Fight Notes: UFC 241
The UFC's heavy schedule continued apace, as UFC 241 came and went, delivering another card of mixed quality. Some underwhelming prelims lead to a pretty solid pay-per-view card, which featured a pair of intense Fight Of The Night contenders and an entertaining main event. The show pacing was a bit rough, and things took a while to get good but the wait ended up being worth it. Here's how the night went:
Derek Brunson put on an impressive performance, maintaining range and actually defending strikes. After a brief scare, when a head kick staggered him early in round 1, Brunson was able to use the clinch to regain his composure. Heinisch won the first round by stuffing takedowns and landing some good shots, but Brunson took over the fight in the second and kept that momentum throughout the rest of the fight. Heinisch looked good but wasn't able to keep Brunson off him and landed less and less offence as the fight progressed. For a fighter with a very mixed record of performances, this was a great win for Brunson over a threatening prospect.
Sodiq Yussuf immediately took the fight to Gabriel Benitez. After walking him down for most of the first round, Benitez started landing his own strikes but got caught with a hard counter right and dropped in the final minute. Yussuf followed Benitez to the mat, landed 5 more punches and notched the second stoppage win of the night. Yussuf looked very good, although his defence — or lack thereof, in this case — was a bit concerning.
Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero waged an incredible 3 round war. Costa immediately walked Romero down, and kept the former middleweight contender's back to the cage for most of the fight. Romero did a good job slipping a lot of punches and absorbing the ones that got through. Costa's pace started to slow by the midpoint of the second round, and Romero began to takeover the fight. Still, Costa was able to withstand all of Romero's best shots and never totally stopped throwing his own. Romero was unable to rock Costa significantly, but likewise was never in serious danger of being finished. This was an all-out war, which I thought Costa won the first 2 rounds with more volume and aggression. I had it 29-28 for Costa. There seemed to be a lot of dispute over that result on my Twitter feed, but I thought the judges got it right. I'd also be quite happy with a rematch.
Nate Diaz made a successful return to welterweight, after an absence of 3 years after splitting a pair of fights with Conor McGregor. Pettis tried to implement the typical anti-Diaz gameplan by throwing leg kicks, but Nate actually checked them. Pettis landed some good punches, but Nate mixed things up really well with dirty boxing and a lot of clinching. Nate even scored some takedowns, took Pettis back on a couple of occasions and threatened chokes. Pettis was banged up by the third, with a damaged left shin and a swollen ankle. Despite almost being finished with knees to the head, Pettis was able to survive until the final bell even if he lost every round quite handily. Pettis showed a lot of heart, as per usual, but was dominated from start to finish. Nate called out Jorge Masvidal after the fight and I am absolutely down with that if it happens.
Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic put on a tremendous 4 rounds. Both men came out swinging, with Cormier acting uncharacteristically aggressive and walking Miocic down. The first 2 rounds were soundly in DC's favour, as he racked up a huge volume of punches on Miocic who could do little but walk backwards and circle away as he threw single shots. DC started to tire in the third and fourth round, though still very likely won the third. It was in the fourth that Miocic made crucial adjustments, started spamming a left hook to the body and eventually rocked Cormier with a right hand. Stunned, DC staggered backwards into the fence and ate a flurry of punches and withered to the mat. Herb Dean was a tad late in stepping in, awarding the TKO stoppage to Miocic and crowning a new heavyweight champion. Another incredible fight, capping off a night that didn't get the greatest start.
- Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier by TKO (punches) @ 4:09 of Round 4
- Nate Diaz def. Anthony Pettis by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Paulo Costa def. Yoel Romero by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Sodiq Yussuf def. Gabriel Benitez by TKO (punches) @ 4:14 of Round 1
- Derek Brunson def. Ian Heinisch by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Opening the formal prelims was a really fun catchweight battle between Casey Kenney and Manny Bermudez. Despite ceding a significant size disparity to Bermudez, Kenney was able to get the better of the grappling scrambles in what was a reallt gruelling fight. Bermudez was able to land takedowns in the second and threatened a guillotine choke from the top and some ground-and-pound, but Kenney's defence was solid. After debuting on 8 days notice, after winning the LFA bantamweight title, against Ray Borg, Kenney is now 1-1 in the UFC and looks like a legit prospect.
Lightweights Christos Giagos and Drakkar Klose had a really fun fight, splitting the fight in half essentially. Klose was stifled by Giagos pace and constant stance switching for the first round and had his back taken and was almost choked out in the second. But after Klose defended and got Giagos off his back, he took over the fight and started teeing off on his winded opponent. The third was a decisively Klose round, giving him the edge on the score cards in my estimation — an assessment shared by all 3 judges.
In what should have been the featured prelim, Cody Sandhagen completely nullified and controlled veteran bantamweight Raphael Assuncao. Sandhagen was relentless with his pressure, giving Assuncao no chance to counter or establish himself. At best, some of the scrambles and grappling exchanges ended up 50/50, but the rest of the time it was Sandhagen controlling the fight. You could argue the second round was a 10-10 draw, but Sandhagen definitely won the first and third. A great showing from a tremendous prospect and a difficult setback for Assuncao who gets further and further away from a title shot.
Short notice replacement Khama Worthy needed just a little more than 4 minutes to upset 10:1 favourite — and former training partner — Devonte Smith. After a fairly conservative stand up fight, Worthy was able to drop Smith with a counter left and finish him with follow-up hammer fists. This was a huge upset and the first finish of the night, Worthy made the best debut one could ask for on incredibly short notice.
- Khama Worthy def. Devonte Smith by TKO (punches) @ 4:15 of Round 1
- Cody Sandhagen def. Raphael Assuncao by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Drakkar Klose def. Christos Giagos by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Casey Kenney def. Manny Bermudez by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Fight Pass Prelims
The first fight of the night saw Sabina Mazo steamroll fellow flyweight Shana Dobson, scoring multiple 10-8 rounds — even totaling a 30-24 on one judge's card — en route to a decisive win. Mazo scored takedowns and smothered Dobson from the top, in addition to battering her with knees and kicks to the body. Dobson gets credit for toughing it out, but that's about it; this was not even close.
Kyung Ho Kang and Brandon Davis had a really fun scrap. Kang arguably won the first round, which was a fairly conservative stand-up battle. Davis, racking up a lot of damage on Kang's left leg, started to assert himself in the striking exchanges and took over in the second round. It seemed tied going into the third, and Kang seemed to be fading. Kang was able to land several takedowns and steal the round, even though Davis was busier on defence than Kang was on offence. I had it 29-28 for Kang, as did 2 judges — the first and third didn't seem hard to score...
Last of the early prelims was a decent, though mostly unremarkable women's strawweight battle. Hannah Cifers was able to outwork Jodie Esquibel for all 3 rounds, doubling up on her with landed strikes and avoiding takedown attempts. Esquibel's left leg absorbed a lot of kicks, but didn't present much of a problem for her. Cifers easily won every round, notching a quality win; she looks like a good prospect at 115 pounds.
- Hannah Cifers def. Jodie Esquibel by Unanimous Decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Kyung Ho Kang def. Brandon Davis by Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Sabina Mazo def. Shana Dobson by Unanimous Decision (30-24, 30-25, 30-25)
The 7 prelim fights could have been better, as everything but the final 2 bouts was somewhere between utterly forgettable and barely passable. The show pacing felt very slow, but the main card really did deliver. The pay-per-view portion was A+ level, but the rest of the show was nothing of the sort — so things average out to a strong "B" grade.
Published: August 18th, 2019.