Greetings, fight fans! I haven't been getting a break when it comes to these UFC cards lately; they've been chock full of action and talking points that make it difficult to let up on these monster recaps! This card was no different, and expectedly so, as it was one of the biggest cards of the year: UFC 241. Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic clashed for the second time in a long-awaited rematch, and after a helluva war Miocic can now call himself champion. He had to go through quite a bit to get there, so let's talk about just what the hell happened!
The Main Card
Miocic regains the title with stunning comeback over 'DC'
#1 Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier (c) by TKO via strikes (4:09, R4)
STIPE KNOCKS OUT DC IN ROUND 4!!!#AndNew! What a fight! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/ocJIfpRvyj— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T PROVIDE FINISH FOOTAGE! WE GOTTA WATCH STIPE DANCE.
Well it's official: I suck at picking Miocic fights. I picked against him for much of his UFC run and all throughout his title run until I finally decided to stop doubting him ahead of his first fight with Cormier. We saw what happened there. So of course it's obvious who I picked to win the rematch. Coming into the fight I thought Cormier's speed would be too much and that he would have a clear cardio advantage, and apparently I misjudged the latter because it ended up being a significant part of what carried Miocic to the win. For the first three rounds the fight played out more or less as I thought it would: Cormier started off firing leg kicks to test the distance and throwing quick hooks up top, and he was quite successful at it as Miocic just looked a bit frazzled with the speed difference. After getting on a single leg takedown attempt he lifted Miocic into the air and slammed him down where he settled in on top and landed ground and pound. Miocic would get to his feet before the end of the round but it was a dominant showing from Cormier.
6'5" 230lbs and Cormier picks him up like nothing!#UFC241 pic.twitter.com/uOqV0ids1Z— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
The wrestling was on point early for DC.
Rounds two and three played out mostly on the feet, with Miocic landing a takedown in round three but not doing anything with it before Cormier quickly got back to his feet. Though these rounds were more competitive and Miocic landed his share of hard shots as he began reading Cormier better, Cormier wore them well and still got the better of the action, not only landing big right hands of his own but landing more volume. However, I feel that the work he put into those two rounds took a lot out of him; he moved quite a bit and threw a lot of strikes at distance. He landed at an impressive clip but by the end of the third round he'd visibly slowed. Not only that, but his success with jabs and right hands up top appeared to cause him to headhunt more than usual, and he all but abandoned attacking the legs and body while Miocic started using body punches and kicks more liberally.
Right hand from Miocic lands but DC just keeps coming forward! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/fTzcqV0GBa— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Cormier's chin held up, but it may have led to his downfall.
Right hand from Miocic lands but DC just keeps coming forward! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/fTzcqV0GBa— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
As he began to absorb Miocic's shots without issue, Cormier abandoned his wrestling.
How are we heading into round 4?!?!— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Who's up on your scorecard? #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/uj16549ORX
He was still able to land well though...
By the end of the third round both men looked tired, but Miocic appeared to have gained a second wind at the start of the fourth, pressuring and actually looking like the fresher man. This particularly threw me off because I expected Cormier to have the cardio edge later in the fight, as Miocic has never shown particularly strong cardio down the stretch unless he was able to dominate the action. What got the ball rolling to the finish was what turned out to be a crucial adjustment: frequent, hard left hooks to the body of an already tired. Cormier still had plenty of success with his punches, but over time those body shots just really got to him and his hands dropped, allowing Miocic to walk him back to the cage and tee off with punches since Cormier could no longer use his normal tactic of trapping Miocic's hands to come up the middle with a jab or over the top with right hands. After several shots Cormier crumpled against the cage, and rapid fire right hands prompted the referee to intervene.
I was pleasantly surprised by Miocic's comeback as well as his overall performance. For 15 minutes he still showed many of the hangups that caused me to pick Cormier such as his spotty defense, but his chin actually held up quite well this time around. The left hook to the body adjustment was pretty damn great; one of the most suddenly effective mid-fight adjustments I've seen. If a trilogy doesn't follow this, you have to think a rematch with Francis Ngannou could and really should be next up for Miocic.
Cormier doesn't have too much to hang his head about performance-wise since he arguably won the first three rounds, but I do think he did himself a disservice in the end, and he flat out said as much after the fight. In rounds two and three he traded with Miocic an unnecessary amount, and ate a lot of shots that he probably should've tried to avoid by wrestling more. Per his own words he sort of fell in love with the success he had on the feet earlier in the fight and abandoned his wrestling against his corner's wishes. He began showing little respect for Miocic's striking and headhunting, and it stands to reason that it could've played a part in Miocic seeing the opening to his body, especially with Cormier's heavy reliance on trapping his hands. Had he wrestled more, perhaps the opening wouldn't have been as obvious and ready to exploit. All of Cormier's losses have been tough, and this was no exception, though without the intense blood feud carried into the Jones fights, he was much more composed following this one. Still, emotions were high and he didn't want to make an decisions right after a loss; which is the smart thing to do. Now 40 years old, you have to figure he won't fight for much longer even if he doesn't retire now, and honestly he doesn't need to fight anymore because he's made his mark on the sport and will continue to do so even after retiring. If retirement or a rematch isn't in the cards, a fight with Junior dos Santos would make sense.
Diaz starts slow, but dominates Pettis over three rounds
Nate Diaz def. #7 Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
"Nothing gives you the feeling of getting out here and getting the job done. When you're in it you're like, what the f*ck did I come sign up for this for? I don't enjoy this AT ALL." pic.twitter.com/xFeBTlIiZB— Streetfight Bancho (@streetfitebanch) August 18, 2019
I'll just leave this little golden nugget here.
Turns out a three year absence is no problem for Diaz. I know on the broadcast we got a callback to Cruz's infamous "ring rust isn't real" comment, in which Cruz doubled down on the notion after this win...but Diaz looked rusty as hell early in the fight. He was slower, looked less coordinated and balanced than usual, and his punches were noticeably sloppier than they've been in the past. Some of this could have been due to him just trying to avoid leg kicks and figure out how to get in his preferred range, but he also just looked off to start, and nothing like the crisp, straight puncher he was against Conor McGregor or Michael Johnson. Not only that, but Pettis was making him pay for it with solid right hand counters, and I never thought Pettis would get the upper hand in the boxing exchanges. At one point he even landed a similar head kick to the one Josh Thomson used to put Diaz away, but Diaz merely ate it, and apparently Pettis' foot suffered for it.
-- beats -- #UFC241 (via @Showtimepettis) pic.twitter.com/iuHdfNEoM7— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
I see Diaz trained his head since the Thomson loss.
The tide turned when Diaz landed a double leg takedown that Pettis tried to counter with a guillotine. Once Diaz escaped he got the better of the action on the ground, hopping into mount as Pettis tried to explode to his feet, and getting on his back when Pettis again tried to hip escape. From here he searched for a rear-naked choke until the horn. One judge awarded Pettis the round, which was significant only because Pettis had not won a single round on the scorecards in over two years across four fights.
Pettis slaps the guillotine on, but Diaz escapes! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/5KxhKggYPe— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
In round two Pettis appeared to hurt his shin on a leg kick right off the bat and went down, only to pop back up and tag Diaz with a left hand counter as he swarmed. Pettis once again started getting the better of the boxing, landing several straight punches as Diaz seemed to be having trouble with his eye. After a brief pause to check it Diaz clinched and pushed Pettis into the cage where they both landed shots before Pettis whiffed on a big right hand that allowed Diaz to get in on a rear waist lock. Pettis attempted to reverse with a kimura, but Diaz just dragged him down to the ground. After making it back to their feet he remained clinched and landed knees and elbows against the cage. At this point it was becoming clear that Diaz was starting to wear on Pettis, who was still firing back but noticeably slowing down as Diaz continued pressuring.
The pressure of @NateDiaz209 overwhelms Pettis #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/2t4E73dtdt— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
Diaz is teeing off on Pettis as round 2 comes to a close!#UFC241 pic.twitter.com/oB6cmHTcl7— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Diaz's pressure took a toll on Pettis.
The final round saw Diaz immediately walk Pettis to the cage and swarm him. Pettis again fired back, but the Diaz's pace was just getting the better of him. After a hard 1-2 and a knee up the middle, Pettis was visibly hurt and Diaz continued to swarm him with knees and punches until he went down. However, Pettis managed stayed tough and managed to survive, though Diaz then got his back and looked for the rear-naked choke. Pettis was soon able to reverse into top position but Diaz attacked with triangle chokes and eventually tried to roll for leg. Diaz began elbowing from the bottom and went for an armbar, but Pettis recognized it and hopped over to take Diaz's back. As Diaz stood he immediately shook Pettis off and once again got onto Pettis' back, getting both hooks in before Pettis reversed and Diaz went for the triangle choke from the bottom yet again before the horn.
DIAZ IS GOING OFF!#UFC241 pic.twitter.com/BxawfsNBnp— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Pettis almost didn't make it out of the final round.
It was a dominant performance from Diaz, who took a bit of time to get into his groove, but showed that his swarming standup and slick ground game are as effective as ever. After the fight he called out Jorge Masvidal (who is a gangster, but not a west coast gangster...can't argue with that), which would be a pretty fun fight if you ask me.
"I want to defend my title against Jorge. He's a gangster, but he ain't no West Coast gangster."@NateDiaz209, welcome back! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/Y5DdHcnwzO— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Dana White was probably salivating at this point.
Not sure Diaz has really earned it though, unless you want to give it to him based on his name value. I imagine he's made his way into the top 10 with this win, so perhaps he could take on Santiago Ponzinibbio or the winner of Demian Maia vs Ben Askren. Pettis mostly just succumbed to his usually bane: pressure. He's a very talented and physically gifted fighter, but pressure saps his cardio and once he's tired it's tough for him to do too much other than survive. He said in the past he wanted to stay at welterweight, but I'm not sure it's the right move; he was pretty handily losing to Stephen Thompson before pulling off a spectacular knockout, and now he's been dominated by another former lightweight. I don't see him doing any better a second time around against Rafael dos Anjos and Till is way too big for him and moving to middleweight, so the only person left I can think of is Robbie Lawler, which honestly I'd be down for, but I don't see that going well for him at all unless Lawler is just really shot.
Costa edges out Romero in a thriller
#7 Paulo Costa def. #2 Yoel Romero by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-- @YoelRomeroMMA is a madman #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/pp3eLE7pNv— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
It was already a highly anticipated fight mostly because both men are such physical specimens, and in a rare instance it actually lived up to the hype. Costa passed the first big test of his career, and looked very impressive in doing so, especially in the way he managed to consistently push the pace and throw power for three full rounds. There were understandably plenty of doubts about his cardio down the stretch given how muscular he is, but he managed to exceed expectations. Romero implemented his usual tactic of starting off slow and ramping up his volume as the fight went along, but this time he didn't appear to kick it into high gear quite enough, and much like Cormier he curiously neglected his Olympic caliber wrestling for much of the bout.
The fight started out pretty insanely, as a quick and sneaky left hook from Costa dropped Romero to his hands and knees as he was throwing an overhand right right, only for Romero to pop back up to his feet and catch an advancing Costa with a right shovel hook that put him on his butt momentarily before being pushed back down by Romero. He quickly made it back to his feet and immediately began walking Romero down and throwing hard punches, though nothing lands too cleanly as Romero rolls with most of them. They both had their moments in the round, with Costa landing some hard right hands in the sprawl position after stuffing a takedown, and Romero landing a nifty flying knee up the middle followed by left and a right hook. Both men landed hard punches in a back-and-forth round.
IT'S CHAOS JUST LIKE WE THOUGHT!#UFC241 pic.twitter.com/4q8gtD2Y8u— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
What even is this?!
Costa started off the second round strong, switching it up with punches up top, leg kicks, and body kicks. Romero began throwing out his jab a lot more, and more notably off of switching his stances, which was a nice little tactic for confusing Costa as to where the jab would come from. Costa started going to the body with right hands more, and although he started to slow down he still kept the pressure up. Romero landed a double leg takedown to end another pretty even round.
Yoel shoots, Yoel scores!#UFC241 pic.twitter.com/OGSCSabNRi— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Romero tried to seal the round, but apparently it wasn't enough.
The third round is often where Romero shines, and this fight was no different. He upped his volume even more and landed some hard punches, including a nice switch stance left hand that I'm sure got a nod from Masvidal. Costa once again directed his attacks heavily to the body, but Romero started to tee off on him with uppercuts and hooks, bloodying his nose and mouth. At three different points it appeared he had Costa backing up and a bit hurt, and each time he let him off the hook and backed into the center of the cage to restart the action, which was kind of frustrating to watch given how vicious he usually is in the third round.
What are these two made of?! --@YoelRomeroMMA x @BorrachinhaMMA #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/hAV7l7iYRM— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
As exciting as it was, it wasn't Romero's best tactical moment.
It was a close fight, but ultimately the judges sided with Costa. Both men put on great performances and showed off some otherworldly chins, particularly Romero, who walked through a head kick (par for the course for him) and some hard shots without even flinching. I will say that I believe he, like Cormier, did himself a disservice, but probably even more so. Not only did he not use his wrestling as much as he could have, but his theatrics arguably cost him in the judges' eyes. From taking shots and sticking his tongue out in response to rolling with punches against the cage instead of circling out to avoid them, to feigning being hurt from punches to egg Costa on, these things may get into the head of your opponent (and it did seem to work a bit in that regard), but they don't always look good to the judges, who may not realize that you rolled with several punches instead of getting caught flush. And again I have to mention the curious choice of him letting Costa off the hook when he had him cornered. I scored the fight narrowly for Costa, but it could've certainly gone to Romero even in the way it played out. Imagine if he had approached things just a bit differently.
Costa is now smack-dab in the mix of contenders with this win. He could honestly get a shot against the winner of the title unification fight between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya, or alternatively take on the winner of Jack Hermansson vs Jared Cannonier in a title eliminator. Romero shouldn't lose much stock at all, and it's probably time for him to rematch Ronaldo Souza or fight Kelvin Gastelum, provided he isn't actually penciled in to fight Darren Till.
Yusuff overcomes some adversity to stop Benitez
Sodiq Yusuff def. Gabriel Benitez by TKO via strikes (4:14, R1)
It's over!@Super_Sodiq finishes Benitez in round 1! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/wX6QArngNJ— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
This was a great win over an underrated fighter in Benitez that just further proves Yusuff is a prospect to look forward to, even if he is unfortunately aligned with Lloyd Irvin. He started the fight off aggressively, landing hard over the top every time the southpaw Benitez would throw inside leg kicks. Eventually Benitez began countering Yusuff's leg kicks with straight lefts, and Benitez caught him hard on the end of a 1-2 that dropped Yusuff to his knees and swelled up his eye.
Straight left from Benitez buckles Yusuff! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/g6TjMrLew6— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Benitez more than got his attention in the abbreviated contest.
He got right back to his feet and Benitez chased him down with punches but he was able to circle out and reset. They continued to have some success with power shots against each other until Yusuff countered a Benitez straight left with a right hook that dropped him hard, and he sealed the deal with hammerfists until the fight was stopped.
Yusuff has shown once again that he's a prospect to look out for at featherweight, and I think there are any number of fighters you could put him in there with. I think Makwan Amirkhani would make for an interesting fight, and if they want to give him a test within the top 15 then Arnold Allen could work. I personally think he should be brought along at a steady pace though. Benitez can fight Rick Glenn.
Brunson stays patient, experience carries him to victory over Heinisch
#8 Derek Brunson def. #10 Ian Heinisch by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Derek Brunson (20-7) gatekeeps to a tee against the hard-charging Ian Heinisch, outlasting the top-ten hopeful and firing back with wild strikes down the stretch. He finally found the balance between inactivity and idiocy - a job well done. #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/OyWp5w2oLf— Kyle Johnson (@VonPreux) August 18, 2019
Heinisch fell short against his first top 10 opponent, and Brunson flexed his skills in keeping that gate. Heinisch came roaring out of the gate trying to take Brunson's head off just like he said he would, and it almost looked like he'd succeed. He immediately ran at Brunson striking and backing him up before landing a running head kick that grazed Brunson, but was hard enough to drop him to his knees where he grabbed onto Heinisch for a reactive takedown attempt. He managed to lift him into the air, but Heinisch's balance was pretty impressive (something he showed throughout the fight) and he was able to stay on his feet. After they broke, the two mostly exchanged long punches while Brunson looked for takedowns in a round that Heinisch got the slight better of following the fast start.
You can say that again, Joe!@ianheinischmma goes up top with the headkick and flashes the balance early #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/Swz6D2kn40— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
In round two both fighters were more measured but still looking for lunging power punches. At this point Heinisch began shooting for more takedowns but finding no success, and it had a clear effect on his cardio pretty quickly after Brunson made him pay for his missed shots. Brunson stayed patient with front kicks to the body and long jabs, which only further frustrated Heinisch and sapped his cardio. Round three was a bit more competitive but still clearly in favor of Brunson, as the pace of the fight and the wrestling just wore Heinisch down.
Brunson did what was essentially his job at this stage in his career: he blocked a surging prospect from approaching the top five of the division. He still held his chin up high when he threw his lunging left hands, but he was better at picking his shots and staying composed, so he wasn't quite so there to be hit as he normally is. He did duck in quite a bit so the uppercut was there quite a bit for Heinisch, but he didn't take advantage. Heinisch was similarly sloppy with his technique on the feet, and more resembled the Brunson of old who would leap and run in overextending his punches until he got tired. After changing camps to the cringingly-named Hard Knocks 365, it appears his game has gotten a bit more mature, but I have no illusions that he's turned a corner and will be a contender at this point. There aren't a ton of options for him that make sense at this point unless he wants to fight an even lower-ranked opponent, so perhaps he should be the one to take on the Hermansson vs Cannonier winner. As for Heinisch, he similarly doesn't have too many choices rankings-wise, so if Brad Tavares is healthy he could fight him, or he could take on Uriah Hall if he loses to Antonio Carlos Jr.
Khama Worthy def. Devonte Smith by TKO via strikes (4:15, R1)
WORTHY PULLS OFF THE HUGE UPSET!@TheDeathStar_1 KOs Smith in the first round! Wow! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/0VHe5HD5h8— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
This was the big upset of the night, though honestly I can't say I was too surprised. If anything I was more surprised that Smith was such an overwhelming favorite against an opponent who while not having faced the level of competition he has, is very much a similar type of fighter with the same big finishing power. Worthy had shown a tendency to get caught and knocked out in the past, but Smith's lone loss had also come via strikes and both men suffered there prior losses in 2017. On paper you have to give Smith the advantage, but when both fighters are explosive, have knockout power, are fighting on short notice, and have shown not to have Romero/Costa level chins, either man has a shot at winning.
Also important was that the two of them are friends who trained together in the past. This showed, as up until the finish the fight looked like a sparring match and they acted a bit too friendly toward each other for Worthy's corner's tastes. Neither fighter really committed to any of their strikes, and once they did it was over. Smith flashed a jab and lunged in with a straight right that landed, but caught him coming in with a left check hook that put him on wobbly legs before he just dropped to his back. Worthy immediately ran over and sealed the deal with hammerfists until an indecisive referee called a stop to the fight. I'd still say Smith has more upside in the UFC, but this was a great win for Worthy, and good on him that he was able to take home some bonus money in a short notice debut. He made the best of it, and he took out an opponent ranked low enough that he probably won't be fast tracked from here.
#9 Cory Sandhagen def. #3 Raphael Assuncao by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
This one should've been on the main card, as it was a pivotal fight for the bantamweight division and Sandhagen really shined over the 15 minutes. Assuncao has proven a very difficult fighter to look good against, let alone beat, and Sandhagen did a better job than most. As has been the case in his recent fights, Sandhagen's height, reach, constant stance switching, volume, and pressure really gave his opponent issues. His ability to mix up his strikes just furthers his unpredictability, and perhaps the most improved part of his game was his grappling, which looked pretty on point in this fight. Assuncao was able to get takedowns, but failed to do much with them just because Sandhagen was able to initiate scrambles at every turn, especially in the third round where Assuncao went 3-for-3 with his takedowns but failed to hold Sandhagen down for any appreciable amount of time. On the feet Sandhagen did a great job with his distance management, pressuring and staying just inside his striking range while remaining just outside of Assuncao's pretty consistently.
With how back-and-forth this fight has been, fitting that @cors_life pops right up after @RaphaAssuncao slams him #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/ZWM2oPlvGe— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
Sandhagen won pretty convincingly, but this was still cool.
It was no blowout, but it was a relatively clear win for Sandhagen though the second round was filled with fun scrambles and awkward positions, and the third was actually close as well. Sandhagen has officially announced himself as a potential contender, and a possible title eliminator against Aljamain Sterling makes a lot of sense for him. Assuncao has lost two straight and it appears he's starting to settle into the position of gatekeeper to title contenders. A rematch with Pedro Munhoz would be a good look, but if they want to give him a slightly softer touch he could take on Jimmie Rivera.
Drakkar Klose def. Christos Giagos by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
The sound of this soccer kick by @drakkarklose -- #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/3Et1HT7jFd— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
Another Klose fight, another...close fight? Giagos started this one off pretty strong, stunning Klose with a left hand early and scoring with hard knees to the body in the clinch and as Klose moved inside. Klose really began pushing the pace at the end of the opening frame, and it set the tone for the rest of the fight. In round two Klose was a lot more aggressive, but a surprise single leg for Giagos that led to Giagos taking his back and locking in a rear-naked choke almost looked to put an end to his night. According to him it wasn't tight at all, though it almost looked like he tapped at one point. He didn't attempt to fight the hands though, so he might have been fine letting Giagos burn his arms out. This appeared to work, because after Klose shook him off he continued putting on a pace that Giagos just couldn't keep up with, and before long he appeared pretty tired. In round three Klose turned the pressure up even more, and a tired Giagos tried to meet him every step of the way as the two brawled around the cage.
Giagos and Klose are phone-booth fighting through this entire round! What a scrap! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/FwCAZKeecC— UFC (@ufc) August 18, 2019
Klose's relentless pressure was key to his victory here, because in actuality he took as many shots as he gave, and was mostly gotten the better of at distance while he did his best work in the clinch. For me the highlight of the fight was in that third round when Klose got in on a takedown, lifted Giagos over his shoulder, walked around with him, and then hit a pretty solidly executed Air Raid Crash.
SPIKED@drakkarklose #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/NgmxZ25Mhv— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 18, 2019
Mariko Yoshida would be proud.
Casey Kenney def. Manny Bermudez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Although I thought Ray Borg should have gotten the decision against Kenney, I ended up picking him for the upset here because of how well he scrambled in that fight. I almost immediately regretted that pick when I saw how much bigger Bermudez was, but it turned out to be the right move after all. The size and power difference was palpable throughout, and especially on the feet and when Bermudez managed to grab the body lock. Kenney scored with more shots on the feet, but it was clear who the harder hitter of the two was. Bermudez was able to get the fight to the ground fairly consistently, but that scrambling ability I counted on ended up making a big difference and allowing for a pretty damn entertaining grappling affair full of guard passes, guard retentions, and reversals by both fighters. There were 13 guard passes between the two of them, which has to at least be approaching a single fight record. Much like Sandhagen vs Assuncao this fight saw some awkward positions on the ground as well, including Kenney locking in a pretty tight rear-naked choke from the side (side-naked choke?) while Bermudez had his legs trapped in a way that twisted Kenney's body. It was a pretty back-and-forth affair on the ground and a close fight, but Kenney had done enough in the first two rounds to survive the third and take home a hard-earned decision.
Hannah Cifers def. Jodie Esquibel by unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-27)
It's hard for me not to feel bad for Esquibel, whose only purpose in the UFC seems to be to get other fighters wins. She didn't look quite as mobile in this fight, but still carried on her high volume-low accuracy style of striking and as usual was roundly outworked but not blown out of the water. The second round was probably the most noteworthy, where Cifers hurt Esquibel with a leg kick and Esquibel's takedowns started to find success, though she was caught in an armbar momentarily before rolling through and having to defend a triangle choke and an omoplata before escaping to her feet. It wasn't the most entertaining or eventful fight, but Cifers continues to put on mostly solid performances in the UFC and ran her record in the promotion up to 2-1. Now 0-4 in the UFC, you have to figure if Esquibel doesn't hang 'em up it's likely back to Invicta for her.
Kyung Ho Kang def. Brandon Davis by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Right hand caught him#UFC241 pic.twitter.com/z1CeVdWs6R— UFC (@ufc) August 17, 2019
Two of the most memorable things about this fight were Joe Rogan going on about how huge Davis is and how he runs 20 miles a day to stay in shape and make weight, and a horrible stand up by referee George Allen while Kang was in side control. It was another fairly close fight in a card full of them, where Davis found success with leg kicks, but Kang landed counters up top and avoided most of Davis' punches. Late in the round Kang dropped Davis with a straight right and jumped on his back, dragging him down and eventually getting to mount before the round expired. In round two the leg kicks started to add up for Davis, and he also found much more success with his head and body attacks. By the end of the round he looked to be turning things around, but in the final stanza he made a crucial mistake when he slipped on a head kick attempt and allowed Kang to get on top of him. This was when the awful stand up happened, but Kang managed to quickly secure another takedown after catching a leg kick and settle right back into side control. Davis made it back to his feet and got aggressive, but Kang took him down yet again and mostly stayed heavy on top while doing just enough not to be stood up until the round ended. Kang's leg was apparently in a bad way, leading him to use his wrestling late in the fight, but in the end it worked out in his favor as he was able to control the action in a final round that would decide the fight.
Sabina Mazo def. Shanna Dobson by unanimous decision (30-24, 30-25, 30-25)
Knee after knee landed from @SabinaMazo!#UFC241 pic.twitter.com/shl2cYuTVF— UFC (@ufc) August 17, 2019
This was the Mazo we should've had for all three rounds in her debut against Marina Moroz, but only saw come alive in round three. For 15 minutes she essentially beat the hell out of Dobson (and good, because she's affiliated with Lloyd Irvin). Mazo worked a heavy kicking game with her lead leg, and early on one of those hurt Dobson to the body. She swarmed her, grabbing the thai clinch and slamming knees into her body and head, but eventually opted to slam her to the ground and land elbows and punches.
Mazo lands a nice liver kick early and Dobson is hurt! #UFC241 pic.twitter.com/XofiirlnHn— UFC (@ufc) August 17, 2019
Mazo had an impressive "body" of work. I'm sorry.
Mazo's body attack was pivotal in the fight, as she landed a whopping 50 body shots to compliment he 49 head shots. Dobson really had no answer for her Thai clinch, and although she showed heart in fighting through some rough positions and staying aggressive late in the fight, she was just roundly outclassed and was once again hurt to the body with a knee in the final round, leading Mazo to absolutely brutalize her with more knees and take her down, nearly finishing her before the final horn. It was total dominance from Mazo, who outlanded Dobson 108-to-33 in significant strikes and a 30-25 scorecard from me, which two judges agreed with and another took a step further with a 30-24 (I don't think round two warranted a 10-8). For as great as Mazo looked, she still stands tall and keeps her chin worringly high in exchanges, so that'll be something that could work against her when she fights better competition. I thought Mazo should've been a bigger favorite than she was (I believe she may have even been an underdog), and the fight demonstrated exactly why.
That'll do it for UFC 241! Miocic regained his heavyweight title and in the process may have solidified his status as the greatest heavyweight of all time. Diaz triumphantly returned from a hiatus due to the fact that "everyone sucked, so there was no one to fight." Romero and Costa put on a war and one of the best fights of the year. It started off with a lot of decisions, but overall it was a very good, entertaining card. And that's not even the only big news: Kai Asakura knocked out Kyoji Horiguchi in a little over a minute at RIZIN 18!
Kai Adakura finishes Horiguchi in just over a minute!!!— ----M͎M͎A͎ ͎G͎O͎D͎S͎---- (@GodsMma) August 18, 2019
Shocks the world!!! #rizin18 pic.twitter.com/RBtdkdilau
Didn't see that coming!
Of course it was a non-title bout (because Japan), so they'll probably rematch for the title where I'd assume Horiguchi will lean on his wrestling more and take a decision (it's happened enough times when champs in Japanese promotions lose non-title bouts). Still, it was easily the most shocking thing to happen all weekend. I have to say, I'm pretty stoked to finally get a weekend off from the UFC after this, but then we're right back to it when strawweight queen Jessica Andrade takes on Weili Zhang in China. Until then, sado out!