UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic 2 Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 241 card, set to take place in Anaheim, Calif.

Updated: Aug. 15, 2019 • 5:56 PM ET

Stipe Miocic is looking to to regain the UFC heavyweight title.

The UFC heavyweight title will be on the line this Saturday in Anaheim, Calif at UFC 241, as former champion Stipe Miocic will finally get the chance to avenge his loss to champion Daniel Cormier. In the co-main event, Nate Diaz will return to the Octagon for the first time in three years to face former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in a welterweight bout.


The No. 1 ranked Miocic will attempt to win back the title that Cormier took from him in stunning fashion at UFC 226 a little more than a year ago. The former champ from Cleveland hasn’t fought since losing the title to Cormier, desperately seeking a rematch. Meanwhile, Cormier went on to successfully defend the title against Derrick Lewis with a second-round submission at UFC 230 last November.


With winning the heavyweight title, Cormier became just the fourth fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold belts in two weight classes (heavyweight and light heavyweight), joining Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo. The only fighter who has ever defeated Cormier in the Octagon is current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.


Should Cormier defeat Miocic for a second time this weekend, rumors have already begun to swirl about a third fight in the Cormier-Jones rivalry. Jones, however, recently took to Twitter to say that he has doubts a trilogy would occur.

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While Miocic could settle the argument of who the best heavyweight of all time is on Saturday, Cormier has already cemented his legacy as one of the best athletes in combat sports history. The 40-year-old was a member of the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic wrestling teams, taking 4th place in 2004. He’s the former Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix champion and King of the Cage heavyweight champion.


During his UFC championship journey, Cormier has defeated some of the best fighters MMA has to offer. Including Lewis and Miocic, his list of defeats includes Volkan Oezdemir, Anthony Johnson (twice), Anderson Silva, Alexander Gustafsson, Dan Henderson, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, Josh Barnett and Antonio Silva, amongst others. Despite all of his success, Cormier knows that Saturday’s fight could be his last.


"This fight can be the last fight, because I wanted to make the walk again, so I’m making the walk again,“ Cormier recently said on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "I'll win the fight this weekend, and I’ll just see what happens. The reality is, if I have to walk away from this thing after this Saturday, I'm OK with it.


"I've accomplished so much. My family is so excited about the prospects of me being around more...The other side looks good too, but right now I need to be focused on this weekend.”


While Cormier and Jones both seem content with not fighting a third time, there will be heavy pressure from MMA pundits and fans for them to meet again, regardless of the weight. Cormier, though, will likely have to defeat Miocic first.


Prior to the Cormier fight, Miocic was on a six-fight winning streak and defended the belt three times. He has faced harsh criticism from Cormier and others in the MMA community for turning down fights while waiting for a rematch.


Sitting out has payed off for Miocic. Had he taken a fight with someone else while the talks of a WWE style Cormier and Brock Lesnar title fight occurred, he may have never been given another title shot, win or lose. Miocic knows he made the right decision to sit out, despite what Cormier has said to the media.


“Everything that he says bothers me,” Miocic told ESPN. “He just contradicts himself all the time. One minute he’s like, ‘Oh Stipe deserves a rematch.’ And then he’ll be like ‘Oh, but you should fight before me.’”


The 36-year-old Miocic is the most accomplished heavyweight champion in UFC history, as he’s the only heavyweight who has successfully defended the title three times (wins over Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Ngannou). On his way to defeating Fabricio Werdum for the heavyweight title at UFC 198 in May 2016, he defeated several notable fighters including Roy Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski.


Ignoring his critics, Miocic is ready to take the belt back in Anaheim.


“I’m happy to have the rematch,” Miocic said. “He’s acting like it’s going to be the same result. Listen, it’s definitely [going to be a] different result, me getting my hand raised and walking out with the belt around my waist.


“And new.”




Co-main event


Saturday’s co-main event will feature the return of fan favorite Nate Diaz, who will face former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in a welterweight fight.

Diaz hasn’t fought in nearly three years since losing a unanimous decision in a rematch with Conor McGregor at UFC 202. While Diaz wasn’t an unknown fighter the first time he faced McGregor at UFC 196 in March 2016, it was his shocking second-round submission victory on short notice that shot him to superstardom.


In the first fight, Diaz filled in for an injured Rafael dos Anjos and a classic rivalry with McGregor was instantly born. The two traded verbal jabs before the fight, and their contrasting personalities provided pure entertainment for fans. Diaz shocked the world by defeating the UFC’s most popular fighter in convincing fashion, but not before taking plenty of punishment in true Diaz style. And while Diaz didn’t get his hand raised in their second fight, it was one the greatest fights in UFC history and has left fans clamoring for his return ever since.


The 34-year-old Diaz was scheduled to face Dustin Poirier at UFC 230 last November, but Poirier pulled out of the fight due to injury and a replacement fighter wasn’t found. Diaz, though, believes Pettis was a good choice for his return.


“I was like, ‘All right, you know what, Pettis is knocking out Thompson and doing all this cool (expletive) when he fights,’ and I’m like, ‘Man, that’s an eligible opponent, and I dig that,'” Diaz told ESPN. “I don’t need to be signing up for fights though just because I want to punch someone in the face. That’s not cool. I want a fight that’s going to motivate me to want to fight.”


Including McGregor, the TUF season 5 winner has key victories over Michael Johnson, Gray Maynard, Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone and Takanori Gomi.


Pettis has gone 4-5 since losing the lightweight title to Dos Anjos at UFC 185 in 2015, but he’s coming off one of the biggest wins of his career. He defeated former two-time welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson in March with one of the greatest knockouts of 2019, and Pettis feels the fight with Diaz has a personal element to it.


"We've just always had this drama," Pettis said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. "Every time we saw each other, something was going to happen, it was just one of those things. I think he might have been jealous I was the champ.


“He wanted his shot at me, and he got his [Conor] McGregor fight and then went MIA. That chapter never closed in my life, so to me, this is something that had to happen."


Including Thompson, the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion has key victories over Michael Chiesa, Jim Miller, Charles Oliveira, Gilbert Melendez, Benson Henderson (twice), Cerrone, Joe Lauzon and Jeremy Stephens.


“I think Nate is a tough dude, but he just turns on for the cameras…For me, I'm past that drama stuff, but I'm definitely looking forward to whooping his ass,” Pettis said.




Also on the main card


The main card will also feature a middleweight fight that could have major title implications, as former title challenger Yoel Romero will face rising contender Paulo Costa. This is the third time the two have been paired together with the first two fights being cancelled for various reasons.


Romero hasn’t fought since June 2018 when he lost a close split-decision to Robert Whittaker for the title at UFC 225. The loss was his second to Whittaker, but on his way to fighting for the title, Romero claimed victories over former champion Chris Weidman, Jacare Souza, Lyoto Machida, Tim Kennedy, Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson.


The 42-year-old Romero entered MMA with an incredibly decorated wrestling background, which saw him win a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. He also won gold medals at the 1999 World Championships, Wrestling World Cup (’98, ’00, ’05), Pan American Games 2003 and Pan American Championships (’98, ’01, ’02, ’04, ’07).


Costa is undefeated (4-0 in UFC) with his last victory coming against Uriah Hall at UFC 226 a little more than a year ago. He was suspended for six months by USADA for prohibited usage of an intravenous infusion (IV) twice in 2017; but leading up to this weekend’s fight with Romero, Costa is confident the layoff won’t hurt him.


“I’ll hunt him down from the first moment, because I know he will feel my strikes when I connect with them,” Costa recently said via Portal do Vale Tudo. “Of course, I’ll remain and won’t rush it, I’ll wait for the right moment and if by chance, which I find unlikely to happen, he wants to do the opposite and hunt me down, he will get countered and fall faster than he can imagine.”


The 28-year-old Costa believes a victory on Saturday will land him a title fight.


“I’m certain that if I beat him (Romero), like I will, with a convincing win, like I always do, by knockout, my next fight will be for the belt,” the Brazilian said. “I’ll be waiting, watching the fight between the interim champion and linear champion, Adesanya vs. Whittaker, to see who my next opponent will be.”




The rest of the main card on ESPN+


Featherweight bout - Gabriel Benítez vs. Sodiq Yusuff


Middleweight bout - No. 8 Derek Brunson vs. No. 10 Ian Heinisch




ESPN Prelims


Lightweight bout - Devonte Smith vs. Khama Worthy


Bantamweight bout - No. 3 Raphael Assunção vs. No. 9 Cory Sandhagen


Lightweight bout - Christos Giagos vs. Drakkar Klose


Bantamweight bout - Manny Bermudez vs. Casey Kenney




UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims


Women's strawweight bout - Hannah Cifers vs. Jodie Esquibel


Bantamweight bout - Kyung Ho Kang vs. Brandon Davis


Women's flyweight bout - Sabina Mazo vs. Shana Dobson

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