Everything you need to know before UFC 241 in Anaheim on Saturday.
UFC 241 is headlined by Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic in a rematch for the Heavyweight title, and that’s not even the most highly anticipated bout on the card.
After a three-year absence, Nate Diaz returns to the Octagon to fight red-hot “Showtime” Anthony Pettis. If Diaz wins, the fight world will be listening closely to hear if he calls out Conor McGregor for a long-awaited third fight.
Often in MMA, the post-fight scenarios are more tantalizing than the actual fights. But 241 has a card loaded with depth, star power, and exciting drama in the aftermath.
Here are the top questions entering UFC 241, along with my predictions.
1. Can Stipe Miocic regain the Heavyweight title from Daniel Cormier?
In a word, no.
Miocic had an extremely successful run as champ, but Cormier is a terrible matchup for him.
When a fight ends in a vicious opening round knockout, I have a hard time thinking the rematch is going to go another way. This time won’t be any different.
Cormier is a special fighter. He offers unrelenting pressure, knockout power, superior grappling, the ability to control the positions and loads of ways to make you submit. He is in an elite category, which leads us to our next question...
2. Is Jon Jones the next opponent for Daniel Cormier?
Getcha popcorn ready.
There is too much money at stake for Cormier-Jones III not to happen, and both fighters have a lot to gain.
The only blemish on Cormier’s legacy is his loss to Jones. The fight will also be a tremendous moneymaker, which benefits Jones after his last few fights have been against opponents that offered no real chemistry or build.
Another question is whether the fight would be fought at heavyweight or light heavyweight. Despite Jones tweeting that he isn’t interested in changing weight classes, every fighter has a price—and Jones will be paid, and paid well, to make the move to heavyweight in a fight against Cormier.
3. How will Nate Diaz look after a three-year layoff?
Nate Diaz’s return to the Octagon will finally take place this Saturday.
So many variables are at stake if Diaz looks like his normal, dominating self.
If Diaz wins, that immediately opens the door to a third fight against Conor McGregor.
Pettis is on a hot streak and he looks good at 170 pounds. I don't think anybody saw Pettis beating Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in March, let alone finishing him with a second-round knockout. Pettis looked like the “Showtime” Pettis of old in that fight, and a victory over Diaz would shift the balance of the entire welterweight division.
4. Who will be the breakout star?
The candidates for a breakout performance are Paulo Costa, Sodiq Yusuff and Ian Heinisch.
Costa fights middleweight division star Yoel Romero in another long-awaited bout.
A critical question in the Romero-Costa middleweight fight is how Costa will respond to a dangerous opponent like Romero. But even with a question mark, no one can deny his talent.
A win will keep Romero in title contention, but a victory by Costa will make him the new force at 185 pounds. He could even position himself to be the next big star of the division, as well as the next Brazilian mega-star. A win by Costa would lead to an entertaining matchup against current Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
The featherweight fight pitting Gabriel Benítez against Yusuff also offers an intriguing backstory.
Yusuff is another emerging star. He fought on the Contender series and captivated people’s attention. A win over Benítez, who is 5–2 in the UFC and finished 17 of his 21 wins in the cage, would help his ascent to the top of the featherweight division.
But, with a win, the breakout star of the night is going to be Heinisch. If Heinisch can solve the Derek Brunson puzzle, then he will catapult himself into the top ten of the middleweight division.
UFC 241 is a card filled with star-studded fights and carried by its depth, but Heinisch’s time behind bars on Rikers Island adds a completely different element to his story. Heinisch has put himself in a position to be a big draw in the UFC after only being there a short amount of time. If Heinisch can solve the Brunson puzzle, his story and fighting style will lead him the path of becoming UFC’s next star.
5. Predictions for UFC 241
• Daniel Cormier defeats Stipe Miocic
• Nate Diaz defeats Anthony Pettis
• Paulo Costa defeats Yoel Romero
• Sodiq Yusuff defeats Gabriel Benítez
• Ian Heinisch defeats Derek Brunson