A breakdown of the fights on the main card of Saturday’s UFC on Fox 24 card at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Demetrious Johnson (25-2-1) vs. Wilson Reis (22-6)
Class: For Johnson’s flyweight title
Line: Johnson -800
Storyline: Johnson is the best all-around fighter competing. It’s fair to question the level of competition, but he has taken on all comers and dispatched every challenger. He has a chance to equal Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive UFC title defenses should he get through Reis and there’s little reason to believe he won’t. Reis has never knocked out an opponent so the possibility of one big punch changing the complexion of the fight appears remote. While Reis is more than capable on the ground, the challenge will be getting Johnson into uncomfortable positions. He’s so consistent in everything he does and will likely go onto another victory.
Hill’s Pick: Johnson by decision
Fang’s Pick: Johnson by fourth-round knockout
Rose Namajunas (6-3) vs. Michelle Waterson (14-4)
Class: Women’s strawweight
Line: Namajunas -125
Storyline: Waterson became the division’s darling when she returned from a long layoff and spoiled a showcase bout for Paige VanZant in December. The UFC has put a big marketing push behind “The Karate Hottie” going into this fight and has high hopes for her as a fresh face in the division. Namajunas, however, will be a major step up in competition. She was on the verge of a title shot before a split-decision loss to top contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz in July and is among the most talented fighters in the division. Her athleticism and creativity on the ground may be too much for Waterson.
Hill’s Pick: Namajunas by second-round submission
Fang’s Pick: Namajunas by third-round submission
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (24-4, 1 No Contest) vs. Robert Whittaker (18-4)
Line: Souza -225
Storyline: Whittaker could be one of the elite contenders in the division for the next decade. Souza is at that level. Whittaker’s only chance is to stay on his feet as long as possible and land something big. Souza is one of the best submission fighters in the sport. He has honed his craft so a fight is all but over once it hits the mat. Whittaker should be able to find a rhythm when they exchange on the feet, but the fight is likely to go to the ground. It’s a lot to ask for Whittaker to try to win a fight while being so conscious of staying up.
Hill’s Pick: Souza by second-round submission
Fang’s Pick: Souza by second-round submission
Jeremy Stephens (25-13) vs. Renato Moicano (10-0-1)
Line: Stephens -175
Storyline: Stephens is tough and has exceptional knockout power for the division. He also possesses decent enough wrestling skills to dictate the fight. Moicano is talented and improving, but isn’t overly threatening either in the standup or on the ground. While Moicano has a chance to keep the fight on the outside and attack Stephens with jabs and leg kicks, Stephens has seen it all in the sport. His losses at 145 pounds have come against the division’s elite and Moicano isn’t at that level yet.
Hill’s Pick: Stephens by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Stephens by decision