A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 223 on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0) vs. Al Iaquinta (13-3-1)
Class: For vacant lightweight title
Line: Nurmagomedov minus 500
Storyline: Iaquinta is incredibly talented and has all the makings of a fighter who could become a champion. This is not that day. He accepted this fight Friday after Nurmagomedov lost his second opponent of the week when Max Holloway was deemed unfit to continue cutting weight by the New York State Athletic Commission. Iaquinta is an athletic striker with power and submission skills. He’s just not on the same level as Nurmagomedov, particularly with no time to prepare. Nurmagomedov is a pressure fighter who always comes forward and probably has the best takedowns and ground-and-pound in the sport. He could stand in front of most opponents and tell them exactly what he plans to do and few could stop him. Nurmagomedov might be the world’s best fighter, and he finally gets a shot at the belt.
Hill’s pick: Nurmagomedov by third-round submission
Fang’s pick: Nurmagomedov by third-round knockout
Rose Namajunas (8-3) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1)
Class: For Namajunas’ women’s strawweight title
Line: Namajunas minus 120
Storyline: Jedrzejczyk laid waste to the strawweight division and constantly talked about her dream of retiring undefeated until she ran into Namajunas in November. The title reign came to an abrupt end with a stunning first-round knockout. Namajunas is out to prove the win was no fluke, particularly with Jedrzejczyk’s insistence on attributing the result of the first fight to a brutal weight cut. Jedrzejczyk was vigilant about her nutrition this time and insists she is in a great place physically and mentally. Namajunas is excited to beat Jedrzejczyk at her best and put an end to this chapter of her career. She has all the tools to have a long title run. Namajunas is explosive in her striking and submissions. Her biggest obstacle was her mindset, and now she has championship confidence.
Hill’s pick: Jedrzejczyk by decision
Fang’s pick: Namajunas by third-round submission
Renato Moicano (11-1-1) vs. Calvin Kattar (18-2)
Line: Kattar minus 120
Storyline: One of these talented featherweights will make a massive statement in the division with a victory. Moicano’s only career loss was against top contender Brian Ortega. Kattar has been on a roll after suffering two losses early in his career. Kattar is a skilled boxer with power. Moicano is lethal on the mat and will look to keep Kattar at bay with his arsenal of kicks, particularly to the legs of Kattar.
Hill’s pick: Moicano by third-round submission
Fang’s pick: Kattar by second-round submission
Zabit Magomedsharipov (14-1) vs. Kyle Bochniak (18-2)
Line: Magomedsharipov minus 700
Storyline: Magomedsharipov has shown why he’s one of the sport’s top prospects with two straight dominant performances since signing with the UFC to run his overall win streak to 10. He has submitted both opponents and earned fight-night bonuses for each performance. Bochniak has alternated wins and losses since joining the organization and is coming off a win in January. Bochniak has proven durable, as he has yet to be finished as a pro. It would be no small feat to keep that streak alive.
Hill’s pick: Magomedsharipov by second-round submission
Fang’s pick: Magomedsharipov by decision
Joe Lauzon (27-15) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (13-3)
Line: Lauzon minus 170
Storyline: Lauzon is an action fighter who is constantly moving forward, often to his own detriment. He has lost three of his past four fights. Gruetzemacher has lost two straight after a 12-fight winning streak, but 11 of those victories came outside the UFC.
Hill’s pick: Lauzon by second-round submission
Fang’s pick: Lauzon by decision