UFC 241 takes place this coming Saturday night in Anaheim, California and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Main Card (PPV)
Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
The first title fight between these two heavyweight stars ended quicker than many would have anticipated, with Cormier knocking Miocic out late in the opening round, but it does still feel like there’s plenty of life left in the match-up the second time around.
On the feet Miocic has a vast 7.5″ reach advantage and there will be even more emphasis this time around on him using that to it’s full extent to keep Cormier at bay with his boxing, and he certainly has the power to punish the champion. It does remain to be seen however whether he can really stick to fighting strategically on the outside.
Cormier hits very hard too and showed last time out that he can unleash that to devastating effect up close and personal, and it’s in the clinch that DC often likes to operate, using his wrestling to stifle and wear out opponents.
Of course Cormier is a former olympic wrestler and will be very dangerous on the mat too, but Miocic has a wrestling background too, albeit not at the same level, and with his size and athleticism he won’t be easily controlled and may have his own moments to shine.
Cormier is such a smart, dangerous and talented fighter that I’m reluctant to pick against him, but I do have concerns about how healthy he is. He had seemed to have his heart set on retiring on his 40th birthday, but back issues and subsequent surgery postponed that, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in how he’s doing physically heading into this fight.
With that in mind, I’m going for Miocic this time to be more wary of Cormier punching power and clinch work, use his reach to box from range and stay somewhat competitive in the wrestling department until he finds the big strikes neccessary to find a finish and take back the belt by TKO.
Stipe Miocic wins by TKO in R3.
Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis
There’s a lot of variables to consider in this fight. Diaz has been out of action for three years, while Pettis has been consistently active, but has taken his fair share of knocks along the way.
Then there’s the fact the fight is at welterweight. Even with the moment of magic that led to a win over stephen Thompson in his debut, Pettis doesn’t seem all that well suited to 170lbs, while Diaz has a better frame for the division and more experience there, but has generally fared better at lightweight.
In terms of their striking, Diaz has the height and reach advantage and will apply pressure and a high volume of punches, but he leaves his lead leg vulnerable to attack and that’s something that Pettis will take full advantage of with kicks.
Pettis is the quicker, more creative striker too, but he’s not as tough and durable as Diaz and won’t be comfortable being put on the back foot.
On the mat both fighters are well versed, but while Pettis can be crafty with submissions I’d have to give the edge to Diaz there as the more seasoned BJJ player, although both are more likely to be interested in keeping this one standing.
There’s a lot of intangibles surrounding this match-up that make it a tough one to read, but despite his layoff I’d expect Diaz to be in shape and with his size, volume punching, chin and pressure I think he can make life uncomfortable for Pettis in the Octagon and eek out a decision victory.
Nate Diaz wins by decision.
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
Two giants of the middleweight division clash here in what should be quite a spectacle to enjoy.
The undefeated Costa is one of the few people on the roster who can rival Romero’s remarkably physique and he’s got an imposing record to go along with it, having stopped 11 of his 12 fights inside the distance via strikes, making him a fearsome opponent to face off against as he marauds forward looking to land power punches.
It’ll be interesting to see how both men deal with not having a definitive strength and size advantage. Athletically I’d still give the edge to Romero though as despite his physique he’s also unusually quick to cover distance and remarkably explosive.
Romero will also have a big wrestling advantage and that could be key here if he chooses to use it, particularly since Costa’s charging attacks could set him up for being taken down if timed correctly. It’s a big ‘if’ though as Romero rarely uses his wrestling as much as he should.
The fact that Romero is 42 always has to be a concern, particuarly going up against a much younger lion like the 28-year-old Costa, but so far there’s no sign that he’s diminishing athletically and it’s also worth noting that his opponent has no experience heading into the third round, and that’s just when ‘The Soldier Of God’ can be at his most dangerous.
As such, I’m taking Romero to pull off his latest third round TKO finish here, but given Costa’s KO power it is a fight where anything could happen.
Yoel Romero wins by TKO in Rd3.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff
Both of these fighters have been making their mark in the featherweight division of late so it’ll be intriguing to see how their contrasting styles play off against each other.
Yusuff is the bigger, stronger, harder hitter here and his goal will be to keep this one standing. Benitez can strike too and he’s most likely to be seen operating on the outside landing good leg kicks, but ideally he’ll looking for ways to bring the fight to the mat, where his superior grappling could pay dividends.
Yusuff’s ground skills are a concern, but there’s a lot to like about his stand-up work and I favour him here to land heavy strikes and fend off Benitez’s attempts to get takedowns long enough to secure a second round TKO stoppage.
Sodiq Yusuff wins by TKO in Rd2.
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch
Two fighters with similar styles square up in the main card opener, with both being sluggers on the feet who also have a solid wrestling base.
Brunson will be working from a 6″ reach advantage, but while he wields big power he’s not made the most of it from a technical standpoint and can end up being reckless and a bit sloppy at times.
Heinisch will make up for the reach deficiency with a high tempo and he covers the distance quickly, and I think his constant pressure and mixing up strikes with takedown attempts will unsettle Brunson and help him on his way to a decision victory.
Ian Heinisch wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Devonte Smith vs. Clay Collard
Raphael Assuncao vs. Cory Sandhagen
Christos Giagos vs. Drakkar Klose
Manny Bermudez vs. Casey Kenney
Hannah Cifers vs. Jodie Esquibel
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Brandon Davis
Shana Dobson vs. Sabina Mazo