Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Honda Center in Anaheim, California, last night (Sat., Aug. 17, 2019) for UFC 241. The absolute best event of the Summer, UFC 241 brought the action with a Heavyweight title fight in the main event, pair of Welterweight stars in the co-main, and a clash of absolute powerhouses at 185 lbs. Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques of the night!
Body Work Wins The Day
For three rounds, Daniel Cormier was the sharper man.
Like the first fight, his jab connecting early and often. A few low kicks crushed the thigh of his foe. The right hand on the break that ended the first fight landed numerous times. When Cormier really committed to the single leg takedown in the first round, he picked Miocic up and threw him on his back.
Despite being down three rounds, Miocic did not look discouraged. Finally though, he found some real success to build from: the left hook to the body. Absorbing body shots has never been a strength of Cormier, and this deep in the fight, Cormier really felt them. Immediately, Cormier’s volume dropped off.
Fortunately for Miocic, Cormier knows no other way but to advance. He kept pushing forward into the exact distance where Miocic’s hook to the body was landing. Despite his lead, he through himself into the fire. Miocic smartly doubled down on that hook, which eventually set up a perfect right hand to the jawline.
At Heavyweight, that’s all it takes for a lead to evaporate.
Nate Diaz Fights... Smart?
It’s been three years since Nate Diaz last stepped into the cage, and frankly, he looked rusty.
Diaz’s timing was — understandably — a bit off. He seemed to have a difficult time moving the way he wanted to, as if his legs refused to fully wake up. As a result, he ate quite a few counters on his way inside. In fact, Pettis probably landed the better strikes from within the pocket.
It didn’t matter though, because Diaz followed the game plan perfectly.
Immediately, Diaz made it clear that he was not willing to eat every low kick. Raising his leg and stomping forward, Diaz threatened the check. He used the big step to close distance. Pettis landed a few low kicks, but Diaz also checked one badly, hurting Pettis’ ankle. In short, Diaz made a conscious effort to improve a weakness.
With his boxing timing a bit off, Diaz pursued the clinch with extra vigor. From that distance, Diaz managed to score takedowns, showing off his excellent jiu-jitsu. More effectively, Diaz attacked the body with hooks and knees. By the third, Diaz seemed to have shaken much of the rust, resulting in sharper 1-2s and some brutal knees that very nearly ended the contest.
If Diaz can maintain this level of strategy and get his timing back fully, that’s a dangerous man!
Romero Vs. Costa Delivers
Two massively muscled Middleweights walked into the Octagon last night, and there was a promise of violence. With each man scoring a knockdown in the opening round and continuing to set a high-pace for the entire 15 minute contest, the bout lived up to the hype.
Costa fought like he usually does: smart pressure. The Brazilian kept his guard high and advanced, slamming home right kicks to the mid-section at every opportunity. Overall, Costa’s commitment to body work was hugely impressive. Unlike many of Romero’s past opponents, Costa was unafraid to counter the wild offense of Romero. That’s how he dropped “Soldier of God” in the first, with a tight left hook as Romero lunged forward.
Meanwhile, Romero did what he’s done many times before. He landed a few big shots, but Romero mostly allowed the first round to escape him, preferring to watch Costa work and waste energy. In the second, Romero turned it up, starting to land his own off-beat straights and even a takedown. Finally, Romero was fully on in the final five minutes, finding openings almost at will to really carve his foe up.
In the end, the judges awarded Costa the decision. I genuinely don’t know if it was the right call, the fight was that close — but as fans, the promise was fulfilled.
Sandhagen Breaks The Top Five
It’s taken just five fights and 18 months for Cory Sandhagen to move from UFC debutante to top-ranked contender.
It was not a perfect fight. On the whole, Sandhagen was a bit too willing to grapple with the jiu-jitsu black belt. He still won most of those exchanges on the mat, but by wrestling with Assuncao, Sandhagen did give his foe a chance to get back in the fight.
Before that, Sandhagen was simply picking apart an expert counter striker. He did so with an accurate jab from both stances, creative combinations, a bruising low kicks, and an abundance of feints and hand-fighting. With the feints and hand-fighting, Sandhagen threw his opponent’s timing off, which was pivotal. Furthermore, a well-timed low kick after successful feints is the bane of counter strikers. Numerous times, Assuncao was frozen in place by a feint or reacting to a punch that just wasn’t coming, only for a shin to slam into his thigh.
It all added up to a pretty dominant win for the Colorado-native.
- Sodiq Yusuff defeats Gabriel Benitez via first-round knockout: This was no easy win for the blue chip prospect. Yusuff started strong with a big flurry, but Benitez hung tough and reestablished his distance with the left hand. Benitez pulled control of the bout back into his corner on the strength of his left kick and left hand, one of which dropped Yusuff. Just as it seemed that Yusuff’s cross could not miss, Yusuff countered one with a massive right hook that sent “Moggly” down for good. It’s a third-straight Octagon victory for Yusuff, who continues to look like a future contender while remaining quite exciting.
- Khama Worthy defeats Devonte Smith via first-round knockout: Worthy scored one of the year’s biggest upsets last night on just about a week’s notice. For most of the fight, the two strikes exchanged at a fairly average pace without a ton of commitment — it seemed the two former training partners were well-aware of each other’s power. When Smith did attack with a right hand late in the round, he over-committed, squaring up his hips and bringing his head forward. The punch landed, but Worthy’s counter hook landed directly to the jaw, which slumped his opponent to the mat.
- Drakkar Klose defeats Christos Giagos via unanimous decision: Grit is the name of Klose’s game. In the first half of the fight, Giagos was the slicked man, popping 1-2s, rolling his head, and even nailing a couple takedowns. Klose was far behind, but he rallied back with pure aggression. Even while being countered, Klose kept swarming, landing hard uppercuts and elbows to counter Giagos’ head movement. After hurting Giagos, Klose maintained a huge amount of pressure. Even with a valiant effort from Giagos in the third, Klose kept the momentum firmly in his corner, simply pushing harder to secure the decision.
- Kyung Ho Kang defeats Brandon Davis via split-decision: Who wins the battle of calf kick vs. straight punches? In round one, it was Kang, who’s jab and cross repeatedly connected mid-kick and even dropped his opponent. Attrition built up in the second, however, as Davis kept connecting to the calf, limiting Kang’s offense and opening up Davis’ own creative combinations. He had the momentum heading into the third, but Kang flipped the script by committing to the double leg in the third and grinding out the win.