UFC Denver
UFC Denver Team Plus Predictions.

UFC Denver marks the promotion’s return to Colorado this weekend with their second card of 2017 which includes a women’s bantamweight title eliminator and a seemingly 50/50 welterweight clash between Donald Cerrone and Jorge Masvidal.

After UFC Phoenix and BJ Penn’s disastrous return against Yair Rodriguez, there is only one member of Team Plus who has a perfect score. And yes that genius, that mercurial talent is, of course, me Seán Ryan.

Current Standings:

Seán: 4-0

Andreas: 3-1

Rob: 2-2

Stuart: 2-2

Stephen: 2-1*

Note: Winning method will be used as a tie-breaker if everything is even at the end of the year.

*Stephen did not make a full set of predictions for Event 1.

UFC Denver Main Card Picks (2017, Event 2)

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena:

Rob: In my weekly feature Head 2 Head (cheap plug) the statistics show that Julianna Pena came out on top in all but two categories. Since we began the feature more often than not stats have been correct so I’m going to keep the faith with them. I believe if she can avoid Valentina Shevchenko’s world class striking she will be able to take her Russian opponent down, control the fight on the ground and grind out a decision at UFC Denver.

Pena by Decision

Andreas: I’m actually surprised my colleagues are giving Pena so much love in this fight. The 27-year-old has been mightily impressive thus far in her UFC career, the wins over Jessica Eye and Cat Zingano showed her ability to grind it out against high class opposition, but I can’t help but feel she relies too heavily on her grappling. 

With so much hyperbole in current mixed martial arts promotion, there is no exaggeration when it comes to Shevchenko’s credentials as an elite striker. Amanda Nunes had the correct mixture of striking and grappling when she fought “The Bullet” but Pena will definitely struggle to mix it up with Shevchenko on the feet. I’m expecting Valentina to use her range and pick her moments, similar to her tactics in the Holly Holm fight, and claim a decision win at Denver.  

Shevchenko by Decision

Seán: Unlike my soon to be Scottish podcast co-host I am not on the Shevchenko bandwagon. She lost the only fight where she was ever in trouble of being taken down against the current champion Nunes, but after beating Holm everyone thinks she’s the best in the division.

I remain unconvinced by “The Bullet’s” capabilities on the ground and if ever there was someone to test it that’s Pena. “The Venezuelan Vixen” is on a tear at 135 and should she beat Shevchenko she is next in line for that title shot. Pena will land the takedown and finish the fight with some ground and pound late in the fourth.

Pena by KO/TKO

Stuart: I’ve been on the Shevchenko bandwagon for a while now and I have to back her here despite the disadvantages on the ground. Pena will start well but fade as “The Bullet” just keeps on coming well into the later rounds but the tough Venezuelan should survive…just.

Shevchenko by Decision

Stephen: In a highly contested main event, two of the elite women’s 135lber’s containing two opposite fighting styles will face one another. Shevchenko is the technical cautious counter-striker against the brawler in Pena.

Pena has stormed her way through the division since coming back from injury, but Shevchenko’s ability to keep the distance as well as successful counter striking could work against her as she looks to press forward. Pena has had great success with her style but I believe her opponent’s superior technical stand up will come into play; as Pena tires and come inside Schevchenko should pick her off landing strikes to help her get the win.

Schevchenko by Decision

Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal:

Rob: Some people are claiming that this is another win at welterweight for Donald Cerrone over former street fighter Jorge Masvidal, but I’m not convinced that it will be a walk in the park for Cowboy. Since his street fighting days ‘Gamebred’ has transitioned into a true mixed martial artist and now possesses refined striking and a solid ground game which has made him one of the emerging talents of the division.

Despite Masvidal’s the evolution I believe Cerrone will get the nod and claim a decision win.

Cerrone by Decision

Andreas: Cerrone has looked remarkable since moving up to welterweight, his range of movement in incredible and he has finished EVERYONE. “Gamebred” often showcases excellent head movement and is more of a counter striker, which may play into his hands if Cerrone presses forward like he did against Matt Brown.

Overall, though, I feel both men will cancel each other out, Cerrone will struggle to find his range with an elusive Masvidal. We’ve seen the Miami native be on the receiving end of numerous close decisions in the UFC and with the Denver State Athletic Commission not yet adopting the new unified rules, I fear that once again Masvidal may fall victim to his own style. 

Cerrone by Decision

Seán: Cowboy is on a damn roll unlike anyone bar Damien Maia at 170. It’s going to take something special to stop the Denver native in his backyard and while I’m a big fan of Masvidal I can’t see him doing it.

Cowboy by KO/TKO

Stuart: I’m all over the place with this one. Monday and Tuesday, I was for “Cowboy” but after rewatching some footage, I can’t help but feel this could just as easily go to Masvidal. Surely with Cerrone’s schedule, his steam must run out somewhere so Masvidal it is.

Masvidal by KO/TKO

Stephen: Cerrone looks to have found where he is most comfortable which has reflected in his most recent performances. His free flowing striking style seems to be developing with every bout which Brown has most recently experienced. This isn’t the fight Cerrone would have been hoping for with ranked 12th Masvidal sitting 7 places below him in the rankings, but Cowboy isn’t one to turn down a fight.

Cerrone’s striking is one of the cleanest in the division and I can’t see many areas where Masvidal prevails during this fight. Cerrone will continue to cement himself as a top competitor and a win on Saturday should see him vs one of the top three in the division.

Cerrone KO/TKO

Andrei Arlovski v Francis Ngannou:

Rob: I could get egg on my face here with this one but I’m going to jump on the hype train and pick Ngannou.

Ngannou by KO/TKO

Andreas: It may just be because of the lack of depth at Heavyweight, but I’m definitely buying into the push being given to Ngannou right now.

The Frenchman proved a superior strength advantage when he bullied Anthony Hamilton and showed great resilience to match Curtis Blaydes.

MMA Factory training partner Karl Amoussou predicted to MMA Plus that Ngannou will get the knockout at UFC Denver and with the wobbly chin of Arlovski, I can certainly buy into that.

Ngannou by KO/TKO

Seán: This will be hard to watch not hard to pick. Ngannou will run through the former champ.

Ngannou by KO/TKO

Stuart: This could be a sad fight to watch for the many fans who got to see Arlovski in his heyday, but that’s the cycle of the sport. The old guard fall as the new breed rises and Ngannou will put his name in the heavyweight title conversation with a dominant performance at UFC Denver.

Ngannou by KO/TKO

Stephen: Rising prospect Ngannou has the opportunity to secure his first victory over a top ten opponent in the form of former champion Arlovski.

The Frenchman is a breath of fresh air to the static heavyweight division and has currently disposed of anyone in his path. This is by far his biggest test with “The Pitbull#2 being the best striker he has fought however I see Ngannou being too powerful for the 37-year-old; his impressive use of combinations and all round athletic ability should help in getting the win at UFC Denver.

Ngannou KO/TKO

Alex Caceres v Jason Knight:

Rob: I’m always in two minds whenever Alex Caceres steps into the Octagon. Will we see the Caceres that dominated Cole Miller and Sergio Pettis? Or will we see the “Bruce Leeroy” who took on Yair Rodriguez and Francisco Rivera? I’m learning towards the latter and picking Jason Knight who just seems to be able to get it done whoever he faces. I see a decision in Knight’s future.

Knight by Decision

Andreas: We’ve not really seen it in the UFC, but looking at his career on the regional scene, Knight has a very good submission game. Caceres; who also likes to grapple, is the perfect stylistic opponent for Knight to show this against.

Caceres has gleaming holes in his defensive ground game and the young Knight should be able to use his frustrating ground game to get the win at UFC Denver.

Knight by Submission

Seán: This is a weird fight and it all depends on what Caceres shows up. I’m going to go against the grain of my esteemed colleagues and go for “Bruce Leeroy” in this one. He’s showing more consistency of late and was unlucky not to pip Rodriguez.

Caceres by Decision

Stuart: I might get sh-t for this choice as he’s not the most popular of fighters, but I like Knight and think he will continue to prove people wrong against one of UFC’s most overrated fighters in Caceres at UFC Denver. Knight’s tough as old leather and everyone knows I like the never say die attitude of the guys training under Alan Belcher.

Knight by (close) Decision

Stephen: Caceres entered the UFC early on with massive potential but has endured an inconsistent time in the UFC. He is a creative fighter who leaves little to the imagination, however, does lack a strong form of defence.

His opponent Knight didn’t have the easiest start to his UFC career so I wouldn’t judge him by that. He fights with a lot of pressure and enjoys dirty boxing as well as being a submission specialist, stamina could prove to be his downfall but if keeps the tempo going throughout the fight I see Knight wearing his opponent down and potentially securing a submission victory which has proved to be an Achilles heel of Caceras.

Knight by Submission

Will Sean remain top of the Team Plus 2017 UFC Picks leaderboard? Find out at UFC Denver, Saturday night on BT Sport 2.