UFC on Fox 23 went down January 28th from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. In the UFC’s sixth visit to the Mile-High City, top-ranked women bantamweights Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena met to decide a possible next opponent for current champion of the division, Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko earned a second-round submission over Pena, having a quick chat with Nunes in the cage about their probable upcoming match-up. The co-main event saw top-ranked welterweight Jorge Masvidal knockout Donald Cerrone in the second round. Also making up the main card saw heavyweight Francis Ngannou make quick work with his knockout victory over Andre Arlovski, and Jason Knight submit the entertaining Alex Caceres.
Following the Fox event, we provide the top five fights to make after UFC on Fox 23.
5. Eric Spicely vs. Dan Kelly
Eric Spicely shot onto the scene after getting a massive upset victory over Thiago Santos in September of last year. He made quick work of his UFC on Fox 23 opponent Alessio Di Chirico, scoring the first-round triangle submission. Despite losing his UFC debut and suffering a knockout loss on season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, Spicely has showed an extremely skilled set of jiu-jitsu whenever the fight hits the mat. He called out Dan Kelly in his post-fight interview, a long-time skilled competitor in Judo. Kelly currently rides a three-fight win streak, having only suffered one career loss to Sam Alvey. The grappling skills of both could see numerous scrambles and wild transitions with a win possibly seeing them crack the Top 15.
4. Jason Knight vs. Doo Ho Choi
The evolution of Jason Knight throughout his UFC career has been very enjoyable to watch. He managed to stop and finish Alex Caceres by rear-naked choke in the second, adding a tenth submission win out of his 16 total victories. Knight lost a decision in his UFC debut to veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri, but no rides a three-fight win streak within the past year. Knight called out in his post-fight interview “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi, who put up one of the best fights of 2016 against Cub Swanson. Despite the loss, his performance was praised by many throughout the mixed martial arts community. Knight and Choi are two of the younger featherweights in the division, but both have an extreme amount of potential that could display fireworks if the two were to meet inside the octagon.
3. Jorge Masvidal vs. Robbie Lawler
Jorge Masvidal did not leave the fans disappointed, stopping the run of Donald Cerrone and extending his win streak to three. Since his return to the welterweight division, “Gamebred” now sits at 4-2 including other wins over Jake Ellenberger, Ross Pearson, and Cezar Ferreira. Masvidal is one of the more underrated fighters in his weight class, despite being near the top of his division. His striking can pose a threat to anyone who stands in his way, and it would only be exciting to find a partner who can match his stand-up game. Former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler rode a five-fight win streak with two title defenses before suffering a knockout loss to Tyron Woodley. His punches come with fight-ending intention, and a pairing with Masvidal could see a definite “Fight of the Night” contender.
2. Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem
Dana White and many others believe that Francis Ngannou is the next big thing in the heavyweight division. The man added another victory to his resume, knocking out former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in just over 90 seconds. All of Ngannou’s wins have come by either knockout (six) or submission (four), showing the diversity of skill he possesses. Within four years, “The Predator” has gone from making his mixed martial arts debut to being ranked top-ten in the UFC. A match-up with seasoned veteran Alistair Overeem may be next, who shared moments of success in his recent title fight with current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic despite getting knocked out. The fight would promise a guaranteed knockout, seeing the winner extremely close to receiving a shot at the champion.
1. Valentina Shevchenko vs. Amanda Nunes
Valentina Shevchenko proved Saturday night that she deserves the next shot at current women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. “The Bullet” became the first person to submit Julianna Pena, scoring an armbar late into the second round. The victory was Shevchenko’s first submission since March 3rd, 2006; a time span of over 10 years. Herself and Nunes did meet in the octagon last year at UFC 196, seeing Nunes pull off the unanimous decision. Shevchenko did have her moments late in the fight, starting to take over as the three-round bout came to a close. Since then, Nunes has captured the title from Miesha Tate and defended the belt once by stopping Ronda Rousey. A 25-minute rematch between Shevchenko and Nunes will be truly exciting, seeing the winner walk away with UFC gold.
Other fights to make after UFC on Fox 23:
Sam Alvey vs. Uriah Hall
Raphael Assuncao vs. Thomas Almeida
Li Jingliang vs. Mike Perry
Jordan Johnson vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov
Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Francimar Barroso/Darren Stewart winner
Alexandre Pantoja vs. John Moraga
Jason Gonzalez vs. Chris Wade
Julianna Pena vs. Sara McMann/Liz Carmouche winner
Donald Cerrone vs. Neil Magny
Andrei Arlovski: retirement
Alex Caceres vs. Artem Lobov
Nate Marquardt vs. Chris Camozzi
Aljamain Sterling vs. Rob Font
Bobby Nash vs. Sabah Homasi
Luis Henrique da Silva vs. Sean O’Connell
Alessio Di Chiricio vs. Joseph Gigliotti
Jeremy Kimball vs. Saparbeg Safarov
Eric Shelton vs. Geane Herrera
J.C. Cottrell: released