UFC 241 delivered in Anaheim last night. A blockbuster card from top to bottom - fans couldn’t ask for much more.
Two titans faced off in the middleweight division to start turning up the heat for the main events.
Yoel ‘Soldier of God’ Romero was returning from a successful lawsuit against a sponsor who had tainted his supplements, and many doubted whether we would see him in the octagon again. He was facing Paulo Costa - a hulk of a man with lethal punching power. The fight didn’t take long to bring serious fireworks.
The chaos fight fans had been hoping for materialized itself in the first round. Costa dropped Romero with a thundering left hook, only to find himself on the canvas moments later after Yoel sprung to his feet and returned fire.
The fight took a brief interlude after Costa landed an accidental knee to Romero’s crotch. The former title challenger made the most of his five minute recovery time and returned looking suitably refreshed. Well played, Yoel.
The second round saw Romero playing some rope-a-dope, rolling with Costa's heavy punches and sticking his tongue out, taunting the Brazilian. Whilst the Soldier of God ended up on the receiving end for the majority of the round, he landed some sharp counters and also secured a hard take down at the end of the round.
Romero began to tag Costa more consistently in the third and took to landing fluid hooks and uppercuts. Paulo was pushed back to the fence a few times but the Cuban allowed him to come back to middle of the cage. Whilst this frustrated Costa, he seemed to relish the beating at times.
The fight went to decision and all three judges scored it 29-28 to Costa, much to the anger of the Anaheim crowd. A rematch may be in order, but Costa proceeded to call out Israel Adesanya, hoping to set himself up for a title fight.
The people’s main event might have been the most hyped fight of the year.
The flashy Anthony Pettis was coming off of a big knockout of Stephen Thompson, but he had a big challenge in front of him. The enigmatic Nate Diaz returned from a three year lay off.
Diaz started much faster than he typically does. He walked Pettis down but got tagged numerous times. In classic Diaz style, he nodded and shrugged off the blows. Pettis was taken down from Nates' powerful single leg, a testament to his greatly improved wrestling skills. He landed in a half secure guillotine but the Gracie Jui-Jitsu black belt wriggled out.
Diaz brought the fight into his world in the second. He pushed Pettis to the fence and utilized great dirty boxing skills. He also hit Pettis with a number of big knees to the head, slowing Showtime down significantly. It was a big round for Nate, he out scored his opponent significantly and began to sap his energy.
The third was all Diaz, he dragged Pettis right back into the phone booth where he was forcing the fight and began to unload. He began hitting him with slick counters and big knees from the clinch. He began to do some big damage and Pettis sunk to the floor. Showtime showed his intelligent and underrated ground game, regarding effectively and preventing the finish. He even managed to wind up in Nate’s guard, sweeping his position from bottom to top. Diaz was calm and collected and continued to look for a triangle choke but the fight ended with no stoppage.
The fight was given to Nate Diaz in an unanimous decision, and he called out fan favourite, Jorge ‘Street Jesus’ Masvidal in his post fight interview. Fans are now hoping and praying the fight gets made.
The main event was a stellar bout, a heavyweight title rematch between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic. The two had exchanged verbal barbs in the run up to the event and were looking to back up their words.
Cormier issued the then consensus greatest heavyweight of all time a starching knockout in their first fight, a loss that Stipe looked to avenge.
The first round started very similarly to the initial fight, DC using his awkward guard and hand fighting to create opportunities to sneak in uppercuts and hooks, whilst Miocic shot for long range straight punches. Cormier managed to secure a huge take down, slamming Stipe from a high crotch single leg onto his back. The challenger had to weather some ground and pound but made it safely into the second.
The second was a slug fest. Stipe seemed content to step into the champions world, trading shots with him. DC seemed to get the best of him in terms of volume, but was getting tagged with big punches.
The third showed more of the same, but with DC taking more and more damage. Whilst he was still out-landing Miocic, he was becoming more nonchalant. Cormier was walking in hands down and some sharp straight rights seemed to hurt the champ.
Everything changed in the fourth. Stipe began to use his excellent boxing pedigree, digging in a sharp left hook to DC’s body under his extended guard. After landing it a number of times, Cormier seemed damaged - his head began to become more exposed. Stipe managed to land the same shot 14 times, and on the final shot the champion winced in pain. Miocic was smelling blood - he followed up with a swift one-two and rocked Cormier. He then swarmed the champion with punches, causing Herb Dean to step in and call it off.
Miocic regained his title via TKO and DC was handed just his second professional loss. With Cormier’s retirement looming, Stipe will most likely have to fend off the hungry Francis Ngannou once again.