Peña vs. Shevchenko to top the card in bat­tle of con­tenders on Jan. 28

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke Nick Groke: ngroke@den­ver­post.com or @nick­groke

The two fighters most closely chas­ing Ronda Rousey and ban­tamweight cham­pion Amanda Nunes will meet in Den­ver when Ju­lianna Peña matches up against Valentina Shevchenko in the main event at “UFC on Fox” at the Pepsi Cen­ter on Jan. 28, or­ga­niz­ers said Tues­day.

The na­tion­ally tele­vised card will mark the Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship’s re­turn to Den­ver for the first time since 2012, when Colorado na­tive Ben­son Hen­der­son de­feated Frankie Edgar by a con­tro­ver­sial split de­ci­sion at UFC 150.

The Peña-Shevchenko main event will be the first ma­jor-card women’s matchup in Den­ver.

Shevchenko (13-2), a Kyr­gyzs­tani Muay Thai spe­cial­ist who now fights out of Lima, Peru, rock­eted up the ban­tamweight rank­ings in July when she de­feated Al­bu­querque’s Holly Holm by five-round unan­i­mous de­ci­sion in Chicago.

It was a re­bound vic­tory for Shevchenko, af­ter she lost to Nunes, the cur­rent cham­pion in the di­vi­sion, by unan­i­mous de­ci­sion at UFC 196 in Las Ve­gas. It is Shevchenko’s only UFC loss.

Shevchenko is now the No. 2-ranked ban­tamweight, be­hind the top con­tender, Rousey. Den­ver’s Cat Zingano is No. 6.

Peña (9-2) is ranked No. 3 af­ter her unan­i­mous de­ci­sion vic­tory over Zingano at UFC 200 in Las Ve­gas in July. Peña, who lost the first round to Zingano, had to rally over the fi­nal two.

“I’m just hit­ting my prime,” Peña said af­ter the vic­tory. “Try me right now, bring it on, the world is mine. Ev­ery­body who’s been put in front of me I’ve beaten. So I don’t see any­thing else but the ti­tle.”

Peña, who fights out of Spokane, Wash., has won four fights in a row since join­ing UFC.

Also on the card: Den­ver’s Nate Mar­quardt, a god­fa­ther of Colorado MMA, will take on Mil­wau­kee’s Sam Alvey in a mid­dleweight bout.

It will be Mar­quardt’s first UFC fight in his home­town.

The UFC will an­nounce more fights as they’re stitched to­gether in the com­ing weeks.

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