What a mighty satisfying fight card.
While it’s rare for a card with so few finishes to provide so many scintillating highlights, UFC 241 delivered a bevvy of memorable moments. From Stipe Miocic’s fourth round TKO over Daniel Cormier in the main event, to Paulo Costa’s raging Fight of the Night standup war with Yoel Romero, UFC 241 was a complete cracker of an event. And not necessarily in the most conventional ways.
So, after taking in and digesting 12 MMA fights, here are a few takeaways from the biggest fight card of the year.
Nate Diaz is One Hell of a Needle Mover
The three year hiatus proved to be worth the wait, as Nate Diaz made his UFC return in dominating fashion.
Taking a clear cut decision over Anthony Pettis, Diaz used his stellar boxing skills, grappling attacks, and a few “Stockton Slaps” to nearly blank Pettis on the scorecards. Diaz also showed that he’s big business and one of the biggest needle movers in the UFC.
At the UFC 241 press conference, Dana White acknowledged that Diaz was, in deed, a “needle mover” for the UFC on par with Ronda Rousey and Connor McGregor. It’s been a term throwing around about Nate for a while.
An anti-hero, if you will. “He’s the guy who says “f*ck you to the man without actually saying f*ck you to the man.”
With UFC 241 setting a new California record for the date, Diaz was instrumental in the $3,237,032 gate that sold out 17,034 seats at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Let’s see if he decides to come back for another dance, perhaps against Jorge Masvidal, after directly calling him out.
Romero and Costa Deliver the Round of the Year
If UFC 241 happened to be the first time you tuned in to watch an MMA fight, you should feel so lucky to have watched a fight like Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa.
Awarded the UFC 241 Fight of the Night, the Romero vs. Costa bout is easily on the short list for the 2019 Fight of the Year. The first round will also easily run away with the Round of the Year distinction on every year-end list.
For the first 90 seconds of the bout, Romero and Costa traded nasty ass punches, dropping each other with the force of, well, at least a Fiat 500 going 50 miles an hour. Seriously, if there was some trophy for best minute-and-a-half of mixed martial arts, Romero and Costa would be shining up their hardware ASAP.
Of course, the pace couldn’t last, as there was a questionable groin strike that halted the action; however, once the fight resumed, it was all action for the remainder of the bout, with Costa earning the biggest fight of his MMA career.
Upsets Come in all Sizes
Combat sports have a longstanding relationship with the world of sports betting. They’re like peas and carrots or hot sauce and eggs.
So when fans start picking fights and winners and action starts coming in, everyone is looking for upsets to bring in the big money. And boy did the dogs of UFC 241 deliver more than a handful of upsets.
From Stipe Miocic taking out Daniel Cormier and Nate Diaz decisioning Anthony Pettis in the co-main event, to Paulo Costa’s upset of Yoel Romero and Derek Brunson’s win over Ian Heinisch, UFC 241 had six upsets in total.
Beyond the aforementioned winners, UFC debutant Khama Worthy, the biggest underdog on the UFC 241 fight card, pulled the biggest upset of the evening, earning a Performance of the Night bonus for his TKO win over highly touted prospect Devonte Smith.
Now that’s a way to start your UFC career.
New Blood Takes Out Old Dogs
UFC 241 proved to be a great launching pad for a number of younger fighters on the UFC roster, several of whom took out older veterans in what may ultimately prove to be career defining performances.
In addition to 28-year-old Paulo Costa beating 42-year-old Yoel Romero, a two-time UFC title challenger, 27-year-old Cory Sandhagen earned his fifth straight win in the Octagon since joining the UFC in January 2018, besting perennial top-5 bantamweight Raphael Assuncao.
Using his size, length, and footwork, Sandhagen unseated the third-ranked Assuncao with near perfection, dominating the Brazilian in all aspects of the game.
Come Tuesday, Sandhagen will surely find himself in the bantamweight top-5, and he’s now staring down the barrel of potential title fight.
Finishes Aren’t Everything
When you start to consider some of the greatest fight cards of all time, events like UFC 217 and UFC 189, there’s no doubt a handful of signature finishes that stick in fans minds, whether it’s Georges St-Pierre choking out Michael Bisping or Conor McGregor knocking out Chad Mendes.
For what it’s worth, the UFC 241 main event did feature a pretty sweet fourth round knockout with Stipe Miocic dropping Daniel Cormier to earn a Performance of the Night bonus, but overall, the card only had three finishes in total, which is a rather low total. Still, UFC 241 delivered a real sense of satisfaction.
Without a doubt, Paulo Costa’s fight with Yoel Romero will go down as an instant classic, and while Nate Diaz was close to finishing Anthony Pettis in the third round, the fight went the distance. And the card didn’t suffer at all.
With the UFC 241 prelims opening up with six straight decisions, the early highlights came from Drakkar Klose and Christos Giagos, who delivered a three round banger. But once the main card started, the fighters took their performances to the next level, with Derek Brunson again proving why he’s been in the middleweight top-10 for the last three years, coming back from an early knockdown to outlast Ian Heinisch.
In total, UFC 241 was a great night of mixed martial arts. The pay per view circus now moves on to Abu Dhabi, where Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to defend his lightweight title against Dustin Poirier.
UFC 241 Official Results
Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier via TKO (Punches) R4, 4:09
Nate Diaz def. Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Paulo Costa def. Yoel Romero via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Sodiq Yusuff def. Gabriel Benitez via TKO (Punches) R1, 4:14
Derek Brunson def. Ian Heinisch via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Khama Worthy def. Devonte Smith via TKO (punches) R1, 4:15
Cory Sandhagen def. Raphael Assuncao vian unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Drakkar Klose def. Christos Giagos via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Casey Kenny def. Manny Bermudez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Hannah Cifers def. Jodie Esquibel via unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Kyung Ho Kang def. Brandon Davis via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Sabina Mazo def. Shana Dobson via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-24, 30-25)