A breakdown of the fights on the main card of Saturday’s UFC on Fox 29 card at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Dustin Poirier (22-5, 1 No Contest) vs. Justin Gaethje (18-1)
Line: Poirier -125
Storyline: There is almost no chance this fight is boring. Gaethje is constantly moving forward and willing to take two shots just to land a big one, while Poirier is one of the most explosive athletes in the division. Gaethje has always acknowledged his style would eventually lead to a loss and it finally happened last time out against Eddie Alvarez. It will be interesting to see how he responds. Poirier would probably have three straight fight-of-the-night bonuses to his credit had his bout against Alvarez not been tainted by a no-contest call after Alvarez landed illegal knees. Still, he is officially 6-1 since moving back to lightweight and on the verge of some big opportunities.
Hill’s Pick: Gaethje by third-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Poirier by fourth-round knockout
Carlos Condit (30-11) vs. Alex Oliveira (17-4-1, 2 No Contests)
Line: Oliveira -210
Storyline: Condit is one of the most accomplished welterweights in history not to win the UFC title, though he did briefly hold the interim belt in 2012. He has been beaten down by many trips to the cage, however. Condit has lost three straight fights and is just 2-6 over his last eight in a stretch that includes a brief retirement. The 33-year-old is just not the same fighter anymore. He was supposed to match up with fellow grizzled veteran Matt Brown, but an injury forced him out of the bout in favor of Oliveira. It’s a much different fight. Oliveira is solid on the mat, but his power is reflected in his 11 knockouts. The Brazilian has won four of his last five, but is coming off a Yancy Medeiros in a wild affair in December.
Hill’s Pick: Condit by decision
Fang’s Pick: Condit by decision
Israel Adesanya (12-0) vs. Marvin Vettori (12-3-1)
Line: Adesanya -235
Storyline: Vettori has actually emerged as a pretty solid prospect at middleweight. He just doesn’t have anywhere near the hype of Adesanya. “The Last Stylebender” came to the UFC with impeccable kickboxing credentials and some of the flashiest strikes in the sport, but he actually showed discipline and strong takedown defense. That is a huge problem for the rest of the division if Adesanya starts to get comfortable in all aspects of mixed martial arts. Vettori is very good on the mat and has power in his strikes. He could prove to be more than just a speed bump for Adesanya, but he’s probably going to have to get the fight to the ground at some point to at least get Adesanya out of rhythm. That might prove to be a difficult task.
Hill’s Pick: Adesanya by second-round knockout
Fang’s Pick: Adesanya by third-round knockout
Michelle Waterson (14-6) vs. Cortney Casey (7-5)
Class: Women’s strawweights
Line: Casey -165
Storyline: Waterson, known as “The Karate Hottie,” may look to get back to those kickboxing roots. She has actually showcased her grappling more than expected in the UFC as a more natural 105-pounder has had to make due against larger opponents because the UFC’s smallest weight class for women is 115. She will once again be up against a bigger and stronger opponent, but one that is very comfortable grappling and in the clinch. Waterson’s best path to victory may be to use a decided edge in speed to force Casey to move around the octagon and find places to pick her apart in the standup.
Hill’s Pick: Waterson by decision
Fang’s Pick: Casey by decision