UFC 241 takes place Saturday night from Anaheim, CA and is headlined by a UFC heavyweight title bout pitting champion Daniel Cormier against challenger Stipe Miocic in what could be one of Cormier’s final MMA bouts. Cormier knocked out Miocic to win the title and Miocic will be looking to avenge that defeat. In other action, Stockton superstar Nate Diaz returns to action for the first time in over three years when he takes on former UFC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. Olympic gold medalist and middleweight title challenger Yoel Romero competes against 12-0 knockout artist Paulo Costa.
Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
Daniel Cormier was the UFC light heavyweight champion when he moved up to fight for the UFC heavyweight title and he knocked out Miocic to add that title as well. Now he defends against the former champion looking to further bolster his impressive resume. Before losing to Cormier, Miocic was the only UFC heavyweight champion to successfully defend the title three times and he is looking to regain his perch.
Round 1. Cormier lands a hard leg kick at the start. Cormier adds two more leg kicks. Cormier fakes a takedown and throws a punch that doesn’t land. Cormier lands a three punch combination and then a two punch combination while Miocic still hasn’t let his hands go. Cormier cracks Miocic with a left hook. Cormier lifts up Miocic and slams him down. Cormier lands some punches from the top and Miocic isn’t able to do much from the guard on the bottom. Miocic looks to stand up in the final 30 seconds. Cormier lands punch after punch in the process. 10-8 Cormier.
Round 2. Miocic throws a few jabs to start and a knee. Miocic lands a nice uppercut. Cormier lands an elbow. They trade heavy punches from close range. Miocic connects with a hard right cross. Cormier answers with a big right hand of his own. They’re both connecting with big shots and it feels like either man could go down from the right punch. Working to Cormier’s advantage is that they’re fighting in close range where Miocic’s reach advantage doesn’t come into play. Miocic stuns Cormier with a late left hand. Close round. 10-9 Cormier.
Round 3. Miocic knocks Cormier back with a straight right hand early. Miocic looks for a takedown but doesn’t come close. Cormier lands a series of straight punches to the right eye. Miocic is clearly having trouble seeing with that eye and so Cormier targets it even more. Miocic gets a takedown with a minute and a half left but Cormier gets back up. Cormier cracks Miocic with three hard punches in the final minute. Another close round. 10-9 Cormier.
Round 4. Miocic lands a jab and Cormier retaliates with a leaping hook that connects more solidly. After two action packed rounds in the second and third, the pace has slowed on both ends. Miocic is repeatedly attacking the body with punches. He’s landing one left hand to the body after another. Miocic follows a left to the body with a right to the head. He stuns Cormier with a right hand and knocks him out with punches up against the cage.
Winner: Stipe Miocic, KO, round 4.
Daniel Cormier appeared to be getting the better of that fight most of the way but Miocic adjusted in the fourth round. He punished Cormier to the body and then finished him to the head. It’s another great win for one of the best heavyweights of all time. Cormier has nothing to be ashamed of; he largely fought a winning fight and he was in there with an excellent opponent who has some natural physical advantages.
Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz
Anthony Pettis has struggled since losing the UFC lightweight title, trading wins and losses in recent years. However, he is coming off a spectacular knockout of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, setting up this fight. Nate Diaz is one of the most well known fighters in the sport and he hasn’t competed since his second bout with Conor McGregor three years ago. Now Diaz returns against an opponent he doesn’t much care for and it’s an open question how he will look after such a long layoff.
Round 1. Diaz moves in with punches but Pettis answers with a few hard counters and Diaz backs off. Pettis lands another big right hand shortly thereafter and tags Diaz with a couple more big punches as Diaz moves in for a clinch. As they break from the clinch, Pettis hammers the body with punches. Pettis lands a high kick. Diaz lands a right hand coming in. Diaz is continuing to move forward but he isn’t letting his hands go like he typically does, a sign Pettis is keeping him at bay. Diaz gets a takedown. Pettis grabs a guillotine choke but cannot get the submission as Diaz pops his head out. Diaz lands some punches from there. Diaz has Pettis’ back but time runs out. 10-9 Pettis.
Round 2. Pettis has success with his boxing early in the second. Diaz is having trouble with his eye, constantly wiping it. Pettis’ combinations look sharp. Diaz gets Pettis by the cage and has some success with some punches and a knee. Diaz grabs the back on the feet and gets Pettis down. Pettis gets up but eats a knee. Diaz lands a strong elbow as well. Diaz then lands some quality punches from close range; he’s coming on. They exchange punches from close range with Diaz getting the best of it late. 10-9 Diaz.
Round 3. Diaz moves right back into close range but Pettis punishes him with some punches and a head kick for the effort. Diaz takes over with punches and rocks Pettis with a knee to the head. Diaz lands another and opens up with punches on a downed Pettis in the corner. It looks like it could be stopped at any moment but Pettis hangs on. Diaz takes Pettis’ back but doesn’t have the body secured and Pettis rolls into top position. Despite being on the bottom, Diaz lands plenty of punches and elbows on a tired Pettis. Diaz reverses and takes top position, opening up with punches. Diaz has the back again and looks for the late rear naked choke. However, Pettis rolls out again. Diaz then looks for a triangle or arm bar at the close. 10-8 Diaz, 29-27 Diaz.
Winner: Nate Diaz, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
That’s a crucial win for Diaz after such a long hiatus, because it sets him up for pretty much any fight UFC and Diaz want. Diaz suggests Masvidal afterwards and that would be a great next matchup for Diaz. It’s also a disappointing loss for Pettis, who continues his inconsistent run in recent years.
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
Yoel Romero is one of the all time freak athletes in the history of MMA. He was a world champion wrestler before entering into the sport at an advanced age and developing into an explosive knockout artist. His only UFC losses came to middleweight champion Robert Whittaker via decision and he’s still going strong at age 42. Paulo Costa at 28 is the much younger man and he has finished every opponent of his professional career. This is by far his stiffest challenge.
Round 1. Costa moves forward. Romero clips him with a hook and then lands a head kick on the button that Costa takes with no problems. Romero looks for a takedown but it is defended. Costa rocks Romero with a shot but as he looks to finish, Romero drops Costa with a punch of his own. Costa is pressing the action backing Romero up and throwing more but Romero is throwing some nasty counters. Costa lands some big punches up against the cage. Romero lands a flying knee and then backs Costa up with big punches looking for a finish. Romero takes a knee to the ground which pauses the action. After the break, Romero throws a series of low kicks. Romero looks for a takedown and eats some punches in response. Romero then fires back with some power punches of his own. Thrilling round. 10-9 Costa.
Round 2. Costa again presses forward and he lands some hard punches to the jaw of Romero early in the second. Costa connects with a big left hook. Costa opens up with punches by the cage and Romero opens his mouth and kind of playfully taunts him. Romero lands a few nice straight punches to keep Costa from advancing. Romero is throwing much more down the stretch after Costa was the aggressor for the first round and a half. Romero has begun sticking out his tongue every time Costa lands a major strike. Romero gets a takedown at the end of the round. 10-9 Romero.
Round 3. Romero lands some solid punches early in the third. Costa answers with a hard kick to the body. Costa is still throwing with a lot of power but he isn’t throwing as often. Romero, meanwhile, isn’t throwing as heavy with his punches but he is throwing frequently. He lands a number of punches to the head, backing Costa up. Costa’s face is now a mess. Romero backs Costa up against the cage and lands some hard punches there. Romero lands a big uppercut and a hook. Both men put their hands behind their backs to taunt. Romero takes Costa down late but Costa gets back up. 10-9 Romero, 29-28 Romero.
Winner: Paulo Costa, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
The crowd absolutely hates the decision, but it’s an understandable one. Costa faded as the fight progressed but he deservedly won the first and he did a lot of damage in the first half of the second as well. Both men merit a lot of praise as that was a fantastic fight that is likely to be referenced for years to come. It’s amazing they were both able to withstand the punishment the other man provided.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff
The Mexican competitor Benitez has gone 5-2 since competing on the Ultimate Fighter Latin America and this is his most high profile opportunity in the UFC. Sodiq Yusuff is 2-0 in the UFC after fighting on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Round 1. Yusuff charges forward and immediately looks to trade in close range. Yusuff lands some big punches and opens up a cut on Benitez. Benitez is clearly having trouble seeing and has his hands very high as a result. After the quick start, Yusuff slows down and both fighters get into a more measured pace. Benitez is having some success with leg kicks and straight punches. Benitez drops Yusuff with a punch and moves in looking to finish but Yusuff recovers well. Yusuff drops Benitez with a blistering counter right hook and lands additional punches on the ground before referee Herb Dean finally steps in for the stoppage.
Winner: Sodiq Yusuff, TKO, round 1.
That was easily the best fight of the night, an action packed round where both men had their moments of success. Yusuff is an exciting fighter to watch with a finisher’s mentality and Benitez made it competitive before taking a wicked counter shot.
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch
Derek Brunson is a respected veteran of the sport, having fought the likes of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Yoel Romero, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Lyoto Machida and Israel Adesanya. His wins have come most often via knockout. Ian Heinisch hasn’t fought that sort of competition but he is 13-1 and hasn’t yet lost in the UFC.
Round 1. Heinisch catches Brunson with a massive head kick. Brunson buckles but somehow is able to get a hold of Heinisch and recover in the clinch. A looping right hand from Heinisch connects well again on Brunson. Brunson shoots for a takedown with a minute and a half left. Heinisch throws some punches on one leg and then a knee to the body. 10-9 Heinisch.
Round 2. Heinisch looks for a takedown but doesn’t get it. Brunson lands a nice combination and Heinisch shoots in again for the takedown. Brunson defends that well. Brunson lands a couple punches and stops Heinisch from going for another takedown. Heinisch has noticeably slowed down. Brunson connects with some additional straight punches late. 10-9 Brunson.
Round 3. Heinisch comes out strong, throwing aggressively. Brunson switches levels and takes Heinisch down, but Heinisch quickly gets back up. Brunson gets another takedown at the midpoint of the round but again Heinisch stands up quickly. Heinisch is throwing wildly while Brunson is relying much more on steady punches up the middle. 10-9 Brunson, 29-28 Brunson.
Winner: Derek Brunson, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Brunson fought a different fight than he often does, conserving his energy and winning late with technique. It wasn’t the most exciting of fights (story of the evening) but it was a good win over a game opponent.
Devonte Smith vs. Khama Worthy
Devonte Smith is by far the biggest favorite on this card. With four straight first round knockouts, he is a feared competitor because of his finishing ability. Khama Worthy has won five straight and is a former training partner of Smith’s.
Round 1. The action is tentative early as the fighters feel each other out. They are throwing leg kicks more than anything. Worthy drops Smith with a left hook and lands some additional punches there until it is stopped.
Winner: Khama Worthy, TKO, round 1.
That’s a big win for Worthy as a massive underdog in his UFC debut. He caught Smith with a very well timed punch and Smith couldn’t recover. As for Smith, that’s a big setback. His performance did not come close to justifying the hype, even before he was knocked out.
Raphael Assuncao vs. Cory Sandhagen
This is an important fight in the bantamweight division. Raphael Assuncao has long been one of the elite fighters in the division, having gone 11-2 in his last 13 UFC fights with his only losses coming to T.J. Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes. Cory Sandhagen has looked great in his four UFC wins and has the opportunity here to move into the top mix of the division.
Round 1. Sandhagen connects well with some early punches. He is mixing them at different angles. Assuncao for his part is countering when he can but Sandhagen’s length makes it difficult for Assuncao to find the optimal range. Assuncao clinches and they grapple for control up against the Octagon fence. Sandhagen lands a flying knee in the final minute. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Round 2. Assuncao catches a Sandhagen low kick and takes Sandhagen to the ground. They scramble for position there with Sandhagen taking top position. Assuncao gets up and then takes Sandhagen down. They again end up in an unconventional position and a scramble ends with them returning to the feet. They again scramble with Sandhagen attacking the leg and eating some punches in the process. Sandhagen has top position and lands a few punches. Yet another scramble ensues with the fighters working through some unusual positions. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Round 3. Sandhagen presses the action on the feet again. Assuncao clinches and looks to take Sandhagen down. Assuncao gets the takedown but Sandhagen promptly stands back up. Assuncao slams Sandhagen down but Sandhagen gets right back up. They trade jabs and then Sandhagen throws a flying knee to the head. 10-9 Sandhagen, 30-27 Sandhagen.
Winner: Cory Sandhagen, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
That was a very important win for Sandhagen. Assuncao is difficult to look good against and it’s the sort of resume builder win that will serve Sandhagen for years to come. Sandhagen is likely get some more big fights in the near future.
Christos Giagos vs. Drakkar Klose
Christos Giagos has won his last two fights and is fighting at home in Southern California. Drakkar Klose is 4-1 in the UFC and has fought a higher caliber of opposition thus far than Giagos.
Round 1. Giagos lands a nice combination early. Klose clinches and attacks the body from there. They eventually break. Giagos then instigates a clinch himself. After some grappling for position, they separate. Klose clinches again late. Klose lands a nice right hand at the close. 10-9 Giagos.
Round 2. Giagos scores a takedown but Klose quickly gets up. Giagos gets another takedown and passes into side control. As Klose tries to get up, Giagos takes the back and looks to lock in a rear naked choke. Klose escapes and returns to his feet. Klose lands some big punches on the feet. Giagos goes for a desperation takedown and then tries to pull guard. Klose lands some big punches from the top on the exhausted Giagos. Giagos is bleeding badly. 10-9 Klose.
Round 3. Klose knocks Giagos off balance with a low kick early. He then goes back to the technique a few more times. Klose attacks the body as well. Giagos fires back including a knee to the head but Klose clearly has more energy. Klose lifts Giagos up, takes his time, and then dramatically drops him backwards to the mat. Klose adds some more punches as Giagos returns to his feet. They exchange at the close. 10-9 Klose, 29-28 Klose.
Winner: Drakkar Klose, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
That was an entertaining fight. Both fighters really emptied out their gas tanks. Klose took over as the fight progressed and picked up the victory as a result.
Manny Bermudez vs. Casey Kenney
Bermudez is an undefeated 25 year-old with three submissions in three UFC bouts. Kenney is 12-1-1 in his own right and won last time out against Ray Borg.
Round 1. Bermudez walks Kenney down and a minute in he clinches and gets a takedown. Kenney looks to attack the leg but he can’t set anything up. It looked like momentarily Bermudez was thinking about an arm triangle choke but he quickly gave up on that. Bermudez is in full guard and he presses Kenney against the cage and attacks with the elbow. As Bermudez postures up, Kenney returns to his feet. Kenney then takes Bermudez down. Kenney lands some punches there before Bermudez gets back up. Tough round to score. 10-9 Kenney.
Round 2. Bermudez shoots for a takedown and they end up in a clinch by the cage. Bermudez pulls Kenney down. He looks for full mount but doesn’t get it. They end up in a weird scramble and Kenney takes top position. He lands some punches from there. Kenney attacks the neck and looks for a choke but he doesn’t have Bermudez’s body secured. Kenney follows with a few elbows from the top. Bermudez gets up and takes Kenney’s back momentarily but Kenney gets out of that and drops down a punch at the close of the second. 10-9 Kenney.
Round 3. Kenney uses a trip takedown but Bermudez quickly sweeps and takes top position for himself. Bermudez goes for a guillotine choke from the top but he doesn’t get it. Bermudez lands a few punches from the top. Bermudez prevents a sweep and lands additional punches at the close. 10-9 Bermudez, 29-28 Kenney.
Winner: Casey Kenney, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
That was a quality win for Kenney against a dangerous opponent. The grappling was a high level throughout the bout.
Hannah Cifers vs. Jodie Esquibel
Hannah Cifers is 9-3 and coming off a split decision win over Polyana Viana. Jodie Esquibel is 6-5 professionally but has lost three in a row, her only UFC bouts.
Round 1. Cifers lands a few punches at the start. Esquibel goes for a takedown but it is blocked. Cifers lands a hard right hand, likely the best shot of the fight thus far. Esquibel throws a few high kicks but nothing lands too cleanly. Esquibel has another takedown blocked. Cifers lands a leg kick and blocks another takedown. 10-9 Cifers.
Round 2. After repeated efforts, Esquibel finally secures a takedown. She lands a few punches but then is quickly stood up. Cifers then gets a takedown and lands a series of punches there before Esquibel gets back up. Esquibel then gets a takedown. Cifers attacks the arm from the bottom but doesn’t come close to an arm bar. Cifers uses an omoplata to stand back up. Esquibel throws a few kicks there. 10-9 Cifers.
Round 3. Both fighters are throwing kicks more than anything, but the pace is slow. Esquibel gets a takedown at the midpoint of the round. Esquibel isn’t terribly active on the ground and they are stood up again. Esquibel gets a takedown late but Cifers rolls through and lands some punches at the end. 10-9 Cifers, 30-27 Cifers.
Winner: Hannah Cifers, unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-27).
Cifers consistently landed the better strikes in that one.
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Brandon Davis
Kang is 4-2 (1 NC) in the UFC with three of those victories coming via submission. Davis is 2-3 in the UFC since winning on Dana White’s Contender Series and he will be looking to build on the momentum from his last win over Randy Costa by submission.
Round 1. Kang’s striking looks crisp early. They clinch and Davis lands a nice knee on the break. Davis lands a few hard leg kicks and he drops Kang with one. Kang gets back up but Davis keeps attacking the leg. Kang drops Davis with a punch as Davis is throwing one of those kicks and he keeps Davis from standing back up. Davis quickly moves out of half guard into full mount but Davis then re-secures half guard. Close round. 10-9 Kang.
Round 2. Davis looks to attack the arm but cannot secure it and ends up on the bottom on the ground again. They are by the cage and Kang has to focus initially on keeping Davis from standing up. He does so but eats a hard Davis upkick and Davis gets up. Back on the feet, the fighters engage at a pretty frantic pace. Kang knocks out Davis’ mouthpiece with a hard punch. The striking is pretty wild open but neither man is able to land a decisive blow. 10-9 Davis.
Round 3. Davis opens up with a number of kicks to the leg but he slips and Kang takes top position on the ground. Kang has side control. The fight is stood up relatively quickly from side control but Kang takes Davis right back down and has side control again. Davis is able to stand up again and is aggressive with his striking but that allows Kang to get another takedown. Kang this time throws more from the top inside Davis’ guard. 10-9 Kang, 29-28 Kang.
Winner: Kyung Ho Kang, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Kang’s takedowns were likely the difference in a close decision that could have gone either way. It was a competitive but not particularly exciting bout.
Sabina Mazo vs. Shana Dobson
UFC 241 kicks off with a women’s flyweight bout. Colombian Sabino Mazo is coming off her first career loss in her UFC debut and is now 6-1 professionally. Shana Dobson is 3-2 and is also looking to rebound from a defeat.
Round 1. Mazo opens with a number of kicks. She hurts Dobson with a kick to the body and Dobson backs up against the cage. Mazo elects to secure a takedown on the hurt Dobson. Mazo lands some punches and elbows from the top as Dobson recovers. Dobson attempts a sweep but cannot fully pull it off and Mazo goes back to work with elbows. Dobson works back to her feet with a minute left. Mazo responds with a few knees to the body and takes Dobson back down. Mazo has full mount and lands a series of punches from the top. Dobson just holds on until the close. 10-8 Mazo.
Round 2. Dobson again opens with some kicks. The fighters clinch up against the cage and Mazo lands some knees from that position while controlling Dobson’s head. Dobson answers with a couple of elbows. They trade knees. Mazo scores another takedown. From half guard, Mazo looks to pass into side control or full mount. Instead, Dobson is able to return to her feet. Dobson throws a few wild punches looking to turn the tide with something big. 10-9 Mazo.
Round 3. Dobson again looks to land a home run punch and Mazo tries to keep her at bay with the jab. Mazo also mixes in some kicks. Dobson connects with a significant right hand around two minutes in but Mazo is landing much more. Mazo attacks with a series of knees to the body and then the head. Dobson is not responding well to this pressure. Mazo is landing knee after knee to the head. Mazo gets a late takedown and lands repeated punches and elbows from there. 10-8 Mazo, 30-25 Mazo.
Winner: Sabina Mazo, unanimous decision (30-25, 30-24, 30-25).
Mazo dominated that fight pretty much from beginning to end, overwhelming Dobson on the feet and on the ground. It was a performance that suggests Mazo could be a force as she gets older and improves. For Dobson, it’s a disappointing setback and one that could spell the end of her UFC tenure.