly sports bar) can take solace in the UFC on Fox series, at which top fighters are routinely billed.

This Saturday’s 23rd installment features a dual main event capped by an intriguing and well-matched Women’s Bantamweight scrap, pairing kick-boxer Valentina Shevchenko with the fierce grappler Julianna Pena. The bout has been called “an elimination match” where the winner will be green-lighted to face current Bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes.

Shevchenko is a thin money line favorite, and certainly has the credentials. A storied history in professional kick-boxing has resulted in an amazing 58-2-1 record, and the 28 year-old’s MMA career is highlighted by a loss on points to Nunes and a dominant win over former champion Holly Holm. The southpaw also holds black belts in Judo and other fighting disciplines.

But Shevchenko is not an overly-powerful striker, and prefers to play defense until an erring opponent can be counter-swarmed with punches and kicks.

Shevchenko vs Pena PicksUnlike the Rousey-Nunes fight, this time the underdog is doing the chirping. Earlier this week, Pena told MMAFighting.com that she was “not impressed” by Shevchenko’s victory against Holly Holm, calling Holm “the Buster Douglas of MMA”.

Insulting not one, but two fighters at once is par for the course in MMA interviews but may not be the best self-help psychology for the week of a fight. Like Rousey, Pena may be showing her nerves. Losing this match puts to bed any Pena-Nunes talk for at least a while, so the 27 year-old American cannot afford a loss.

But no mistake, Pena will make Saturday night interesting. The Spokane native is a modest puncher, but uses the blows merely to set up work on the ground, where she is dangerous and aggressive.

In a co-main event, Welterweights Donald Cerrone (-165) and Jorge Masvidal (+135) will square off in a battle of veteran combatants. The favorite comes in hot with a 4-match winning streak, all by KO or submission.

Cerrone is a fine striker and loves to kick, wearing down his opponent’s speed and stamina with punishing shots to the legs. The 33 year-old has struggled against close-in fighters most of his career, but recently developed a “matador” dodging tactic that opens up angles and puts foes on the defensive.

The underdog, Masvidal, is one of those enigmas that populate the sport of MMA – the whole is less than the sum of the parts. Widely praised for his immaculate technique, strength, quickness and defense, the Floridian nonetheless owns a record of 31-11 and has lost three of his last six fights.

Shevchenko vs. Pena predictions – upset special

Styles determine winners, and the upstart Pena has the winning style in Saturday’s bout with Shevchenko. The American’s lone weakness is defensive grappling – in her last loss (way back in 2012) an official stopped the fight with Pena getting punished on the ground. But that won’t happen this time, as the Peruvian is a modest wrestler and will not be able to exploit her opponent’s Achilles Heel.

Wager on Julianna Pena (+105) to win in a money line upset at the Bovada Sportsbook.

Cerrone vs. Masvidal picks

Meanwhile, Jorge Masvidal looks the part of a threat to upset Cerrone in the Welterweight co-main event, but that will prove to be a mirage. Masvidal’s last two wins have been against Ross Pearson (who served as last-minute replacement foil) and Jake Ellenberger, who has lost 12 times. The ML is set far too tight.

Place a one or two-unit ML bet on Cerrone to handle Donald Cerrone at Bovada.

UFC on FOX 22 prelim picks

The Fox under-card features eight or ten fights, depending on whether you count “dark” matches (available for subscription viewing) at 4 and 4:30 PM. Wager a parlay on a couple of preliminary winners, or one prelim alongside a main event play for a potentially handsome payoff.

Jason Knight is favored only modestly (-160) to beat Alex Caceres, who has won just three more fights than he has lost. As with the men’s co-main pairing, the odds give value to a wager on Knight who is almost sure to prevail with energetic striking and grappling.

In a clash of Light-Heavyweights, undefeated prospect and ML favorite Jordan Johnson (-225) takes on talented Henrique da Silva. Silva is great in open space and with his arms in the clench, but will play right into Johnson’s hands; the muscular Arizona-bred youngster feasts on bad wrestlers, and his opponent’s ground technique is full of holes. Expect Johnson to win by submission around the half-way point.

Finally, for a stand-alone upset special of magnanimous proportions, wager one unit on Andrei Arlovski (+300) to roar one final time at age 38, and disappoint strong prospect and heavy money line favorite Francis Ngannou by utilizing superior skill and knowledge in close quarters.

Visit Bovada and parlay a winning duo of bets for this Saturday’s UFC on FOX 23.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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