A breakdown of the fights on the main card of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN-Plus 1 event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Henry Cejudo (13-2) vs. T.J. Dillashaw (17-3)
Class: For Cejudo’s flyweight title
Line: Dillashaw minus 225
Storyline: Dillashaw answered perhaps the biggest question about this fight when he made weight Friday. The bantamweight champion is coming down in weight to 125 pounds to try to become the latest fighter to win two championship belts at the same time. He insists the cut won’t do anything to deplete his power, but he’s in for a challenge against Cejudo, a former Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler. In his last fight, Cejudo dethroned longtime champion Demetrious Johnson. Now he has a chance to knock off another champion in Dillashaw. The future of the 125-pound weight class could be at stake. There have been rumors the division could be disbanded, and Dillashaw winning the belt and returning to 135 would give the UFC an opportunity to do that.
Hill’s pick: Cejudo by decision
Fang’s pick: Dillashaw by fourth-round knockout
Greg Hardy (2-0) vs. Allen Crowder (9-3)
Line: Hardy minus 550
Storyline: Hardy, the beleaguered former NFL star, makes his official UFC debut amid controversy. He has wreaked havoc on opponents with overwhelming power in his first two pro fights just as he had as an amateur, but it’s difficult to look beyond a checkered past that includes a domestic violence incident when he played for the Carolina Panthers. The UFC gave him this platform on a historic fight card because they know he will draw eyeballs and is an intriguing talent. While Crowder has more experience, he will have to avoid Hardy’s power.
Hill’s pick: Hardy by first-round knockout
Fang’s pick: Crowder by first-round knockout
Gregor Gillespie (12-0) vs. Yancy Medeiros (15-5, 1 No Contest)
Line: Gillespie minus 550
Storyline: Gillespie is an elite prospect. He’s a four-time All-American as a college wrestler who pushes an incredible pace in his fights to keep opponents on their heels. He has defensive liabilities largely because of his offensive nature, but it hasn’t been a problem, as nobody has matched his firepower. Medeiros is capable of being the first, but he’s also prone to defensive lapses. This has the potential of being the best fight on the card.
Hill’s pick: Gillespie by second-round knockout
Fang’s pick: Gillespie by second-round submission
Joseph Benavidez (26-5) vs. Dustin Ortiz (19-7)
Line: Benavidez minus 230
Storyline: Benavidez, a Las Vegan, is in an awkward position as an elite contender in a division that might be dismantled. He recently signed an extension with the UFC, even though he’s unsure whether he will be fighting at 125 or 135. As long as there is a flyweight division, he will stay there and continue to put his lofty ranking at risk against lesser opponents because he has defeated most of the contenders. At some point, he’ll lose to one of them. Until it happens, it’s tough to pick against him.
Hill’s pick: Benavidez by decision
Fang’s pick: Benavidez by decision
Paige VanZant (7-4) vs. Rachael Ostovich (4-4)
Class: Women’s flyweight
Line: VanZant minus 260
Storyline: VanZant returns after a year out of action with a renewed focus. She made the move up to 125 pounds in her last fight after enduring several brutal weight cuts to 115 pounds. While she was unsuccessful in her flyweight debut, she is more comfortable at the higher weight and appears set on making a run as a fighter with her acting and reality show appearances put on hold. Ostovich has been in the news after she was the victim of a domestic violence attack by her husband in November. Critics were vocal about the UFC’s decision to put her on a card that includes Hardy.
Hill’s pick: VanZant by decision
Fang’s pick: Ostovich by second-round submission
Glover Teixeira (27-7) vs. Karl Roberson (7-1)
Class: Light heavyweight
Line: Teixeira minus 120
Storyline: Roberson stepped in as a late-notice replacement when Ion Cutelaba was injured and withdrew from the fight. It’s a huge opportunity to fight a former title challenger who somehow continues to remain relevant at 39. Teixeira has started to show signs of decline, losing three of his past five fights, but he still has plenty of power. Roberson fought his way into the organization through Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series and has won two of three since joining the UFC full time.
Hill’s pick: Roberson by decision
Fang’s pick: Roberson by third-round knockout
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.