UFC 241 Results: The Real Winners and Losers
Would it be a victory lap or a detour to a rubber match?
Cormier knocked out Miocic in July 2018 to add the heavyweight title to his mantel alongside the light heavyweight strap, which he later vacated. Cormier was a slight favorite to repeat his performance Saturday in Anaheim, California, although Miocic and his seven-inch reach advantage were by no means DOA.
And then, of course, there's Diaz. Diaz's effortless antihero charisma (and outstanding fight record) generated plenty of buzz during fight week. When was the last time you saw a New York Times profile on an MMA fighter?
It boggles the mind that Diaz was allowed to molder on the shelf for three years. But he's here now, and everyone wanted to know how he'd look following his long absence when he stepped in against fellow welterweight Anthony Pettis.
Those were the top two matchups on the 12-fight slate, and as always, the final stat lines do not reveal all. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 241.
For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the end.
Winner: Stipe Miocic
We have a new UFC heavyweight champion, but it's a familiar face. Stipe Miocic came from behind to knock out Daniel Cormier in the fourth round to recapture the belt Cormier took from him a year ago.
The first round was a clean win for Cormier. The champ went in on a low single that he converted to a slam, then proceeded to land heavy ground strikes as Miocic did his best to ward off what he could.
But if you thought this would be a wrestlefest, think again. Cormier had pretty good hands, with a jab landing particularly stiffly over the course of the evening. There were a few consequential leg kicks as well. In general, Cormier was quicker and more effective early, especially at close range.
But the ex-champ started to turn it around in the third. He seemed to find his range, landing with more combinations and finding a home for a short left hand to Cormier's body.
"I knew I was hurting him," Miocic told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. "His hand was dropping more. I thought, Keep working, keep working, something's gonna open up."
Although he was likely down three rounds to nothing, Miocic had momentum entering the fourth. Those body shots added up, and a huge punch combination led to some big right hands and the finish.
Could a rubber match happen? First, Cormier had to answer retirement questions. The always classy DC told Rogan afterward that he has some thinking to do.
"You don't make decisions based on emotions, but this is a tough pill to swallow," Cormier said. "At 40 years old with so many other opportunities, we need to make an educated decision as to what we're gonna do."
Miocic, meanwhile, might have nudged back ahead of Cormier in the UFC heavyweight GOAT debate. The terrifying Francis Ngannou has said he'd love a rematch with the man who derailed his hype train. There's another pay-per-view headliner right there.
Winner: Nate Diaz
UFC 241 felt a little bit special. It felt the way all MMA cards should feel: like an event.
A huge part of that was thanks to the presence of one Nate Diaz. Social media was crackling with anticipation as Diaz swaggered his way to the cage for the co-main event with Anthony Pettis.
Diaz didn't let anyone down, fighting a vintage—and very smart—contest to best "Showtime" by unanimous decision. Ring rust? Not a chance.
"It's the Nate Diaz army, motherf--kers," Diaz told Rogan in the cage after the fight. "It felt good to be back ... I think I do better in the longer fights."
Like his brother Nick before him, Nate doesn't win big slugfests or jiu-jitsu chess matches. They win wars of attrition. They both run marathons in their non-fighting life, which could explain why they prefer matchups that aren't sprints.
The first round likely went to Diaz, buoyed by a late takedown that saw him thoroughly get the better of Pettis, including two separate back takes. He also showed a smart strategy by clinching up with Pettis, which tired him out and denied him the space he needed to launch that high-octane striking game.
Diaz continued to crowd his opponent in the second and piled up the body shots. Pettis uncorked a few haymakers, though, with a massive head kick appearing to miss by a mere inch.
But the outcome was apparent by the time the final round began. During one sequence, Diaz dropped Pettis with knees and followed it up with ground strikes. It could have easily been stopped. Diaz ultimately went to the ground but overextended on a rear-naked choke again. A still-game Pettis held his own with Diaz on the ground for the remainder of the round, but the die was already cast.
Not a bad return to action after three years. After the judges read the decision, Twitter melted down when Diaz called out his unspoken heir apparent to the title of Biggest Badass in the UFC: Jorge Masvidal.
"Jorge Masvidal had a good last fight. Good last fight," he said, referencing Masvidal's record-setting knockout of Ben Askren. "All respect to the man, but there ain't no gangsters anymore. There ain't no gangster like a West Coast gangster."
Masvidal already said he'd do it. Cue it up. Cue that up right now.
Winner: Yoel Romero
Paulo Costa defeated Yoel Romero by unanimous decision in a back-and-forth affair. Costa appeared to edge the older fighter in output despite fading big time down the stretch, but we have to crown Romero a winner as well. The Cuban Olympic silver-medal wrestler was more than a match for Costa during the course of a surefire Fight of the Year candidate.
The first round contained a sequence where both men absolutely flattened each other with single punches. Costa floored Romero, then Romero got up and crushed Costa. It was that kind of fight.
For the first two rounds, Costa applied constant pressure and displayed a tough chin. This guy is far more than a berserker with a comic-book physique.
The same goes for Romero.
The 42-year-old withstood Costa's withering pace, and in the final stanza, he even surpassed the younger man. He was out-and-out toying with his opponent at the end, pasting the Brazilian with uppercuts that landed hard, even though Costa's chin held up.
The crowd booed the decision for Costa as Romero and his camp leaned on the fence with disbelief. But he and his fans should once again take heart: You have to think a high-profile rematch is a virtual certainty.
Loser: Raphael Assuncao
For a while there, Raphael Assuncao had UFC brass under a bit of pressure.
A consummate professional who keeps his head down and quietly takes care of business: That's Assuncao. That's also, for better or worse, the exact opposite of what the UFC wants in a divisional challenger.
A year ago, Assuncao seemed nigh unbeatable in the bantamweight division. A winner in 11 of his last 12, the only loss he sustained in that run was over TJ Dillashaw, the former champ he had also beaten once before.
Nevertheless, matchmakers passed Assuncao over more than once for less accomplished but flashier alternatives, thanks to his low-tempo, counter-oriented style and soft-spoken demeanor on the mic. He was viewed by many (including me) as the most underrated fighter on the UFC roster.
Then, earlier this year, those same matchmakers must have breathed a sigh of relief when Assuncao lost in his rematch with Marlon Moraes, a talented and exciting fighter who immediately received (and fell short in) a title shot.
On Saturday, Assuncao lost his second straight, this one to a fast-rising and very impressive Cory Sandhagen. Sandhagen is no joke; he's also fairly unknown in the wider MMA community. A clear loss to a lesser-known opponent may be all the justification the UFC needs to relegate Assuncao to the undercard indefinitely, regardless of the greatness he's displayed in his 15-year career.
Winner: Sodiq Yusuff
Sodiq Yusuff is no longer a featherweight with knockout power. He's a knockout artist.
Against Gabriel Benitez, Yusuff was predictively aggressive from the jump, but Benitez held his ground. The Mexican might have had an advantage in Round 1 until he threw—or telegraphed—a clunky left hand and was punished by a streaking comet of a right hook, which landed solidly across his jaw.
The 26-year-old Yusuff is now 10-1 overall and 3-0 in the UFC, with two of those wins coming by knockout. There's a new threat in the deep end of the featherweight division.
Winner: Sabina Mazo
30-24, 30-25, 30-25.
Those are pretty eye-popping numbers. A scorecard like that means the winner put on a lopsided 10-8 performance in two—and in one case, all three—rounds. That was flyweight Sabina "Colombian Queen" Mazo in Saturday's curtain-jerker.
Takedowns, ground-based damage and some heavy shots, particularly from the clinch, kept Mazo in control for the duration over Shana Dobson. It was the first UFC win in two tries for the 22-year-old member of California's well-regarded Kings MMA stable.
Dobson, who first made a name for herself on Season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter, is now 1-2 in the UFC proper.
UFC 241 Full Card Results
Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier by TKO, 4:09, Round 4 (wins UFC heavyweight championship)
Nate Diaz def. Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Paulo Costa def. Yoel Romero by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Sodiq Yusuff def. Gabriel Benitez by TKO, 4:14, Round 1
Derek Brunson def. Ian Heinisch by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Devonte Smith vs. Khama Worthy
Cory Sandhagen def. Raphael Assuncao by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Drakkar Klose def. Christos Giagos by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Casey Kenney def. Manny Bermudez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Hannah Cifers def. Jodie Esquibel by unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Kyung Ho Kang def. Brandon Davis by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Sabina Mazo def. Shana Dobson by unanimous decision (30-24, 30-25, 30-25)
Scott Harris covers MMA and other topics for Bleacher Report and CNN.com.