It has been a tough start to 2017 for the UFC from the standpoint of deep and action-packed fight cards, let alone those that actually delivered upon their potential. 

Blame can be spread to a few different areas, including the UFC's insistence to overload undercards over the final six months of 2016 for cards like UFC 200, 205 and 207, which coincided directly with the takeover from new owners WME-IMG. 

There can also be blame thrown at random happenstance, like the bad luck of UFC 209's co-main event (Tony Ferguson-Khabib Nurmagomedov) falling apart 24 hours before its main event (Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson II) badly underachieved in terms of entertainment. The final reason could just be UFC's current lack of star power thanks to Conor McGregor's hiatus, Ronda Rousey's fall from grace and Jon Jones' suspension. 

The resulting effect of all of the above have conspired to what can be described as a collective lack of buzz -- at least in terms of the positive kind -- for UFC events over the first four months of 2017, both coming into and out of each card. Last weekend's UFC 210 card, for example, nearly lost its main event (Daniel Cormier-Anthony Johnson II) on the scales and saw its co-main (Gegard Mousasi-Chris Weidman) end in controversy. 

But Saturday's UFC Fight Night card in Kansas City, one of the company's quarterly free-TV cards that air on Fox, offers a trio of interesting fights atop the marquee, each offering both a compelling technical matchup and a title implication in play. Here's how the full main fight card breaks down with the latest odds from Bovada.




Demetrious Johnson (c) -700

Wilson Reis +450

Flyweight title

Rose Namajunas -150

Michelle Waterson +120

Women's strawweight

Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza -235

Robert Whittaker +180


Jeremy Stephens -235

Renato Moicano +185


Let's take a closer look at what's at stake and who will come out on top. 

Demetrious Johnson (c) 25-2-1 vs. Wilson Reis 22-6

Reis will finally get his shot at the title after their co-main event slot at UFC 201 in July 2016 fell apart when Johnson pulled out with an injury. Reis, a jiu-jitsu specialist from Brazil, did well to stay busy in the interim, recording a pair of impressive victories, as Johnson waited out the winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" flyweight season.

From a marketing standpoint, the matchup is far from a sexy one for the UFC considering Johnson's limited ability to draw and Reis' limited profile. It's still a strong network television main event, however, with plenty to fight for as Johnson attempts to equal Anderson Silva's UFC record of 10 title defenses. 

Considering how long Johnson has been fighting at an elite level, it's amazing to consider he's still just 30. But a victory puts him one victory closer to making a case as the most dominant champion in UFC history, and one win closer to a possible superfight of sorts against bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt. Both fighters have expressed interest in the bout, with both willing to fight at each other's weight. 

Prediction: It has been a long time since Johnson has been severely challenged or pushed to the limit, which made the limited (and awkward) success had by Tim Elliott in December feel so shocking until Johnson shut him down. The hard-nosed Reis has the potential to make him work on the ground but Johnson is too fast, polished and intelligent. Johnson via unanimous decision

Rose Namajunas (5-3) VS. Michelle Waterson (14-4)

A little more than 10 years ago, Waterson was a ring card girl at an MMA event who became more interested in what was happening inside the cage. Now at 31, she's a late bloomer who could be one more impressive victory away from a title shot. 

Waterson, a former Invicta FC atomweight champion, made a memorable splash in December by dominating Paige VanZant in a headlining role on Fox that doubled as just her second UFC fight. With her marketable "Karate Hottie" nickname and back story as the mother of a six-year-old daughter, the UFC just might have a potential star in Waterson, which makes how she responds in this fight all the more interesting. 

Namajunas has a small handful of strong UFC victories, including an equally impressive dismantling of VanZant, that belie her overall record. At 24, there's also reason to believe we haven't seen the best yet from "Thug," who is a unique and aggressive submission specialist with no shortage of toughness or willingness to trade. 

The problem for Namijunas thus far is she has twice come up short when attempting to step up to the highest level. In 2014, she was thoroughly handled on the ground by Carla Esparza in a battle for the inaugural 115-pound UFC championship. Last July, she came up just short in a game performance against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, losing by split decision, in a fight that instantly catapulted the Polish fighter into her own title shot. 

Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha will face off at UFC 212 in June, but both came up short in title fights against strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2016. Jedrzejczyk, who defends her belt against Jessica Andrade at UFC 211 in May, told Fox Sports on Monday that she expects to face the winner of Saturday's Namajunas-Waterson fight next. 

Prediction: While Namajunas has been in with tough competition through eight pro fights and continues to evolve, she has yet to prove she can come from behind to beat an elite foe. Waterson brings more experience and a ton of determination. This fight should have plenty of ebbs and flows before all is said and done. Waterson via split decision

Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza (24-4) VS. Robert Whittaker (17-4)

If this had been a headliner, you wouldn't hear much complaints. At 37, Souza is doing the best work of his career. Whittaker, meanwhile, just might have next when all is said and done in a loaded 185-pound division. This fight has all the makings to be an explosive one. 

For Souza, there's plenty of motivation to bring forth his best. The former Strikeforce champion is not only on the short list of top-rated middleweights who are overdue for a title shot during current champion Michael Bisping's much-criticized reign, but Saturday marks the final bout of Souza's current UFC deal. A victory would give him plenty of leverage, especially with how many big-name fighters have recently made the leap to Bellator MMA, which is run by former Strikeforce head Scott Coker. 

Whittaker, 26, has looked incredible throughout his current six-fight win streak. The native of New Zealand is unbeaten since moving to middleweight and brings an explosive mix of striking opposite the grappling credentials of Souza.

Prediction: Outside of a debated split-decision loss to Yoel Romero Souza at UFC 194, Souza has been dominant since making his UFC debut in 2013. He has also rounded out his game, becoming a much more dangerous striker in recent years. While Whittaker is strong and dangerous, Souza is far too seasoned to work himself out of a title shot he has fought so hard to close in on. Souza via third-round submission