A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 213 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2)
Class: For Nunes’ women’s bantamweight title
Line: Shevchenko minus-120
Storyline: These two fought as top contenders a year ago, but a lot has changed. Nunes survived a Shevchenko onslaught in the third round of the first matchup, then defeated Miesha Tate to win the belt and pummelled Ronda Rousey in December to solidify herself as a star. Her confidence is soaring, and it has been evident in the octagon and in interviews and public appearances. Shevchenko has been motivated to avenge the loss and believes she has taken a huge step forward with two main event victories in the past year. Nunes again will look to take out Shevchenko early, and the challenger should have the edge the longer the fight goes. If Shevchenko gets out of the first round, she has to like her chances of winning the belt. She also has an extra 10 minutes this time because it’s a title bout, which could be a significant factor.
Hill’s pick: Nunes by second-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Shevchenko by decision.
Yoel Romero (12-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (19-4)
Class: For interim middleweight title
Line: Pick ’em
Storyline: The top two contenders in the division figured they would have to wait for champion Michael Bisping to fight former welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre before they got a chance at the belt. When that fight again was postponed, an interim belt was created. It’s possible these are the top two middleweights anyway. Both would be significant favorites over Bisping in a unification bout. Whittaker might not love the social media-driven nickname “Bobby Knuckles,” but it fits and most likely will stick, as his fists are dangerous weapons. He is 6-0 with four knockouts and four bonuses since moving up to middleweight in 2014. Romero is still an elite athlete at age 40. The Olympic silver medalist still has a strong wrestling base, though he has knocked out six opponents among his eight straight wins since signing with the UFC. Romero gets criticized for a lack of cardio, even though he has recorded five knockouts in the third round.
Hill’s pick: Romero by third-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Whittaker by decision.
Daniel Omielanczuk (19-7-1, 1 No Contest) vs. Curtis Blaydes (7-1)
Line: Blaydes minus-700
Storyline: Anyone who started to question Blaydes as a legitimate prospect after he lost his UFC debut to Francis Ngannou might want to reconsider. Blaydes has looked impressive since then, and Ngannou has been better than expected. This is a showcase bout for Blaydes against a quality opponent who has struggled in his past two fights. Omielanczuk, who had a three-fight winning streak in the UFC before his recent slide, is skilled on the ground and will try to get the fight to the mat to neutralize Blaydes’ power.
Hill’s pick: Blaydes by first-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Blaydes by second-round knockout.
Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1) vs. Alistair Overeem (42-15, 1 No Contest)
Line: Overeem minus-130
Storyline: This is one of the stranger trilogy fights in MMA history. Werdum defeated Overeem in 2006 when they were heavyweight stars in famed Japanese organization Pride, winning by submission in the second round. Five years later, Overeem won a unanimous decision in one of the most uneventful fights in Strikeforce history. Overeem is one of the most athletic heavyweights in the world and has the power to end the fight from almost any position. Werdum will look to avoid the clinch, where Overeem can be dominant with his knees.
Hill’s pick: Overeem by second-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Werdum by third-round submission.
Anthony Pettis (19-6) vs. Jim Miller (28-9, 1 No Contest)
Line: Pettis minus-235
Storyline: Pettis admits he panicked by dropping down to featherweight for his past two fights after losing three straight at 155 pounds. He’s back where he belongs and was once a champion who appeared to be destined for stardom. He’s lost four of his past five fights and has no easy task in Miller, one of the UFC’s toughest and most durable fighters, but Pettis is far more athletic and dynamic in his attacks. Pettis will look to create space and not let Miller tie him up and frustrate him. If Pettis stays out of the clinch and off his back, he should be able to exhibit the type of explosion that had him on top of the MMA world two years ago.
Hill’s pick: Pettis by second-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Miller by third-round submission.