UFC 241: Previewing the Biggest and Best Fights Set for Anaheim

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2019

UFC 241: Previewing the Biggest and Best Fights Set for Anaheim

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    In the summer heat, UFC 241 will set ablaze to the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on August 17 with a stacked night of action.

    Heavyweights Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic will run it back for heavyweight gold in the evening's main event. Cormier took Miocic's title in their first meeting in July 2018, but history may be difficult to repeat as Miocic has had a full year to prepare to reclaim his gold.

    Nate Diaz returns for a co-main event meeting against Anthony Pettis. Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa fight with a possible title shot on the line on the main card as well, and the remainder of the UFC 241 bill is littered with talent.

    The 13-fight card is the summer's best, and MMA fans will flock as the sport's highest prize is on the line.


    UFC 241 Main Card

    • UFC Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
    • Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz
    • Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
    • Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff
    • Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch

    Preliminary Card

    • Drakkar Klose vs. Christos Giagos
    • Raphael Assuncao vs. Cory Sandhagen
    • Poliana Botelho vs. Maryna Moroz
    • Manny Bermudez vs. Casey Kenney
    • Devonte Smith vs. John Makdessi
    • Kyung Ho Kang vs. Brandon Davis
    • Hannah Cifers vs. Jodie Esquibel
    • Sabina Mazo vs. Shana Dobson

The Main Event: Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic

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    It was thought Cormier would defend his title against Brock Lesnar in 2019. After all, Lesnar came into the cage after Cormier knocked Miocic out at UFC 226 to make the challenge. Instead, Lesnar decided against a return to MMA, per ESPN's Brett Okamoto.

    With Lesnar officially out of the way, Miocic got the rematch he desperately wanted.

    Cormier is a perfect 15-0 at heavyweight. He cruised through Strikeforce's division and won their heavyweight grand prix before coming to the UFC. He debuted against former heavyweight champ Frank Mir and went on to beat Roy Nelson. He was dominant. Then he moved to 205.

    Miocic rose to the top during Cormier's light heavyweight sojourn. He knocked out Fabricio Werdum to break Cleveland's championship curse, and then he broke the UFC record for successful heavyweight title defenses (three). It is not a leap to say that these are two of the best heavyweights to ever step foot in the Octagon. Their resumes are undeniable.

    Last July, Cormier ended Miocic's historic title reign with a first-round knockout. Miocic was doing well with his reach advantage, but Cormier had his moments. Late in the round, they clinched, and it gave Cormier the space to take advantage of a technical flaw. In the post-fight interview in the cage, Cormier explained to Joe Rogan that during film study, he and his team noticed Miocic exited the clinch with his hands low.

    Studying paid off. Cormier's overhand connected flush and earned him the championship.

    But that was over a year ago. Class is back in session come UFC 241.

    This is a special fight.

    Miocic will have learned his mistake and be prepared for the rematch. It makes the second encounter intriguing because both men will have to devise new game plans to execute on August 17. It is a fight all about who can make the right adjustments both entering and during the contest.

    The fight could end in a flash or become an all-time, five-round epic. This is the height of heavyweight technique. Cormier vs. Miocic II is one of the year's most exhilarating bouts.

The Co-Main Event: Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz

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    It is the return of Diaz, and he's right back in the thick of things at welterweight.

    Pettis decided to move to welterweight permanently, and it paid off with a stunning knockout over Stephen Thompson. After mixed results at featherweight and lightweight over the past few years, the Superman punch KO immediately reinvigorated his title hopes.

    Pettis sits as the No. 8-ranked contender at 170 pounds.

    Diaz will look to take it all away.

    Stylistically, it could be argued this is the exact kind of fighter who wilts Pettis. He has folded against pressure fighters who attack the body. Max Holloway and Tony Ferguson both earned TKO stoppages against him. Thus, it is a prime opportunity for "Showtime" to feed all his critics crow and style over Diaz.

    For Diaz, it is a chance to return and show that his star power has not diminished. He has not fought since the second bout against Conor McGregor, when he was one of the sport's biggest stars. After nearly three years away, can he recapture the hearts of the fans? More importantly, can he reclaim his spot among the elite?

    Welterweight is the hottest division in the UFC. Pettis vs. Diaz only expands the possibilities of sensational fights that await fans in this division. The personality clash and in-cage spectacle that awaits between Diaz and "Showtime" will be a sight to behold.

Fight to Keep an Eye On: Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa

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    As much as this spot is typically reserved for an underlying bout, at UFC 241, the third-billed main card bout has to get the yellow highlighter treatment.

    It's too good.

    No. 2-ranked middleweight contender Romero returns to battle one of the hottest prospects in the sport, No. 7-ranked Costa.

    Costa is a perfect 12-0. He is on a five-fight streak of knockouts and has never gone to the judge's scorecards. He looks to be chiseled out of granite, and while other picturesque fighters have fallen, Costa has lived up to the hype. But Romero is incredible himself, defying age and what people think is possible. This is a collision course of two Adonises.

    With Chris Weidman moving to light heavyweight and the upcoming title unification bout between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya, this fight could end up being a title eliminator.

    Costa's last fight was his longest to date at just two minutes, 38 seconds of the second round. Romero's pace and world-class grappling could force him into waters he has never been. But Romero is always looking for a stunning finish. This is a "don't blink or you'll miss it" kind of fight. At any given moment...POW!

    With so much on the line, this could be better than the co-main event.

    This is a massive fight within the division and, on paper, looks to be a clash absolutely no one should miss.

Best of the Rest

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    Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff

    Sodiq Yusuff has been one of the most promising graduates from Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. He is getting another test in the division, this time against someone who will provide some fireworks to make this a possible Fight of the Night contender.

    Gabriel Benitez has had back-to-back impressive performances over Jason Knight and Humberto Bandenay. Benitez vs. Yusuff will provide a spark to this card and elevate the winner to a brighter future within the 145-pound division.

    If Yusuff can start his UFC career off by going 3-0, we may see the company pump more resources into his marketing in an attempt to legitimize the Contender Series and showcase a potential new star.


    Raphael Assuncao vs. Cory Sandhagen

    These are two known properties in the bantamweight division, and it will be a fight with high stakes.

    Raphael Assuncao sits as the No. 3-ranked contender in the division following his loss to Marlon Moraes. A win against Cory Sandhagen puts him right back in title contention.

    On the opposite side of the cage, Sandhagen can force Assuncao out of the top five and assert himself into the title picture as we near 2020.

    It's the old guard vs. the new at UFC 241.


    Poliana Botelho vs. Maryna Moroz

    Both women moved back to flyweight and got themselves back in the win column in their last outings. Now, who can take the next step forward in the developing weight class?

    Maryna Moroz has more Octagon seasoning under her belt, but Poliana Botelho won't wilt under the pressure. This is a key bout in the division as fighters jockey for position. One impressive win can vault them into the upper echelon in a division this fluid.


    Sabina Mazo vs. Shana Dobson

    This is the other flyweight bout to watch at UFC 241. You should keep an eye out for Sabina Mazo.

    Mazo is the former Legacy Fighting Alliance flyweight champion. She entered the UFC with a lot of buzz surrounding her skills after head-kick knockouts built her profile on the regional scene. However, she looked lackluster in a loss to Moroz in March.

    Did she underperform, or was the step up in competition too much? Shana Dobson will answer that question. Dobson has little to lose in this matchup as everyone will be following Mazo.