Welcome to another edition of Get in the Cage for DFS Datalytics. This weekend the UFC has a number one contenders bout between two hungry bantamweights. Valentina Shevchenko will duke it out with Julianna Pena this Saturday night to see who will take on Amanda Nunes next for the title. As we all know, Nunes recently dismantled the former champion, Ronda Rousey just a few weeks ago. Other fighters on this card include the always exciting Donald Cerrone at welterweight and Andrei Arlovski at heavyweight. Bodies will be hitting the canvas often on this card I would think, so let’s get into the action. Let’s Get in the Cage!
Jason Gonzalez (10-3) vs J.C. Cottrell (17-3) – Lightweight (155 lbs)
DK Salaries: Gonzalez – $7,500 / Cottrell – $8,700
Vegas Odds: Gonzalez -145 / Cottrell +125
Odds to Finish: -185 (o 1 ½)
Both of these fighters had rude awakenings as they made their respective UFC debuts in 2016. Jason Gonzalez was knocked out in the first round of his debut fight by Drew Dober back in September. Gonzalez has prior experience competing on the Ultimate Fighter. He too, is very tall for the lightweight division, which could play a factor this weekend. He has some very quick hands, which we could see before he got knocked out in his last fight. Gonzalez has finished all 10 of his victories coming into this bout. Unfortunately, he himself has been finished in the first round of each of his three professional losses. Gonzalez is the favorite this weekend according to Vegas, though is the cheaper fighter by $1,200. I personally would agree with Draft Kings on this one.
J.C. Cottrell, much like his opponent, did not have his debut go his way and was controlled for 15 minutes by veteran Michel Prazeres. I felt bad for Cottrell because he was showing some real promise, but was laid on top of for the majority of the fight. He took that fight on 12 days notice. Prazeres did not do much of anything while on top. His experience and his immense strength won him that fight. Cottrell should have much more room to work in this one. Cottrell has finished 13 of his 17 professional victories and has 11 submissions on his resume. He will be surrendering three inches in reach to his opponent and five inches in height this weekend. Cottrell is certainly the smaller man here. He showed solid scrambling ability as well as grappling for what it was worth. Look for Cottrell to work his way in and get on top at some point. I believe he can pull of a submission in the later rounds.
Fight Prediction: Cottrell – Rd 3 Submission
Alexandre Pantoja (16-2) vs Eric Shelton (10-2) – Flyweight (125 lbs)
DK Salaries: Pantoja – $8,300 / Shelton – $7,900
Vegas Odds: Pantoja +100 / Shelton -120
Odds to Finish: -175 (o 2 ½)
Both of these fighters will be making their respective UFC debuts at fight night. Alexandre Pantoja has proven in recent bouts that he possesses an exceptional ground game. He has recorded rear-naked choke victories in three of his last five bouts, which were all wins. Despite his recent success on the ground, Pantoja does not seem to have a problem standing and trading with his opponents. He is not the most technical of fighters, but he does get the job done. It is important to worth noting that this will be Pantoja’s first MMA fight since May of 2015. He has been on the shelf for quite some time and ring rust will likely play a factor in his overall game this weekend. Pantoja has yet to be finished in his 18 professional bouts and has only tasted defeat twice. His last loss came back in 2010 and has since been on a nine fight win streak.
Eric Shelton, much like his opponent, has yet to be finished in his MMA career through 12 fights. Shelton has finished seven of his 10 victories, which includes five submissions. The submission game appears to be his bread and butter at the moment. He had a very aggressive showing in his time spent on the Ultimate Fighter last year. He was constantly looking for submissions in an attempt to end the fight. Shelton certainly possess a tremendous amount of heart in the cage. His conditioning will be the question mark here for me, however. This is a tough fight in which to pick a winner due to the lack of video on these fighters. Everywhere sees this as a toss up for the most part. Shelton is a much more fresh fighter and I believe the ring rust will be a bit too much for Pantoja’s debut. I will hesitantly side with Shelton here. He could put up a big score with the grappling pedigree he possesses. Don’t expect a finish here. Flyweight’s have incredible durability.
Fight Prediction: Shelton – Unanimous Decision