In this week’s Something Old, Something New we look ahead to UFC on Fox 23 from the Pepsi Centre in Denver, Colorado where Valentina Shevchenko will face Julianna Pena in a Women’s Bantamweight main event which may just crown the new number one contender.
With no returning fighters this week, it’s up to those making the walk to the Octagon for the first time to take centre stage including the two losing The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions semi-finalists and a pair of Light-Heavyweights making big waves on the regional scene.
Alexandre Pantoja (16-2) – Flyweight
A competitor in TUF: Tournament of Champions, Alexandre Pantoja was one of the early favourites for the competition but would crash out in the semi-finals to Shooto Japan champion Hiromasa Ogikubo.
The former RFA Flyweight champion would come up through the ranks of Shooto Brazil and faced Jussier Formiga in a unanimous decision loss in 2010 during their time in the promotion.
Best remembered for his exciting bout with Brandon Moreno in the TUF season premier, the Nova Uniao fighter has plenty to offer to a lacking UFC Flyweight division.
Eric “Showtime” Shelton (10-2) – Flyweight
Also featuring in TUF: Tournament of Champions, Eric Shelton made a mockery of the UFC’s tournament rankings as he progressed to the semi-finals before being beaten by eventual winner Tim Elliott despite his measly #15 rank.
The Caged Aggression champion would become the dark horse of the tournament after he upset both the highly touted Yoni Sherbatov and BJJ guru Ronaldo Candido earning fans along the way with his performances.
Shelton and Pantoja face off in what seems like a delayed third place playoff between the two semi-finalists but both can play a part in rebuilding a struggling division.
Bobby “Nashty” Nash (8-1) – Welterweight
Currently riding a six-fight win streak, Bobby Nash was signed by the UFC after his most recent victory over former WSOF veteran Lewis Gonzalez and will look to get off to winning start against “The Leech” Jingliang Li this weekend in Denver.
Coming from a wrestling background, Nash has slowly improved his striking whilst racking up victories in RFA and Global Knockout, finishing seven of his eight wins inside the distance.
The 26-year-old, who fights out of Fuse MMA in his home state of Michigan, steps in for the injured Yancy Medeiros on three weeks notice to take this opportunity.
Jordan Johnson (6-0) – Light-Heavyweight
After winning the RFA Light-Heavyweight title in December, Jordan Johnson earned his call-up to the UFC and will debut against Luis Henrique da Silva this weekend.
The MMA Lab prospect has remained undefeated so far in his professional career and had finished all of his fights inside the distance until his title win which came by unanimous decision.
Johnson looked dominant in his last fight showing off a good mixture of speed and power for the 205lb division and will need to be on top form to beat his talented Brazilian opponent.
Jeremy Kimball (14-5) – Light-Heavyweight
Despite only being 25-years-old, Jeremy Kimball already has 19 professional fights under his belt for different promotions such as Bellator, RFA and Final Fights. He has fought at both Middleweight and Light-Heavyweight in his career.
With plenty of experience, Kimball has already crossed paths with some talented fighters including a submission win over Chidi Njokuani and a loss to UFC veteran Chris Camozzi.
Making his debut in Denver against Marcos Rogerio de Lima, Colorado native Kimball trains at Shingitai Jujitsu a short distance away in Colorado Springs. He has finished 11 of his 14 career wins and can make an impact with a memorable finish this weekend in front of his home fans.