FightWatch: UFC 241
UFC put on a loaded card this past Sunday, featuring a Heavyweight Championship rematch between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, the Octagon return of Nate Diaz as he takes on Anthony Pettis, and two bulls battle at Middleweight as powerhouses Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa do battle. Was it awesome? Fuck yeah! I'll go into detail why in this review.
Sabina Mazo vs.Shana Dobson (Women’s Flyweight 125lbs)
Breakdown: Mazo is the first Columbian female fighter in UFC history, and the youngest fighter on the card at 22. Jon Anik shows his maths skills and notes that Mazo was born in 1997, to which Joe Rogan responds, “That’s ridiculous!” (I believe he started in the UFC in ’97).
Aggressive start from Mazo, which is interesting as she’s been a notoriously slow starter throughout her career, and had done the same in her previous fight, which was her UFC debut. Both ladies trade kicks, changing levels, and Mazo hurts Dobson early with a great body kick. Mazo gets a takedown and controls the first round with ground and pound. She gets into mount late in the round, but not enough time to make anything happen from there. “Pure domination” says Dominick Cruz on commentary, and that pretty well sums up Round 1. 10-9 Mazo
Round 2 more of the same. Mazo almost spamming kicks (but it’s really working for her), clinch control, more strikes, takedown. Dobson gets to her feet with 30 seconds left but unable to mount any offense of her own. Mazo is just dominating in every aspect of the fight here. 10-9 Mazo
Dobson comes out for the final round with pressure, knowing she needs a finish, but Mazo stays composed and peppers her with jabs and kicks. Mazo gets the Muay Thai clinch and blasts Dobson with knees. Referee Frank Trigg (former UFC fighter) looks close to stepping in. Bodylock takedown allows Mazo to ride out the rest of the fight. 10-8 Mazo.
Winner: Sabina Mazo via Unanimous Decision (30-24, 30-25, 30-25). Goddamn. Two judges gave her two 10-8 rounds, and one gave her all three rounds 10-8! Absolute domination. Joe Rogan makes the salient point that women’s flyweight is a shallow division with no clear top contenders, so a fighter like Mazo could rise through the ranks quickly.
Worth A Watch? This fight was a blast to watch, especially considering Mazo’s UFC debut. Dramatic improvement between fights for the 22 year old. It’s always encouraging to see someone identify a weakness about their game and work to rectify it. Mazo was open about being a slow starter in her fights and put that problem to rest here.
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Brandon Davis (Men’s Bantamweight 135lbs)
Breakdown: Tale Of The Tape pretty even in all aspects. Early success with calf kicks by Davis. Kang starts to find his range halfway through R1 with some nice jabs. He scores a knockdown and gains ground control to take it. 10-9 Kang.
Kang breaks up the early R2 striking exchanges with a takedown attempt, and gains ground control after a scramble. Davis works to reverse the position and they get back to their feet. He has more success with leg kicks. Davis loses his mouthpiece and fights for a good 30 seconds without it, to the chagrin of Joe Rogan. He lands some good offense through that time though. Flying knee to close the round. 10-9 Davis.
Davis slips off a kick attempt and Kang gains side control. The referee inexplicably stands them up from that dominant position. Kang almost immediately gets it back, controls for a while then Davis forces a scramble. Traditional double leg and ground and pound secures the round for Kang. 10-9 Kang.
Winner: Kyung Ho Kang via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28 X2). Thought it was a pretty clear 2 rounds to 1 for Kang, with the R1 knockdown and the R3 takedowns, but hey, that’s why you don’t leave it to the judges.
Worth A Watch? Not the worst fight in the world, but not the most exciting one either. If you’re short on time and need to cherry-pick fights on the card to watch, I’d probably give this one a miss. Bit of a shame considering Kang’s fights are usually pretty action-packed.
Hannah Cifers vs. Jodie Esquibel (Strawweight 115lbs)
Breakdown: Cifers gets the better of the striking exchanges in R1, some nice looping right hooks land for her but nothing of major significance. 10-9 Cifers.
R2 is a bit tougher to call, Esquibel gets a couple of good takedowns, but unable to do much with them, and Cifers turns one of her takedowns into a chain of submission attempts- triangle, armbar, omoplata. Cifers is consistent with her striking throughout. 10-9 Cifers.
R3 more of the same. Cifers consistently scoring with strikes, but nothing overly damaging. Esquibel gets another big takedown, but opts to just hold Cifers down in full guard, with zero damage being inflicted. Ref stands them up and Cifers scores with some body kicks. The best sequence of the fight comes in the last 30 seconds, where Cifers turns up the aggression, Esquibel charges in with another big takedown, but Cifers is able to roll through the momentum, scramble to her feet and land a few more strikes before the final horn. 10-9 Cifers.
Winner: Hannah Cifers via Unanimous Decision (30-28, 30-27 X2)
Worth A Watch? Another skippable fight. Cifers was able to score enough with her offense, but never really caused significant damage, whereas Esquibel seemed content to just hold her down and ride out the clock if possible. The referees have been a little quick on the standups overall, but I approve in situations like that, where a fighter isn’t trying to advance position and finish the fight.
Manny Bermudez vs. Casey Kenney (Catchweight 140lbs)
Breakdown: Bermudez is clearly the bigger fighter in the cage, and a power advantage is evident in the early exchanges. Big takedown by Bermudez, who is a submission specialist. Bermudez working well to advance position and maintain offense. They scramble and Kenney gets a takedown of his own. Back to their feet and Kenney lands some strikes. Very close round, lean towards Bermudez 10-9 but could go either way.
R2 features some nice grappling exchanges, with Bermudez initiating a takedown but Kenney getting top position and attempting a choke. Bermudez gets him down again towards the end of the round but Kenney once again scrambles into top position and ends with some ground and pound. 10-9 Kenney.
Both men land strikes to begin R3, but Bermudez seems to have a bit more effect with them. Kenney with a trip takedown into side control, but Bermudez uses the fence to sweep and gain side control of his own. Constant pressure, striking and going for submission attempts. Kenney is game in defending everything, but Bermudez clearly takes this one due to positional dominance. 10-9 Bermudez.
Winner: Casey Kenney via Unanimous Decision (29-28 X3). Judges gave Kenney that first round, no problem with that. Gutsy performance considering he was clearly outmatched physically.
Worth A Watch? I actually found the chess match of grappling techniques really interesting. Worlds away from the approach of Jodie Esquibel in the previous fight. Grappling itself isn’t boring, using grappling to run time out on the clock is. Both guys were looking to inflict damage and work towards finishing techniques the whole fight. Really entertaining, high level stuff.
Christos Giagos vs. Drakkar Klose (Lightweight 155lb)
Breakdown: Strong start by both guys, trading kicks and punches with little fear. Giagos switches stance which throws Klose off a little, and he uses the confusion to land at a better rate. Klose hits a strong hook right at the end of R1 which appears to rock Giagos a little. 10-9 Giagos.
Giagos with a hard knee, Klose with a couple of strong hooks returning fire to open R2. Giagos scores the first takedown of the fight. Klose fights back up to his feet but Giagos dumps him with another double leg. Giagos takes his back and nearly finishes it with a rear naked choke, but Klose escapes and shakes him off. More trading of strikes- punches, elbows, knees, a lot of it landing flush. Series of uppercuts rocks Giagos! Klose gets on top and nails some significant ground and pound. Wild round. 10-9 Klose.
Giagos looks exhausted to start R3. Both men throwing bombs. Leg kick by Klose completely sweeps Giagos off his feet. Klose with more in the tank, keeping the pressure up on Giagos. Giagos is labored in his movements, but still landing strong punches and knees to keep Klose honest. Huge slam by Klose with a minute left. Giagos looks to counter with an armbar but Klose fights out. More exchanges until the fight’s end. 10-9 Klose.
Winner: Drakkar Klose via Unanimous Decision (29-28 X3)
Worth A Watch? Definitely. Fight Of The Night to this point. Both men left every last bit of energy in the Octagon.
Raphael Assuncao vs. Cory Sandhagen (Men’s Bantamweight 135lbs)
Breakdown: It’s the #3 Bantamweight Assuncao against #9 Sandhagen. Major divisional implications in this one. Sandhagen with the immediate pressure, landing jabs and kicks, changing levels to the body and head all the way. Assuncao lands some nice left hooks moving backwards. Flying knee lands in the final minute of R1. 10-9 Sandhagen.
Sandhagen continues his momentum in R2 with striking pressure and clinch work. They get in scrambles on the ground and its high level work from both, with Assuncao and Sandhagen trading back control and submission attempts. This continues through the frame. 10-9 Sandhagen, but it’s close when they’re in the grappling realm.
R3 Sandhagen stays at striking range with jabs and leg kicks. Assuncao with an impressive slam mid-round but Sandhagen gets back to his feet. Flying knee narrowly misses for Sandhagen. Takedown attempt by Assuncao is countered with a kimura sweep. 10-9 Sandhagen
Winner: Cory Sandhagen via Unanimous Decision (30-27 X 2, 29-28)
Worth A Watch? Absolutely worth watching. Sandhagen showed his skill in all areas, and Assuncao was never out of the fight despite Sandhagen clearly winning. Extremely technical with some really good sequences by both fighters.
Devonte Smith vs. Khama Worthy (Lightweight 155lbs)
Worthy is a last minute replacement for Clay Collard, he got the UFC call 4 days ago. Worthy and Smith have a little history as former training partners. Worthy is 2 inches taller, Smith has a 2 inch reach advantage. Here we go for the featured prelim fight.
They trade leg kicks. Front kick to the body scores for Worthy. Smith fires a head kick but it’s blocked. Eye poke to Worthy pauses the action, they restart and he comes out with a flurry of punches. Smith scores with a couple of good leg kicks. They seem a tad too friendly/respectful. Worthy’s coach yells at him after a fist bump and the crowd boos a little. Smith steps in and Worthy unloads with a combination that drops him! It’s over! Wow!
Winner: Khama Worthy via TKO at 4:15 of Round 1. Thanks Khama Worthy for saving my word count a little.
Worth A Watch? First finish of the night, in the first round. Hell yeah, watch it! That was outta nowhere!
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch (Middleweight 185lbs)
#8 ranked Brunson against #10 Heinisch. This is Heinisch’s first real step up in competition despite his ranking.
Heinisch cracks Brunson early with a head kick! Brunson is in trouble! He wisely clinchs long enough to clear the cobwebs and prevent the finish, but that was a hell of a start. Brunson starts landing with the jab and gets his bearings back. Commentary are talking about Brunson’s usual approach of charging hard in the first round looking for that finish, but no sign of that Brunson here. 10-9 Heinisch.
Round 2 is more of the same from Brunson. A refreshingly intelligent approach where Brunson is picking his shots and not over committing. Heinisch is having a little trouble landing on Brunson after the huge start. 10-9 Brunson.
The final frame and this is a really well rounded performance by Brunson. He’s a little tired, but overall his cardio seems far more in check than it has been in past fights. Nice trip takedown by Brunson to give Heinisch something to think about. He lands some nice punches and body kicks to close the fight out. Impressive. 10-9 Brunson.
Winner: Derek Brunson via Unanimous Decision (29-28 X3). Brunson showed himself to be a more mature fighter in this opener. After falling short against Whittaker and Adesanya in recent fights, this shows the kind of growth that could see himself positioned back at that top level. He still has that power, and showed flashes of that explosive ability at different points in this fight, but now we know he can overcome adversity and work for a competitive 15 minutes. As for Heinisch, it was a good showing and he’ll be back better as well.
Worth A Watch? Absolutely. Solid action throughout, and if you’ve watched Brunson for a long time like I have, you’ll be impressed by his performance too. Heinisch provided the highlight with the head kick.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff (Men’s Featherweight 145lbs)
Strikes traded quickly, both fighters seem eager to get at each other and maybe make a play for that bonus money. Benitez drops Yusuff with a strong hook! Sodiq pops up quickly, but that got his attention. Benitez lands the jab, but Sodiq responds with a counter right that drops him! Wow! Ground and pound follows and it’s all over!
Winner: Sodiq Yusuff via TKO at 4:14 of Round 1
Worth A Watch? Yep! A first round finish in a card packed with decisions, it sure stands out. But this was a fast and furious, back and forth round of action!
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa (Middleweight 185lbs)
#2 ranked vs #7. Costa has run through his competition so far, but he’s never faced anyone like Yoel Romero. But for that matter, Romero’s never gone against anyone that is such a great match physically for him. Amped for this one!
Costa begins with immediately pressuring Romero against the cage and ripping bombs to the head and body, no fear. Romero lands an early high kick and goes for a takedown, but nothing doing. More body shots score for Costa against the cage. Huge knee drops Romero!... but turns out it was low. Romero gets time to recover. Intense first round. The action resumes and more big shots. Costa getting the better of it but Romero staying in it and landing some of his own. 10-9 Costa.
Round 2 doesn’t relent on the pace and power shots. Costa mixing things up to the body and the head of Romero. Yoel has a hell of a chin and abdomen, I think most fighters would have crumpled under the pressure Costa is bringing. The action slows a little and Romero begins landing some shots of his own. Late takedown by Romero but I still lean towards Costa for the damage he inflicted. 10-9 Costa.
Round 3, Costa is definitely tired and slowing but I don’t think that’s a knock on his cardio, he’s put in a tremendous pace and effort trying to finish Romero. Romero is gaining confidence, sticking his tongue out and kind of taunting Costa as if to say his strikes don’t hurt. Big right hand by Romero staggers Costa! They’re trading! Uppercut lands for Romero! Front kick by Costa! Romero goes for a takedown but Costa shrugs him off. Romero tries again and does land the late takedown. Costa able to get his feet and that ends the final round. What a fight! 10-9 Romero.
Winner: Paulo Costa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 X3). The crowd, who were cheering the fight, booed the judge’s decision. I personally think they had it right. Romero started to gain momentum towards the end of R2 but I don’t feel it was enough to take that round. Yoel got R3, but Costa had enough pressure and damage in R1 and R2 to take it fairly clearly in my view.
Worth A Watch? However you feel about the result, it was an incredible fight. One of the best of the year. Couldn’t recommend it enough.
Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis (Welterweight 170lbs)
It’s co-main event time. It’s the first time Nate Diaz has been in the Octagon since the second McGregor fight, which was 3 years ago. Damn. It doesn’t feel like that long ago to me. Time flies.
Pettis lands some early kicks. Diaz presses Pettis against the fence and he’s clearly the bigger, stronger man here against the former lightweight champion. Diaz lands a nice right hand. Diaz with the takedown, Pettis goes for a guillotine… but Nate escapes and maintains top control. He gets the back and comes close with a RNC attempt. 10-9 Diaz.
No ring rust for the Stockton native here, he’s keeping a high pace and Pettis seems to have some trouble with it in R2. Pettis lands a low kick but seems to hurt himself in the process. Diaz backs Pettis into the fence and starts a masterclass in dirty boxing with beautiful jabs and uppercuts! Pettis tries to fire back and cracks Nate with a couple of elbows that draw blood. 10-9 Diaz.
Diaz gains the control in R3 with some devastating knees! The fight seems close to being stopped but Pettis survives. Diaz takes his back and Pettis appears to be in serious danger, but he is able to reverse position and get into full guard. Scramble by Diaz, and Pettis takes his back! High level jujitsu here. Diaz reverses position and gets the back himself and that’s the fight. What a fucking fight! 10-9 Diaz.
Winner: Nate Diaz via Unanimous Decision (30-27 X 2, 29-28). Not sure how Pettis won a round there, but anyway…
Worth A Watch? Absolutely outstanding fight. Nate Diaz showing exactly zero ring rust was something to behold here. It was a clear win for him, but Pettis also acquitted himself extremely well.
UFC Heavyweight Championship- Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
Cormier opens with low kicks. Nice left hook lands on the jaw of Miocic. Massive slam nearly spikes Miocic on his head. Hammerfists on the ground by DC but Miocic survives. Awesome first round by the champ. 10-9 Cormier.
Miocic lands some good punches in the clinch. Cormier retaliates with a sharp standing elbow. Cormier is wading his way inside to land punches on Miocic with zero regard for his power. Miocic starts landing shots in return due to this reckless approach, but the champ is still getting the better of things here. 10-9 Cormier.
R3 sees more of DC simply pushing forward to land punches to the head and body of Miocic, consequences be damned. Cormier with enough head movement to avoid any significant return fire. It seems like Cormier is looking to repeat the finish of the first fight by landing big hooks in the clinch. Miocic gets underhooks and lands a takedown! First person besides Jon Jones to take Cormier down in the Octagon, I believe. DC up fairly quickly though and scores with more dirty boxing. 10-9 Cormier.
Miocic changes his approach and starts going with body shots in R4. Cormier is trying to keep a poker face, but he’s noticeably wincing when Stipe lands to the body. Cormier is trying to defend but Miocic is almost landing at will with punches to the gut. Then Miocic fires a combination up top that drops Cormier! DC is out cold! We have a new champion!
Winner: Stipe Miocic via KO (punches) at 4:09 of Round 4
Worth A Watch? That was an excellent heavyweight main event. Cormier was on his game landing at will, and one adjustment by Stipe changed the whole fight. One hell of a comeback. Miocic’s face is messed up, but he can call himself champion once again.
UFC 241 was an excellent card, from the prelims to the main card, and every fight on the main card was worth the PPV price. The top 3 fights were among the best of the year. The fights were heavy on decisions, but for the most part weren’t lacking in skill or action. A long watch with so many fights going to the judges scorecards, but mostly a very good watch. If you like MMA, there will be something on this card for you.
Best Fight: Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
Honourable Mention: Christo Giagos vs. Drakkar Klose
Until next time, take care,