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UFC on FOX 20 Observer Panel Picks; Holm vs Shevchenko, Barboza vs Melendez

UFC is back on network TV this afternoon and evening with UFC on FOX 20 from Chicago. This show will be a big test as to the popularity of former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm as other than the main event, this show is devoid of the star power that big FOX shows usually have. Shows like this are usually pretty entertaining though and there are some stories here.

Can Gilbert Melendez, Felice Herrig and Eddie Wineland shake off the ring rust after more than a year away from the Octagon? Though not among the fights our panel are picking from, can a contender emerge from the two heavyweight fights on the show? Or can Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira re-establish his contender status after the setback he received at the hands of the “real” Cowboy, Donald Cerrone, earlier this year? The answers to these questions and others will be answered with the show that airs on FOX and UFC Fight Pass, starting at 4:30 eastern this afternoon.

Here’s our panel with the 2016 records in parenthesis. We’ve also added a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks

  • Josh Nason (48-27; .640) – Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com , WON Twitter guy
  • John Pollock (47-28; .627) – Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • David Bixenspan (46-29; .613) – Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
  • Ryan Frederick (45-30; .600) – WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
  • Consensus picks (37-27; .578)
  • Dave Meltzer (43-32; .573)– Wrestling Observer founder
  • Favorites (43-32; .573)
  • Mike Sempervive (42-33; .560) – Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Front Row Brian (42-33; .560) – MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
  • Mike Sawyer (41-34; .547) – Tough Talk MMA
  • Steve Juon (40-35; .533) – MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
  • Paul Fontaine (37-38; .493) – MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer

Main Event :

Holly Holm (10-1) vs Valentina Shevchenko (12-2)

WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHTS

Holm is the former champion looking to gain a title shot at new champion Amanda Nunes. To do so, she’ll have to get past the elite striking of Shevchenko, who is a former world Muay Thai champion. Shevchenko’s only UFC loss has come to the current champion. The winner here will almost certainly get a future title shot but the question of whether that happens on PPV or on UFC Fight Pass likely depends on who win the fight. Holm got a lot of mainstream press from her victory over Ronda Rousey last year and it’s hard to gauge how that will translate into viewership for this show.

Holm (moderate favorite) – Frederick, FRB, Sawyer, Nason, Juon, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

Shevchenko - Fontaine

Edson Barboza (17-4) vs Gilbert Melendez (22-5) LIGHTWEIGHTS

This should be a great fight. Barboza has won 9 post-fight bonuses in his 15 fight UFC career. Melendez is a former 2-time Strikeforce champion who has also challenged for the UFC title on two difference occasions. Melendez is coming off a year-plus layoff due to a drug test failure and will have something to prove. Barboza is the forgotten contender in the loaded 155 lb division but he looked great in dismantling former champion Anthony Pettis in his last fight and will add his name to the list of potential title contenders with another win here.

Barboza (moderate favorite) – Frederick, Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Fontaine, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

Melendez – FRB, Nason

Felice Herrig (10-6) vs Kailin Curran (4-2) STRAWWEIGHTS

Before the emergence of Joanna Champion and Paige VanZant, Felice Herrig was the most popular fighter in this division. After losing to VanZant in a tough decision last April, Herrig took over a year off and also appeared on the NBC reality show “American Ninja Warrior”. That may have increased her star power and if this show does a better than expected number, that could be a reason why. Curran lost her first two UFC fights, both of which were highly entertaining, before finally scoring a win in her last fight. It’s hard to imagine either of these two unseating the champion but in this emerging division it probably only takes a 3-4 fight win streak to get that title shot. At press time, this fight is a virtual “pick em (or ‘er?).

Herrig – Juon, Fontaine

Curran (very slight favorite) – Frederick, FRB, Sawyer, Nason, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

Eddie Wineland (21-11-1) vs Frankie Saenz (10-3) BANTAMWEIGHTS

Wineland has not fought since losing to Bryan Caraway a year ago and more importantly has just one win since December of 2012. The former WEC champion is still one of the top 135 lb fighters in the world but 32 years old, he could be fighting for his job here. Saenz had his impressive 7 fight win streak snapped at the hands of veteran Urijah Faber last time out and will need a win here if he ever hopes to be considered a serious contender in this division.

Wineland – Frederick, FRB, Fontaine

Saenz (slight favorite) – Sawyer, Nason, Juon, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

Alex Oliveira (14-4-1) vs James Moontasri (9-3) WELTERWEIGHTS

Both of these fighters are former lightweights looking to establish themselves at the higher weight class. Oliveira ran into the buzzsaw that is Donald Cerrone in getting dismantled in his first UFC main event in February, snapping his 3 fight win streak. Moontasri scored a first round KO in his welterweight debut last November after losing 2 of his 3 UFC fights at 155. Both are finishers and this could be show-stealing fight.

Oliveira (moderate favorite) – FRB, Sawyer, Nason, Juon, Pollock, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

Moontasri – Frederick, Fontaine

Action begins with the Fight Pass Prelims at 4:30 pm eastern and moves over to FOX for the final 8 fights at 6 pm. Ryan Frederick will have running play by play of the fights

While you’re waiting, check out the following content, also related to the show:

DFS playbook – Who to  pick, who to avoid

UFC on FOX 20 discussion on the Board, including Ryan Frederick’s extensive preview of the card, along with fighter notes