MMA Review: #695: UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic II

-This was one of the biggest UFC PPVs in recent memory with a loaded card and a big-time title fight in the main event, so from what I remember hopes were high in terms of expectations going in.

UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic II

Anaheim, California

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz.

Middleweight Fight: Derek Brunson vs Ian Heinisch

Gatekeeper Brunson was coming off a strong – if dull – win over Elias Theodorou, and this was another chance for him to turn back a solid up-and-comer in Heinisch who was 2-0 in the UFC prior to this fight.

Fight begins and Heinisch comes forward right away and tags Brunson with a nasty head kick, dropping him for a second. Brunson quickly recovers though and gets a bodylock, lifting Heinisch up but somehow not slamming him down. He ends up forcing Heinisch into the fence, but they break shortly after. Both men glance on some punches before Heinisch tags Brunson again with a left hand. Brunson’s looking slightly tentative here as Heinisch keeps striking from the outside. Takedown attempt from Heinisch is blocked. Counter left hand connects nicely for Brunson. Action slows down slightly before Brunson shoots on a single leg, but Heinisch somehow hops around and manages to stay vertical. Couple of combos glance for Heinisch. Brunson comes back with a brief flurry before shooting again, and the round ends with a failed suplex attempt. 10-9 Heinisch.

2nd round and they trade some kicks early on before Heinisch shoots, only for Brunson to stuff it. Big punches from Brunson have Heinisch hurt and he drops for the takedown, but Brunson sprawls and grabs a front headlock before standing. Head kick glances for Brunson. Clean left has Heinisch hurt and Brunson follows with another, but the chin holds up. Brunson is looking much better in this round. More clean counterpunches land for Brunson and he stuffs a takedown and spins to take the back, landing punches in the process. They break off and Brunson continues to get the better of the striking exchanges. Looks like Heinisch might be slowing down too. Brunson’s use of the body kick is helping too. Another takedown is stuffed by Brunson and he lands a series of solid punches for goo measure. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Brunson to even things up.

Between rounds the crowd start booing and Heinisch even asks his corner about it, but they seem clueless. Seconds later the cameras show COLBY COVINGTON arriving in the crowd, which explains things, ha.

3rd round and the whole arena starts a “Colby sucks!” chant as Brunson and Heinisch trade some early strikes. Takedown attempt from Brunson sees him hit a beautiful German suplex, but Heinisch pops right back up into the clinch. They break off and again Brunson gets the better of the striking by just being more patient and technical. Heinisch has a really good chin to be taking these heavy left hands. Brilliant sprawl from Brunson allows him to avoid a takedown. Nice outside trip plants Heinisch and from there he takes the back. Heinisch scrambles back to his feet, but he eats another hard left. Both men land some decent punches but again Brunson lands the better ones. Heinisch looks GASSED. He keeps coming forward, but he’s being completely outstruck here. Heinisch’s punches don’t seem to have much sting now either. More of the same follows until the round ends. 10-9 Brunson, 29-28 Brunson overall.

Judges agree and all three have it 29-28 for Derek Brunson. Excellent opener as Heinisch gave everything he had – even when he got tired – but Brunson was a little too much for him, as he soaked up a lot of pressure in the first and then turned up the heat in a smart way in the last two rounds. Crucially, he didn’t just attempt to fight fire with fire as he once would’ve done, which is impressive and bodes well for him going forward.

Featherweight Fight: Sodiq Yusuff vs Gabriel Benitez

This was another step up for Yusuff after he’d looked excellent in his first two UFC fights, as he was faced with a real veteran in Benitez who’d beaten vaunted prospects like Jason Knight before. This looked like a really great fight on paper actually.

Round One begins and Benitez comes out firing but eats a heavy right hand off the bat. Yusuff really tags him with some hard punches and he’s walking Moggly down here too. Huge shots keep on landing for Yusuff and he’s got Benitez cut early on. Benitez just can’t seem to keep Yusuff at distance. He does land a couple of strong low kicks though. Halfway through the round and Yusuff’s output has slowed somewhat, allowing Moggly to land some more decent low kicks and some punches now too. Big right hand suddenly lands for Benitez and drops Yusuff and he’s in trouble. He pops back up but takes some more shots and really has to go on the defensive, but manages to survive. Left hand answers back and forces Moggly back now. Trade continues and both men are eating big punches. HUGE COUNTER RIGHT suddenly lands for Yusuff in another exchange and Benitez goes down, and Yusuff follows with some more punches for the stoppage.

Amazing fight; both guys just came out to swing and both men landed some massive shots, but in the end it was Yusuff’s power that really made the difference as Benitez just got knocked silly. Dude still needs some polish to his game but if he keeps up his current trajectory he’ll be a title contender sooner rather than later.

Middleweight Fight: Yoel Romero vs Paulo Costa

This one to me was the best fight on the card – even above the main event – as it was a clash of real physical monsters, with Costa – an absolute UNIT – taking a huge step up in competition to face Romero, arguably the scariest guy in the whole division. Basically this was must-see stuff.

Round One and the crowd are treating this as a BIG DEAL and quite rightfully so. Costa looks to walk him down right away, surprisingly enough, but almost eats a left hook early on. Load of kicks from Romero look to keep Costa at a distance before a head kick lands for the Cuban. Takedown attempt follows but Costa scrambles free despite eating an uppercut. Costa closes him down again and looks to land some punches, then drops Romero with a short left! Romero somehow pops right back up, and as Costa looks to close in again, HE gets dropped by a clubbing right hand! Crowd are going APESHIT now. Both guys tumble to the ground from the clinch briefly before popping back up, and a big kick to the body and a left hand have Romero on the retreat with his back to the fence. More shots follow for Costa and Romero’s firmly on the defensive now. He does fire back, but he’s getting walked down. Huge right hook lands for Costa and he keeps on digging to the body. Big flurry lands for Costa, wow. Romero is basically getting bullied here which is INSANE. Suddenly he comes back with a flying knee though, and lands a flurry of his own….but Costa drops him with an apparent low blow.

Ref calls time and they restart after a decent delay. Again Costa walks him down, but this time Romero fires right back with some hard shots of his own again. Left hand lands for Costa and has Romero hurt, and he eats some more shots on the ground for a second before popping up to fire back. BIG TRADE follows and somehow neither man goes down. Costa is really working the body well though. Wheel kick glances for Costa as they continue to exchange until the round ends. Tight round but Costa’s pressure took it for me.

Round Two and Romero moves around some more early on and pings some kicks at Costa, but again the Brazilian walks him down and lands some hard shots to the body. His stalking style is phenomenal. Kicks to the legs and body land again for Costa. Brutal left hook connects for Costa. Somehow Romero keeps on taking these shots and somehow rolls with them, but he’s not firing back enough in response. Midway through the round now and Romero fires back a little more, but he’s still on the retreat for the most part as Costa keeps on walking him down. Romero’s taking some deep breaths too. To be fair both guys are. Seconds to go in the round and they just keep on trading bombs. This is an amazing fight. Nice uppercut lands for Romero and Costa’s bleeding from the mouth. Round ends with a big takedown for Yoel. 10-9 Costa, but the tide seemed to be turning by the end of that round.

Round Three and Costa looks to walk Romero down again as the Cuban keeps on pinging counters at him. Big left hand lands for Romero and he follows with a nasty uppercut. Costa’s chin is amazing considering Romero’s power. Big body kick lands for Costa and he follows with another one. These dudes are keeping an incredible level of output. Big body shot from Costa and he follows with another hard right but Romero’s chin is evidently amazing too. Ref calls time for an eye poke on Costa and the doctor has to check him over. He’s good to go though and they restart, with Costa landing a nasty leg kick. Big punches again connect for both men. Romero isn’t being walked down so much in this round and so they’re trading pretty openly. Costa’s face is a MESS now. Huge punches land for Romero but somehow Costa eats them all up and fires right back. Backfist connects for Romero in another wild exchange. He’s suddenly got Costa a bit hurt, but the Brazilian simply tells him to BRING IT and then comes forward swinging himself! Holy shit these guys are insane. Both men drop their hands to taunt now before trading again. Just over a minute to go and Romero’s really pouring it on, landing big punches and uppercuts. Big head kick connects for Costa but Romero somehow just takes it. Exchange continues and Romero lands a takedown, but Costa reverses right back up and they trade to the buzzer. Jesus Christ what a round. 10-9 Romero, 29-28 Costa overall.

Official scores are 29-28 all round for Paulo Costa. Well, despite the late rally from Romero I think the judges got that one right. Biggest factor for Costa winning in my opinion was how he backed up and stalked Romero in the first two rounds, and realistically any other fighter not named Yoel Romero would probably have been taken out before the third round began anyway, Romero is just insanely durable. Basically Costa is what everyone expected UBEREEM to be like, this monstrous, muscled guy who stalks his opponents, bullies them around and lands bombs, but he’s more durable than the Reem was – even in his prime – and that’s why I think he wins the Middleweight title when he finally gets a crack at it.

Anyhow, the fight was absolutely AMAZING as neither man backed down an inch and they just kept trading and trading for basically the full 15 minutes. High end FOTYC and in fact you could make a case for this being *the* best fight of 2019.

Welterweight Fight: Nate Diaz vs Anthony Pettis

I’ll be honest and say I didn’t expect Diaz back any time soon – especially not in a fight that wasn’t considered a “money fight” – but I guess his cash reserves had finally run out 3 years after the two fights with Conor McGregor. This one with Pettis was put together apparently because Diaz figured it’d be “fun” after Pettis’ win over Stephen Thompson, and sure, it sounded like a bunch of fun on paper.

Round One and Diaz looks to close Pettis down early as he throws a quick leg kick. Lot of odd movement from both men before Diaz flurries and Pettis lands a solid counter. Big chant for Diaz as Pettis lands two hard right hands before they clinch up. Nice break from Pettis and he works a big combo, but Diaz absorbs it well. Big head kick also lands for Showtime but Diaz just nods his head in acknowledgement. Quick flurry from Diaz allows him to clinch, and he roughs Pettis up a bit against the fence. Pettis breaks, but he eats a pretty hard combo soon after. Nice head kick from Pettis but Diaz gets a takedown off it. Pettis looks for a guillotine from the half-guard, but Diaz easily pops his head free and looks to pass. Couple of good shots on the ground get through for Nate and then he takes the back, but as Pettis looks to roll he mounts instead. Good hip escape from Pettis gets him free, but Diaz takes the back again and softens him up with punches. Round ends with Diaz in firm control. Pettis was ahead until the takedown, but you’d have to go 10-9 Diaz really.

Round Two and Pettis lands a hard leg kick, but his own leg gives out and he falls down for a second. He pops up and manages to shrug off the clinch, then lands a clean left hand as Diaz pushes forward. Solid combo lands for Showtime and he’s got Diaz on the run for a second. Diaz’s left eye is marked up. Pettis corrals him into the fence for a second to land a couple of combos, but the ref calls time to check an issue with Diaz’s eye. Diaz tells the doctor he’s fine and they quickly restart, and Pettis stings him in an exchange with a right hand. Diaz forces him back into the clinch though and uncorks his own combinations. Both guys are landing some really great shots here. Clinch from Diaz and he works a couple of really heavy knees to the head before ending up on top when Pettis looks for a kimura. Pettis works back to his feet, but eats a big knee from the clinch again. Nasty elbow lands for Nate from close quarters. He’s really roughing Pettis up in the clinch. They trade off with punches from there but Diaz looks to be the fresher man and he’s really unloading now. Pettis does fire back, but he’s definitely getting the worse of this exchange. Round ends with both men continuing to exchange. 10-9 Diaz, great round.

Round Three and Pettis definitely looks like he’s wilting a bit. Diaz’s right eye is sliced up but apart from that he looks fine. And sure enough he corrals Pettis right away and exchanges with him on the fence, and although Showtime fires back he’s still getting chewed up from close range. Looks like Pettis’ right ankle might be blown out too. Clinch from Pettis this time but Diaz breaks off and continues to press the action with his punches. Huge combo from Nate as he continues to pour on the pressure. Two knees have Pettis in trouble and he doubles over then crashes down, and the ref could easily stop this as Diaz lands punches from there. Pettis manages to roll into the turtle position but he’s taking a LOT of damage here. Both hooks in for Diaz and the crowd go INSANE. Pettis somehow survives though, and spins over into Diaz’s guard with half of the round remaining. Pettis works on top with ground-and-pound before Diaz starts to land elbows, and in a scramble Nate manages to get back on top before taking the back again. Sweeping punches land for Diaz and he forces Pettis to stay down, then slaps the hooks in. Clock is ticking down though and he can’t quite sink a choke before Pettis spins on top. Round ends there. 10-9 Diaz, 30-27 overall, tremendous fight though.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Nate Diaz, which the crowd absolutely LOVE. And quite rightfully so, this was one of his career-best performances in my opinion, especially coming off a three-year layoff like that. It was particularly impressive because Pettis was piecing him up early in the first round but he quickly found he could have success by corralling and crowding from the clinch, and from there the momentum immediately swung his way. Tremendous action overall too, not quite as good as Romero vs. Costa but it wasn’t far off.

Post-fight Diaz calls out Jorge Masvidal, and of course, that’s another show!

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Daniel Cormier vs Stipe Miocic

These two had of course faced off for the UFC Heavyweight title just over a year prior to this with Cormier winning by KO, and while he’d made a title defense against Derrick Lewis since, Miocic hadn’t actually fought in the meantime. It was a bit unusual to see the UFC make the instant rematch with that in mind, but to be fair Stipe had made 3 successful title defenses prior to fighting Cormier – a UFC record at Heavyweight – so it was hard to claim he didn’t deserve it. Plus, the UFC had always planned for Cormier to be fighting Brock Lesnar here, but thankfully that nonsense fell through, at least giving us a genuine fight.

Fight begins and both men circle tentatively and land a few low kicks early on. Cormier’s leg kicks look really good actually. Left hook also glances for him. He clinches and looks to repeat the KO shot from the first fight, but doesn’t land cleanly. He does land clean with a right though that appears to hurt Stipe for a second. Stipe comes back with a right of his own, but a combo from Cormier responds and then he goes for a single leg. Miocic tries to fight it off, but Cormier hits a BIG SLAM and works into half-guard. That was ridiculously impressive. Miocic manages to work to full guard and prevents a lot of damage, but DC is clearly in control here. Big shots begin to get through for Cormier with a minute to go. Miocic lands an upkick as DC looks to pass, but it doesn’t really stop the champ from being in firm control. Big hammer fists land for Cormier with Miocic clinging onto a single leg, but he survives them and stands as the round ends. Well, that was a dominant round for Cormier.

Second round and Miocic’s face looks all bruised up badly. He opens with a nice sharp jab though, looking to keep DC at a distance. Decent combo connects for Stipe and he lands a knee to the gut as Cormier comes forward. Miocic is doing much better early in this round with some long combinations. DC manages to step in though and land a big left elbow as well as some combos from closer range. Cormier is deceptively quick and that’s what Miocic is finding difficult. Big right hook from Cormier but Stipe takes it really well. Apparent eye poke from Cormier is ignored by the ref, and he takes the opportunity to tag Stipe with heavy punches, but Miocic fires back with a strong right uppercut.

Nasty right hook lands for Stipe but Cormier fires back with one of his own. These guys are both landing some huge shots now, basically trading from close range. DC is just wading forward throwing combos. Couple of really nice shots land for Miocic and Cormier finally appears to be feeling the effects. This fight is INSANE as they’re just trading and eating bombs in this round, wow. Beautiful clean combo from DC sets up a clinch, but Miocic breaks and tags him again. Huge uppercut snaps Miocic’s head back in another trade. More trading follows and somehow neither guy is being wobbled. Seconds to go and they just keep on bombing at one another, and that’s the round. Unbelievable stuff, one of the best rounds I’ve seen in a long time. Probably 10-9 Cormier again but it was very close.

Third round and Miocic lands a beautiful one-two to open things. He’s spearing Cormier with his jab now. Single leg attempt follows but DC stuffs it easily. Big punch to the eye from Cormier has Stipe wincing, but he digs deep and fires right back as the TRADE CONTINUES. It’s hard to score as they’re just throwing bomb after bomb after bomb here. Clinch from Stipe and he pins DC into the fence to probably buy some time. Miocic breaks with a missed spinning elbow, and they both land combinations again. Both guys are using spearing jabs now. Kick to the body lands for DC and he continues to jab. Heavy combo from Miocic is met with a right from DC, but Miocic surprises him with a takedown. Cormier bounces back up, but he eats a knee, and they end up in the clinch before quickly breaking. Big shots from Cormier but Stipe eats them up and fires right back again. Huge combo has Stipe wobbled for a second but his recovery is amazing. His left eye looks like hell. Wild trade sees both men land and the round ends just after. 10-9 Cormier but like the previous round, it was close.

Fourth round and Cormier is looking slightly tired actually as Miocic presses forward, pumping the jab. Nice leg kick from DC. Big left hook follows but Miocic eats it up. Jabs connect for both men before Miocic digs two left hands right to the body. Another left to the body lands for Stipe in an exchange and Cormier’s visibly getting hurt by them even as he’s throwing back. Two more land for Stipe and another one really connects hard. Cormier fires back, but Miocic looks more confident now. He keeps on going to the body, even walking through a big right from DC, and DC is hanging his hands now. More work to the body from Stipe and suddenly a BIG RIGHT has him wobbled! Cormier stumbles back into the fence and takes another right, and then Miocic UNLOADS ON HIM WITH BOMBS until he crumples! Holy shit.

Well, that was an unbelievable fight. Up there with the very best Heavyweight title fights in UFC history, probably top three in fact in my opinion. Both guys just threw everything they had at one another and showed ridiculous cardio and durability to go that long, but in the end the difference appeared to be that Miocic was able to absorb more punishment than in the first fight, and that surprised Cormier, who didn’t give his striking enough respect. Cormier was clearly ahead going into the fourth but he was also far more tired, and when Stipe really started digging those left hands to the body, it was the beginning of the end.

Where next for them, as neither man has fought since? At the time all the talk was of a trilogy fight, but I think that’s probably unfair to Francis Ngannou at this point. With the Covid-19 issue right now, if Miocic can’t fight any time soon I’d probably look to book Cormier vs. Ngannou for an interim title – if DC wants that fight – and if he doesn’t, just have Ngannou wait for Stipe. At this stage too, with wins over JDS, Overeem, Ngannou, Cormier, Arlovski and Hunt – as well as two title reigns – I’d probably say you’d have to call Miocic the best Heavyweight in UFC history. It’s such a pity Cain Velasquez never stayed healthy as a fight between those two would’ve decided that status for sure.

-Show ends with a highlight of a truly amazing show, and then we’re done.

Final Thoughts….

On paper this was one of the best UFC shows in recent memory, but in execution it turned out to be one of the greatest of all time, point blank in my opinion. Literally every fight delivered from start to finish, and while Brunson vs. Heinisch would be considered the “worst”, it’d probably be one of the best on a lesser show. With three FOTYCs on tap in the top three fights, this is simply a must-see show for any MMA fan.

Best Fight: Costa vs. Romero
Worst Fight: Brunson vs. Heinisch

Overall Rating: *****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: