UFC 241 is just days away and with all due respect to the big cards thus far, it is safe to say that this is the most anticipated and exciting card of the year. It just feels like all the main fights on the card have a story behind them and the fights mean a lot more than just big fights on a card.
The main event is a rematch from last year, which yielded a huge, if not shocking, result. The co-main is a salivating style matchup between two longtime UFC veterans who are individually big names today and have for the most part had a rivalry brewing for quite a while now. Then there is the battle of the bulls in the Middleweight division, with perennial contender Yoel Romero taking on surging Paulo Costa.
It’s in every sense of the word, a stacked card and let’s take a quick look at what possibilities are in store for these fights to unfold this Saturday night from Anaheim, California.
Ian Heinisch vs Derek Brunson
Ian Heinisch is one of the notable prospects in the UFC’s middleweight division and for good reason. He’s on a 5-fight win streak and with an overall record of 12 wins (with only 1 loss), he has got the attention of many in what is a comparatively weak division now with many big names have moved out, either by retiring or having moved up in weight class. He also had a good showing in his last fight, against Antonio Carlos Jr., where much to the opposite of common belief, he dominated on the ground against a high-level grappler in ‘Shoeface’.
Brunson, on the other hand, has had a rough year alternating more losses than wins with a couple of first-round knockouts being added on his record. As much as people may like to make him out to be this wrestler-striker, the truth is that we have not seen much, if any, of the wrestling prowess that Brunson is vaunted for, in the past few years now. As like Johnny Hendricks before him, he seems to have fallen in love with his striking power and is usually seen to be launching himself face-first against opponents who have made him pay for his recklessness e.g. Robert Whittaker.
This is a great opportunity for Heinisch to add a respected name, such as Brunson, to the resume and I favour him to win this fight by stoppage.
Prediction – Ian Heinisch wins by TKO
Yoel Romero vs Paulo Costa
Everything about Yoel Romero is scary. His physique, power, demeanour, fighting style and even his open workouts, for that matter. Having fought for the UFC championship twice, it’s hard to believe that someone was able to best him, and that’s what Robert Whittaker did…TWICE! However, the second fight was extremely close and many (including myself) feel that he could have walked away with the win that time.
His experience of just being an all-around winner, coupled with his attributes and world-class wrestling make him a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking of a force to be reckoned with, Brazilian powerhouse Paulo Costa is one himself and has been running through guys the UFC has put in front of him so far. The owner of possibly the best physique in the UFC today, Costa is undefeated and has shown no signs of slowing down in fights yet, despite all his bulging muscles. He has got excellent standup and a great chin to back it all up.
This fight is super interesting because of the style match-up as even though Romero is light years ahead in terms of wrestling, he is not the type of fighter who relies on his wrestling much. Costa, on the other hand, is a fearless and diverse striker with good forward-moving style and impressive cardio, which on paper makes for an intriguing match-up.
However, I feel that Romero with his experience of having fought better competition and coming up on top will be a bit too soon for the hulking Brazilian prospect. This will be a cracker of a fight and the winner will have truly earned it.
Prediction – Yoel Romero by stoppage (TKO)
Nate Diaz vs Anthony Pettis
After nearly an 1100-day layoff, fan favourite Nate Diaz is set to step foot in the cage against another fan favourite in Anthony Pettis, who seems to have rediscovered himself and his edge in recent times. No longer the striker trying hard not to be taken down, Pettis is more or less back to being the innovative and dangerous striker who is equally as dangerous if he finds himself on the ground.
Diaz has always had a hard time dealing with good kickers and that bodes well for Pettis who is a dynamic kicker along with being a powerful puncher since his move up a weight class, to welterweight. Diaz, however, is a good boxer, especially at the range which is a factor considering he’ll have a reach advantage over Pettis. Both men have absurd chins and terrific endurance, making this fight that much harder to pick.
While Diaz has been away, however, Pettis has fought 7 times and done well against high-level competition. The move up to 170 lbs has rejuvenated him if the fight week videos and interviews are any indications, and that coupled with Pettis’s history of doing well in grudge matches makes me think he has an advantage over the tough Diaz who has alternated wins and losses for most of his career.
Prediction – Anthony Pettis by decision
Daniel Cormier (Champion) vs Stipe Miocic
Over a year after Daniel Cormier cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters ever to compete in the UFC by beating the most accomplished Heavyweight in Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, the rematch between the two titans is upon us. With all the Brock-Cormier talk that enveloped the post-fight happenings since that night, it is only fair that this rematch is getting the hype, attention and discussion that it deserves.
Daniel Cormier may just be the most successful overall personality in the UFC overall, considering his resume as a fighter, commentator, analyst and a TV figure. Simply put, the man is plain amazing. But his primary calling is that of being a competitor, a world-class one at that. He just has been winning at things since his transition over to MMA, barring the losses to Jon Jones, which just makes you wonder how goal-oriented he is given that he didn’t even get into the sport until he was 30 years old!
The way he beat Stipe Miocic in their first fight, while surprising, was not shocking if you really had been following DC’s career. What perhaps may have surprised most people was how the fight ended- via KO, after Stipe had just put away Francis Ngannou in the title defence before that.
Stipe Miocic is an animal, to say the least and heading into this fight, a wounded and extremely motivated one. His combination of speed, athleticism, boxing, punching power and grit is what ensured he became the most successful heavyweight of all time in the UFC, with three consecutive title defences. He, however, ran into an unbeaten heavyweight in DC at UFC 226, a fighter who while great when competing at 205 lbs, was truly an elite Heavyweight who possessed the same attributes as Stipe, but in fact, was a better version of him.
Their first meeting clearly showed how Stipe didn’t have the power advantage over a Heavyweight Cormier, with DC knocking out Stipe in round 1 after stinging him with successive shots, having gotten a read on Miocic’s timing and tendencies prior to that. What however has been bewildering for most observers since then has also been Miocic’s propensity to attribute Cormier’s win to what he alludes to a ‘lucky punch’. It could be further from the truth as historically DC has always shown himself to be a slow starter who gets reads on his opponent while playing with fire the first few minutes before he implements his gameplan and tries to drown them with a combination of output and suffocating pressure.
Going into this rematch, DC is as motivated as ever and with the talk of the sun setting on his career anytime now, I feel Cormier may just be the hardest man to beat on the UFC roster. That coupled with Stipe’s seeming unwillingness, to be honest with himself and his preparation heading into the last fight makes it tough to imagine anything being different this time around either.
Prediction – Daniel Cormier by TKO, Round 3
Watch UFC 241 main card featuring Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic Live and Exclusive in India on 18th August 2019 from 7.30 am (IST) on Sony Ten 2 & Sony Ten 2 (HD) channels