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UFC on Fox 23 Panel Picks: Shevchenko vs. Pena heads up an interesting card

UFC on Fox

UFC returns to Fox Saturday night and for the second straight network show, it will be headlined by a women’s fight.

Valentina Shevchenko will be headlining a Fox show for the second consecutive time as she takes on TUF 20 champion and top contender Julianna Lima with the winner expected to challenge women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes later this year.

Another fight with possible title implications is the co-main event as Donald Cerrone will attempt to win his fifth straight welterweight fight against fellow former 155'er, Jorge Masvidal. With an impressive win, Cerrone could earn a shot at the winner of the upcoming welterweight title rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson.

Also featured on the show is Francis N’Gannou, one of the first legitimate heavyeight prospects to come along since current champion Stipe Miocic. He’ll attempt to win his fifth straight in the UFC, but standing in his way is former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski -- arguably his toughest test to date.

For our other two panel picks, we moving to the FS1 portion of the card as cult favorite “Smilin’” Sam Alvey takes on Nate “The Great” Marquardt while bantamweight contenders Raphael Assuncao and Aljamain Sterling square off to attempt to remain in the title shot conversation.

If you're new, listed alongside the fighter’s names below are their FightMatrix.com worldwide rankings, as well as bestfightodds.com betting odds. In addition to the fights the panel is picking from, also included is the rest of the fights on the card, along with short notes on each fight.

Here’s our panel with year-to-date records in parenthesis. Also included are the panel consensus picks and the betting favorites and how they did.

  • David Bixenspan (5-0; 1.000): MMANews.com editor, Sherdog.com contributor, podcast host
  • Dave Meltzer (5-0; 1.000): Wrestling Observer founder
  • Mike Sawyer (5-0; 1.000): ToughTalkMMA.com founder
  • John Pollock (4-1; .800): Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, The MMA Report podcast host
  • Favorites (4-1; .800)
  • Mike Sempervive (4-1; .800): Wrestling Observer Live & Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Steve Juon (4-1; .800): MMAMania.com writer, Angry Marks.com founder
  • Ryan Frederick (4-1; .800): Wrestling Observer writer
  • Paul Fontaine (4-1; .800): MMADraws.com founder and Wrestling Observer writer
  • Josh Nason (3-2; .600): Wrestling Observer writer/editor/podcaster
  • Front Row Brian (3-2; .600): MMA newsbreaker, beloved Internet personality, podcast host

> Valentina Shevchenko (13-2) vs Julianna Pena (8-2)
WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHTS

Shevchenko is coming off a win over former division champion Holly Holm while Pena is unbeaten in her UFC career after winning TUF 20. Both women want current champion Amanda Nunes and a win here may earn that shot.

Shevchenko lost to the champ a year ago, but came on strong at the end of the fight. Some feel that if it were a five rounder, she would have won and history could look much different as Nunes springboarded off that win to take the title from Miesha Tate.

Pena’s career has been somewhat stalled by injuries, but this will be the biggest fight and biggest platform of her career. She still has some popularity coming off the reality show and may be the most marketable contender in the division.

  • #3 Shevchenko (-135 betting favorite): Frederick, Juon, Fontaine, Bix, Semp, Meltzer
  • #7 Pena: (+135 betting underdog): Pollock, Nason, Sawyer, FRB

> Donald Cerrone (32-7) vs Jorge Masvidal (31-11)
WELTERWEIGHTS

After a typically busy 2016, Cerrone is wasting no time kicking off 2017 as he attempts to win his fifth straight since losing in a lightweight title shot to then-champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Standing in his way is another former lightweight in veteran Masvidal.

Some consider this a step back for Cerrone, who stopped former title challenger Matt Brown in his last fight. But Masvidal is a tough out that has won two straight and when he loses, it’s usually a razor-thin decision as evidenced by his last three losses coming via split decision. If those fights had gone the other way, he’d be on a nine-fight win streak dating back to 2013.

Cerrone will be trying to earn to his 20th career UFC win and 14th career post-fight bonus award since joining the promotion in 2011.

  • #5 Cerrone (-150 betting favorite): Frederick, Juon, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason, Sawyer, FRB, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

> Francis N’Gannou (9-1) vs Andrei Arlovski (25-12)
HEAVYWEIGHTS

N’Gannou has had a somewhat meteoric rise up the ranks of the heavyweight division. Despite only being a pro since November 2013, he’s already fighting in the biggest promotion in the world and in a featured fight on network TV. He’s also won four straight fights, all via stoppage, to kick off his UFC career.

Standing across the Octagon will be former heavyweight champion Arlovski. His career is going the other way from his opponent, having lost three straight. He is far removed from a four-fight win streak to kick off his UFC return that had people talking title shot at one point.

It’s relatively certain that this fight will be quick as the two have combined for 15 stoppages in their 18 UFC wins.

  • #34 N’Gannou (-358 betting favorite): Frederick, Juon, Pollock, Nason, Sawyer, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer
  • #10 Arlovski (-336 betting underdog): Fontaine, FRB

> Sam Alvey (29-8) vs Nate Marquardt (35-16-2)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS

Two of the hardest hitters in the division square off in the featured FS1 prelim. Alvey is going for his fourth straight win and has five wins by KO or submission in his six UFC victories.

Marquardt has been in UFC seemingly forever and his career actually goes back to the very first UFC Fight Night on Spike TV. He’s also a former title challenger in the division, but has lost six of his last nine. He is coming off an impressive KO win over Tamdan McCrory and may come into this fight desperate for a win.

  • #24 Marquardt (+133 betting underdog): Fontaine, Nason
  • #29 Alvey (-147 betting favorite): Frederick, Juon, Pollock, Sawyer, FRB, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

> Raphael Assuncao (23-5) vs Aljamain Sterling (12-1)
BANTAMWEIGHTS

Both of these guys have been close to title shots recently before suffering key setbacks. Assuncao actually holds a win over former champion TJ Dillashaw but is coming off a loss in their rematch last year. A win there and he likely would’ve earned that title opportunity.

Sterling suffered his first career loss to Bryan Caraway his last time out. Prior to that, speculation was that he could get the title shot that eventually went to current champion Cody Garbrandt.

Both will attempt to recharge their careers in what could be a show stealing fight.

  • #14 Sterling (+130 betting underdog) Frederick, Juon, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason, FRB
  • #21 Assuncao (-141 betting favorite): Sawyer, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

**********

Rest of the card:

Alex Caceres (12-9) vs Jason Knight (14-2)
FEATHERWEIGHTS

  • Caceres #77; +138 betting underdog
  • Knight #37; -147 betting favorite

Jingliang Li (11-4) vs Bobby Nash (8-1)
WELTERWEIGHTS

  • Li #127; -145 betting favorite
  • Nash #117; +138 betting underdog

Luis Henrique da Silva (12-1) vs Jordan Johnson (6-0)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

  • da Silva #39; +196 betting underdog
  • Johnson #96; -195 betting favorite

Alessio Di Chirico (10-1) vs Eric Spicely (9-1)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS

  • Di Chirico #123; +105 betting underdog
  • Spicely #22; -112 betting favorite

Marcos Rogerio de Lima (14-4-1) vs Jeremy Kimball (14-5)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

  • de Lima #62; -170 betting favorite
  • Kimball #48; +158 betting underdog

Eric Shelton (10-2) vs Alexandre Pantoja (16-2)
FLYWEIGHTS

  • Shelton #30; -117 betting favorite
  • Pantoja #19; +110 betting underdog

Jason Gonzalez (10-3) vs JC Cottrell (17-4)

LIGHTWEIGHTS

  • Gonzalez #264; +128 betting underdog
  • Cottrell #196; -136 betting favorite

Action begins with the Fight Pass Prelims at 4 P EST and moves over to FS1 at 5 PM EST. The main card is on Fox and starts at 8 PM EST. We will have ongoing live coverage of the show. While you’re waiting, check out the following content, also related to the show:

UFC on FOX 23 discussion on the Board, including Ryan Frederick’s extensive preview of the card, along with fighter notes