The UFC® returns to Anaheim, California for UFC 241 on August 17 and is bringing with it the biggest rematch in Heavyweight history. In the main event, UFC Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier will defend his title against former champion Stipe Miocic. In the co-main event, a returning Nate Diaz faces off against Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis in a Welterweight bout.
Here are our official predictions for the main card at UFC 241.
UFC 241 Predictions
Daniel Cormier (C) vs. Stipe Miocic
After a year of uncertainty highlighted by a Brock Lesnar-sized diversion, the rematch to the biggest fight in UFC Heavyweight division history is finally here.
There were several reasons why the rematch to 'The Superfight' was originally believed to be a pipe dream. For one, Cormier stated publicly that his goal was to retire by the time he turned 40 — which came and went on March 20, 2019. There was also the threat of a potential return of Lesnar to the UFC, who Cormier claimed he hoped to fight before hanging up his gloves.
During this whole fiasco, the usually-quite Miocic took to social media to campaign for a rematch to the two's bout at UFC 226.
When the dust settled after months of speculation, Lesnar's return was sunk in the grave, Cormier's retirement was put on hold and Cormier vs. Miocic II was officially announced.
While it lasted less than one round, the first meeting between these two titans offers a lot of insight into the rematch. History remembers the original bout as a first round knockout for Cormier, but it's often forgotten that Miocic was controlling the pace in the first couple of minutes. Miocic landed a flurry clean shots, got an underhook onto Cormier and even took his back and one point -- but he never got full dominant position. For a moment, it looked like Cormier may have been out of his depth back up at Heavyweight.
But the tide turned when the fight went to the clinch and Cormier was able to land one clean hook while pushing off to drop Miocic and end the fight.
Expect the rematch to show what each fighter has learned since the first meeting over a year ago. Cormier has fought at Heavyweight one more time since the UFC 226 bout, defeating Derrick Lewis at UFC 230, and is acclimated to fighting at the higher weight class once again. Miocic has had time to reflect on the pros and cons of the fight and claimed publicly that he won't let the minor slip happen when standing across the cage from Cormier again.
While Heavyweight bouts are insanely difficult to predict due to their "one-punch" nature, Miocic may have the upper hand on Cormier. His boxing is sharper and he has the experience of pushing the pressure on Cormier and knowing where the true danger area lies. As long as Miocic avoids the clinch and uses his 7.5" reach advantage effectively, he should be able to piece up Cormier on the feet.
With that said, expect this fight to be more tactical and for Miocic to be more selective with his shots. While a knockout could be in the cards for either man, we see this one going all five rounds.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Miocic via Unanimous Decision
Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz
After three years, one half of the most infamous brotherhood in the UFC's history is returning to The Octagon®.
The last time Nate Diaz stepped into the cage was on August 20, 2016 for his historic rematch with Conor McGregor at UFC 202. Over the course of 25 minutes, McGregor and Diaz put on a classic, but 'The Notorious One' came out on top with a majority decision victory.
Diaz stepped away from the sport following the loss, offering no insight on his timetable for return. Many thought it would take the trilogy fight with McGregor to bring Diaz back to the UFC, but McGregor's foray into boxing and rivalry with Khabib Nurmagomedov put the third fight on indefinite hold.
Diaz was scheduled to make his promotional return at UFC 230 to face Dustin Poirier at Lightweight, but Poirier was forced to pull out of the fight the month prior due to injury.
A year later, Diaz is finally making his comeback, but this time against a Welterweight opponent in Anthony Pettis.
A former UFC Lightweight Champion, Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis re-emerged into prominence after a shocking knockout of Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson in the former's return to 170 pounds.
With two perennial Lightweights fighting at a weight class above, expect both to possess more power in the stand up game. Pettis' performance against Thompson showcased a striking prowess that many thought he had lost, and Diaz was able to stun McGregor several times at the higher weight.
The key factor to this fight will be the cardio of both men. Diaz is known for his large gas tank, but the ring rust of not fighting in almost three years will certainly play a factor. Pettis is also heralded for strong cardio, but he'll likely be pushing the pace most of this fight and could gas out past the first 10 minutes if he doesn't conserve his energy appropriately.
In the end, Pettis looks like a new fighter at Welterweight and his recent activity compared to Diaz's lack of any activity should be the difference in the co-main event.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Pettis via Unanimous Decision
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
Nate Diaz wasn't the only UFC 241 fighter who pulled out of the MSG card at UFC 230.
Yoel Romero and the undefeated Paulo Costa were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 230, but Romero pulled himself from the fight by the recommendation of his doctors.
But the fight had enough steam around it that it finally made its way onto the schedule 10 months later.
Romero hasn't seen any official action since his UFC 225 meeting with UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker where he lost by split decision. The fight was supposed to be for the 185-pound strap, but Romero missed weight, making him ineligible to win the title even in victory.
Costa has a similar level of inactivity, having not stepped foot in The Octagon since a TKO victory over Uriah Hall at UFC 226.
While both fighters find themselves in the Top 10 of the Middleweight division, Romero may be too much of a step up in competition for Costa. Romero has dominated the competition in his division, with his only two losses in the past seven years coming to Whittaker by way of two five-round wars. Costa has yet to face someone with Romero's wrestling pedigree and won't be able to risk standing and trading with the powerful Cuban.
Expect Romero to get the win and maintain his place in the upper echelon of the Middleweight Division.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Romero via Knockout
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch
Middleweight mainstay Derek Brunson aims to put his name back into the spotlight after an anticlimactic decision victory of Elias Theodorou at UFC Fight Night: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy. Brunson has lost four of his last seven bouts, effectively becoming the gatekeeper of the 185-pound division.
Names like Romero, Whittaker, Anderson Silva, 'Jacare' Souza and Israel Adesanya have all gone through Brunson to reach a higher plateau, and now Ian Heinisch looks to do the same.
Coming from the second season of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, Heinisch has put together two wins to start his UFC career and is quickly making a name for himself in the division. Brunson is a big step up in competition, but a necessary one for Heinisch to continue to rise up the ranks.
Look for Heinisch to push on Brunson early. He lands 3.67 significant strikes per minute and Brunson absorbs an average of 3.04 strikes in the same time frame. If Heinisch's flurry becomes too much, Brunson will try and take the fight to the mat but Heinisch is proficient enough on the ground to fend for himself.
At the end of 15 minutes, the hungrier Heinisch should have done enough to earn himself a victory over one of the most recognizable names in the division.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Heinisch via Unaninmous Decision
Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff
Featherweight prospect Sodiq Yusuff takes his next step against Gabriel Benitez.
Expect this bout to be a potential Fight of the Night contender, with both men willing to stand and trade with one another.
Benitez possesses crisp leg kicks that can wobble any opponents, while Yusuff has proven to be a jack of all trades on his feet while still showing immense room for growth.
Both men have proven that they can take large amounts of damage, so look for them to stand in each other's pockets and try to wobble their opponent early.
With Yusuff having the sharper striking skills, it's likely that he'll catch Benitez before letting his opponent land a finishing shot on him.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Yusuff via TKO
Attend UFC 241 with an Official Ticket Package
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