Matches to Make for Winners and Losers from UFC 241
UFC 241 came to Honda Center in Anaheim, California, with a trio of bouts lining the main card that would make any combat sports fan giddy with excitement.
In Saturday's main event, Stipe Miocic reclaimed the UFC heavyweight title with a fourth-round knockout of Daniel Cormier. Nate Diaz returned in style with a 15-minute decision victory over Anthony Pettis. The other marquee bout was one of 2019's best, as Paulo Costa narrowly edged Yoel Romero to inch closer to a middleweight title shot.
Those bouts delivered everything and the kitchen sink.
But now it's time to look into the future. What comes next for every participant on the UFC 241 card?
Grab your notebooks. It's time to play matchmaker. These are the matches to make following UFC 241 in Anaheim.
Preliminary Fights Quick Hits
Sabina Mazo def. Shana Dobson by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-24, 30-25).
- Shana Dobson vs. Melinda Fabian
- Sabina Mazo vs. Justine Kish
Kyung Ho Kang def. Brandon Davis by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
- Brandon Davis vs. Vince Morales
- Kyung Ho Kang vs. Ricky Simon
Hannah Cifers def. Jodie Esquibel by unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-27).
- Jodie Esquibel should be cut from the roster.
- Hannah Cifers vs. Ashley Yoder
Casey Kenney def. Manny Bermudez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
- Manny Bermudez vs. Nohelin Hernandez
- Casey Kenney vs. Raoni Barcelos
Drakkar Klose def. Christos Giagos by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
- Christos Giagos vs. Darrell Horcher
- Drakkar Klose vs. Gregor Gillespie
Khama Worthy def. Devante Smith by TKO at 4:15 of the first round.
- Devante Smith vs. Rodrigo Vargas
- Khama Worthy vs. Joel Alvarez
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch
Derek Brunson def. Ian Heinisch by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Ian Heinisch started off the fight with a head kick, and Derek Brunson ate it. Heinisch looked good in that opening frame, but once Brunson got his wits again, he took control of the fight. Brunson wore down Heinisch and won all three scorecards.
Heinisch is a talented fighter who will benefit from this fight. Whom should he return against? How about Marc-Andre Barriault.
Brunson is a gatekeeper. That was the purpose of this fight. He guarded the gate, shut it in Heinisch's face and looks toward the future. The thing about the role of being a gatekeeper, is that if you defend the entry point to the elite, you earn another shot to join it yourself.
Brunson may have done just that at UFC 241.
Jack Hermansson and Jared Cannonier will fight at UFC Fight Night 160 on September 28. The winner of that would make for a great opponent for Brunson as the title picture will be tied up through the end of the year. The fight will make sense for all parties.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff
Sodiq Yusuff def. Gabriel Benitez by KO at 4:14 of the first round.
Don't step into the power of Sodiq Yusuff or else you'll end up like Gabriel Benitez: knocked out.
Kevin Aguilar would fit in nicely, as would numerous others, against a fighter like Benitez. It would be a fun undercard contest. Benitez isn't a top name or contender to draw anyone of note. Picking among the bevy of options is a matchmaker's dream. There is no wrong choice.
Yusuff is on a five-fight winning streak. It's time to test him.
Mirsad Bektic is ranked and offers good stylistic challenges for Yusuff. That's a fantastic test. Book it.
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
Paulo Costa def. Yoel Romero by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
What a wild, wild fight this was between Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero. Fifteen minutes of chaos. The two threw down and left it everything in the cage.
Costa edged Romero on the scorecards, but it was not a clear-cut decision. The Honda Center crowd rained down boos. They thought Romero won. It was a close battle, and no matter the decision, it would have been seen as contentious. Costa got the nod.
Costa is in a great position to be the next challenger for the winner of Robert Whittaker or Israel Adesanya—whoever comes out of that bout with the gold. But the right contest to make is a rematch between Costa and Romero.
The contentious decision shows you how close it was and how much the fans care about it. Now make it a main event. Two extra rounds. Run it back.
The middleweight title picture is not set in stone. Costa isn't the only contender waiting. Why not clear it up a little by making this rematch and getting a definitive winner? It would set up the winner for a title fight in early 2020 and help to give the 185-pound division some order.
Plus, we just want to see this war again.
Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz def. Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Nate Diaz's return was everything and a little more than what fans could have hoped for in Anaheim. He put it on Anthony Pettis and took a unanimous-decision victory.
We'll start with Diaz because he made the decision easy in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. He called out Jorge Masvidal. That's the fight to make. Masvidal could be fighting for the title, but Diaz is the bigger money fight.
The UFC seems intent on pushing Colby Covington toward the title shot against Kamaru Usman, so why not make Diaz vs. Masvidal a title eliminator? It makes too much sense not to do, and it would be one of the biggest fights remaining on the 2020 docket.
As for Pettis, it's a little more tricky. He looked good in his welterweight bout against Stephen Thompson, and he had his moments against Diaz. It seems like the right division for him. One of the most compelling fights for him would be a rematch against Rafael dos Anjos.
Pettis lost the UFC lightweight title to Dos Anjos years ago, but so much has changed given they are both welterweights—ranked welterweights too. The fight has a lot of meaning and runs back a contest between two of the most notable names in UFC history.
Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier by KO at 4:09 of the fourth round.
Daniel Cormier was on his way to defending the UFC heavyweight title against Stipe Miocic—until he wasn't. Miocic made a small tactical change to go for Cormier's body and got the response he wanted. He then laced in a beautiful right hand that hurt the champion.
Violent follow-up shots put a stop to the fight and the gold back around his waist.
Cormier has tinkered with retirement for some time. It is the right time to pull the trigger on that idea. A third fight with Jon Jones is off the table following the loss, and while a trilogy bout with Miocic would be fine, the heavyweight division needs to move forward. Cormier is in his 40s and has many opportunities outside of the cage.
Miocic's next challenger will be a familiar one: Francis Ngannou.
The only man who could usurp his spot is Jones, but he should continue to dominate light heavyweight for the time being. Ngannou has earned his rematch with Miocic and looks revitalized. That's the title fight we want to see.