UFC 241 is almost upon us, taking place this weekend (Saturday 17th August 2019), at the Honda Centre in Anaheim, California. It’s a card that has many MMA fans buzzing, with three huge fights at the top of the card. We’ll see Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero finally face off after some all of the USADA drama and cancelled bouts. We’ll finally see the return of Nate Diaz for the first time in just shy of three years, as he takes on Anthony Pettis, in what could easily be one of the best stand and bang fights we’ll see for the rest of this decade. Finally, we’ll see the rematch that most fans didn’t think would happen. Champ Champ, Daniel Cormier will defend us UFC Heavyweight Championship against former champion, Stipe Miocic.
If you aren’t excited for those three fights, are you really a UFC fan?
If you aren’t excited for those three fights, look away now, because the remainder of the card won’t will you with much hope. There aren’t a huge number of fighters on this card that ‘casual’ fans will recognise, however the prelims can often be one of the most entertaining parts of a fight card – as young fighters look to make a name for themselves by brutally knocking out their opponents.
Heavyweight: (Champion) Daniel Cormier (22-1-0 1NC) vs Stipe Miocic (18-3-0)
This is a rematch that I wasn’t sure we would ever see. After defeating Miocic in their first bout, and claiming the UFC Heavyweight title, Cormier had a faceoff with former champion Brock Lesnar, with the UFC attempting to set up a bout between the two stars in what would potentially be Daniel Cormier’s last fight before retirement.
That fight didn’t come to fruition as quickly as any involved party would have liked, and Daniel Cormier took a last minute bout against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 in November, saving the card from having no real main event. Cormier won the fight comfortably, however he picked up some injuries while doing so, which have kept him on the shelf from that point onwards – missing his planned retirement date in March, before his 40th birthday.
In the meantime, while Cormier has defended his title once, Miocic has not stepped back into the Octagon following his loss to DC in July last year. The former champion has been campaigning for a rematch, from the moment his head stopped bouncing on the canvas. Finding the notion of Brock Lesnar returning for a title fight outright insulting (and rightfully so), Miocic also protested when DC defended the belt against Lewis, claiming that he had a better claim to a title fight – something I’m not entirely sure was true at the time.
Either way, Miocic has eventually gotten what he wanted to badly. On August 17th, he will step into the cage with one of the greatest fighters of all time, looking to reclaim his gold. It’ll be interesting to see if either fighters takes a different approach to their first fight (which you can watch below). Cormier is well known for his wrestling abilities, however Stipe is no slouch on the ground. We also saw in their last fight that Daniel Cormier has legitimate knockout power at heavyweight, and it’s something that Miocic could be far more weary of heading into this second bout.
This could be the last time we ever see DC step into the Octagon, and for all of the controversy that has followed his career, it cannot be disputed that the man is one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. Could we see him take one or two more fights, if he beats Miocic? Could he aim to tie his opponent for the most defences of the UFC Heavyweight title? Either way, if he says around or if he retires, Daniel Cormier will remain a legend of the sport.
Prediction: Daniel Cormier
Welterweight: Anthony Pettis (22-8-0) vs Nate Diaz (19-11-0)
The more I think about this fight, the more excited I get about it. Just casting my mind back a few months, to Pettis’ knockout of Stephen Thompson. His return to the welterweight division, and an emphatic return at that. He isn’t afraid to stand and throw down in the middle of the Octagon, and neither is his opponent – the returning Nate Diaz.
These two men know how to fight, and fight is exactly what they will do. If this fight makes it through all three rounds to the judge’s scorecards, I’ll be amazed. Even if this fight doesn’t make it out of the first round, it has potential to be the fight of the year.
That being said, I fully expect Pettis to smoke Diaz. While Nate is an enigma in the sport, and seems to have gathered something of a cult following, it has been two years since he last set foot in the Octagon. Not only has it been two years since his last MMA fight, but in that gap ‘Showtime’ has fought six times, against six of the toughest fighters on the planet.
These two will put on a show, and hopefully we’ll see more of Nate Diaz in the not too distant future, however I’d be surprised if he managed to pull out the victory this weekend.
Prediction: Anthony Pettis
Middleweight: Yoel Romero vs Paulo Costa
I have no idea which way this fight is going to do.
Will it even go ahead? Both men are genetic freaks, and I have no idea how they manage to make weight and still be THAT shredded. With USADA in place, we can be fairly confident that neither man is using PED’s. I just cannot fathom it.
I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if one, or both of them missed weight for this fight. It’s something that Romero has been struggling with for a while now, and I do think he should move up to light heavyweight after this fight.
However, all of that being said, this could be one of the most interesting matchups we’ve seen in a long time. Costa can almost come across as a younger version of Romero, albeit without the wrestling credentials. Both men possess frightening amounts of power and speed, both men can take a punch, and neither are afraid of taking it to the ground. The real key here, could be stamina. Yoel Romero has gone through two, five round wars with Robert Whittaker in recent times, and has proven that he has one of the best gas tanks in the game. I’m not sure the same is true for Costa.
He hasn’t been challenged too much into the later rounds so far in his 12 fight career, and it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts if that is the case on Saturday. Does he have the conditioning to take on the pace of Yoel Romero over three rounds? Only time will tell. But either way, this could be a huge fight for the division. If Costa come out victorious, he rockets himself to the top of an already crowded middleweight division. If Romero wins… what is next for him? He had a second crack at Whittaker in his last fight, which I would suggest that he actually won. Is there a case for a third fight between the two, if Whittaker retains against Adesanya? Potentially. Is there a case for Romero to get another title shot if he beats Costa and Adesanya becomes the undisputed champ? Potentially. However the big issue for Romero in either situation, is making weight for a title fight. I think it’s time for him to move up, and I’d love to see him take on Jon Jones at 205. What a fight that would be.
Prediction: Yoel Romero
Featherweight: Gabriel Benitez (21-6-0) vs Sodiq Yusuff (9-1-0)
Prediction: Sodiq Yusuff
Middleweight: Derek Brunson (19-7-0) vs Ian Heinisch (13-1-0)
Prediction: Ian Heinisch
Lightweight: Devonte Smith (10-1-0) vs Khama Worthy (14-6-0)
Prediction: Devonte Smith
Bantamweight: Raphael Assuncao (27-6-0) vs Cody Sandhagen (11-1-0)
Prediction: Cody Sandhagen
Lightweight: Christos Giagos (17-7-0) vs Drakkar Klose (10-1-1)
Prediction: Drakkar Klose
Bantamweight: Manny Bermudez vs Casey Kenney
Prediction: Manny Bermudez
Women’s Strawweight: Hannah Cifers (9-3-0) vs Jodie Esquibel (6-5-0)
Prediction: Hannah Cifers
Bantamweight: Kang Kyung-ho (15-8-0 1NC) vs Brandon Davis (10-5-0)
Prediction: Kang Kyung-ho
Women’s Flyweight: Sabina Mazo (6-1-0) vs Shana Dobson (3-2-0)
Prediction: Sabina Mazo
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