A breakdown of the fights on the main card of “The Ultimate Fighter 25” Finale card Friday at T-Mobile Arena, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:
Michael Johnson (18-11) vs. Justin Gaethje (17-0)
Line: Johnson minus-165
Storyline: Former World Series of Fighting lightweight champ Justin Gaethje finally makes his UFC debut, and it comes against a dangerous contender. Johnson is an explosive athlete who is capable of handing Gaethje the first loss of his career. The pairing makes a lot of sense because Johnson probably will give Gaethje the kind of toe-to-toe fight he prefers. Both have wrestling backgrounds but like to rely on their striking and use their base to control where the fight takes place. It will be interesting to see if either blinks and shoots for a takedown. Gaethje’s biggest advantage probably will be his leg kicks.
Hill’s pick: Gaethje by fourth-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Gaethje by third-round knockout.
Dhiego Lima (12-5) vs. Jesse Taylor (30-15)
Line: Taylor minus-260
Storyline: Jesse Taylor is the ultimate redemption story coming off a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” filled with fighters seeking a second chance. He won a previous season of the show only to be kicked out of the championship bout after celebrating too hard and causing damage at a Las Vegas casino. He stayed out of trouble this time and will finally get his shot to hoist the trophy. Lima, who is looking to atone for losing the Season 19 championship bout, won’t have much room to operate. Taylor is a veteran who relentlessly pressures his opponents. Expect Lima to spend a lot of time on his back.
Hill’s pick: Taylor by decision.
Fang’s pick: Taylor by second-round submission.
Marc Diakiese (12-0) vs. Drakkar Klose (6-0-1)
Line: Diakiese minus-280
Storyline: A matchup of undefeated prospects with different paths to victory. Diakiese is a dynamic striker with extraordinary power but has a tendency to get sloppy. It hasn’t cost him, but he probably will need to tighten up his attacks as the competition gets more difficult. Klose has a strong wrestling base and showed good kickboxing skills in winning his UFC debut in January. He probably will look to survive an early onslaught and grind Diakiese down to zap his power.
Hill’s pick: Diakiese by second-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Diakiese by first-round knockout.
Jared Cannonier (9-2) vs. Nick Roehrick (7-0)
Class: Light heavyweight
Line: Cannonier minus-380
Storyline: Cannonier bounced back from his first career loss in his UFC debut by winning two straight fights, only to have his winning streak snapped by a loss to Glover Teixeira as he stepped up in competition. Cannonier was expected to fight Steve Bosse, but Bosse was forced off the card this week and Roehrick was signed as a last-minute replacement.
Hill’s pick: Cannonier by first-round knockout.
Fang’s pick: Cannonier by third-round knockout.
Brad Tavares (14-4) vs. Elias Theodorou (14-1)
Line: Theodorou minus-125
Storyline: Tavares, a native Hawaiian who lives and trains in Las Vegas, has found success during his seven-year run in the UFC despite not being able to finish opponents. Eight of his nine wins have gone the distance. His last stoppage was a knockout of Phil Baroni in 2011. The Canadian Theodorou, perhaps better known for his hair and an appearance on “The Amazing Race” than his MMA accomplishments, has won two consecutive fights since suffering the first loss of his career.
Hill’s pick: Tavares by decision.
Fang’s pick: Theodorou by decision.
Jordan Johnson (7-0) vs. Marcel Fortuna (9-1)
Class: Light heavyweight
Line: Johnson minus-235
Storyline: Johnson was an All-America wrestler at Iowa who has cruised to seven straight wins to start his MMA career. He won a unanimous decision over Henrique da Silva in his UFC debut in January. Johnson still needs to improve as a striker, but does a good job of incorporating his wrestling base into his MMA game. Fortuna has fought as light as 185 pounds, but made his UFC debut as a heavyweight in February, scoring a stunning first-round knockout of Anthony Hamilton. Now he returns to light heavyweight, probably his ideal weight class.
Hill’s pick: Johnson by decision
Fang’s pick: Fortuna by decision