As always, let’s start with what went down in Uruguay.
Aside from Veronica Macedo’s upset submission over the submission expert Viana and two razor thin decisions, with one an incredible fight between Perry and Luque, we went unscathed and netted a massive profit.
Shevchenko showed up in dominant fashion again to few people’s surprise, but we also had some incredible performances by debut fighters in Cyril Gane and Raphael Pessoa, who I am excited to see more from.
Our weekly showout of the UFC is about to end with UFC 241 being the final stop on this wild ride we have. Luckily, we have a killer card to send things off on with a Heavyweight rematch between DC and Stipe along with Nate Diaz’s return against Anthony Pettis and plenty more!
*Quick note: Card order might not be perfect, but this order was what was presented by UFC last weekend. I pride myself on getting these picks out before everyone else 🙂
Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic 2 (HW)
We have another double champ who refuses to defend the titles he took. After yoinking Stipe’s gold, Daniel Cormier (22-1, 11-1 UFC) abandoned the LHW division and took a dangerous, yet easy fight against Derrick Lewis to defend at Heavyweight. DC has competent boxing, but usually shines with his wrestling. He loves to use his base to control the fight and dictate where it takes place and on what terms. He has some pop, especially at Heavyweight, where he put Stipe to sleep inside the first round.
Stipe Miocic (18-3, 12-3 UFC) was the most dominant Heavyweight champ until DC moved up a weight class and shut him down last July. He will have a chance to run it back here and right what went wrong. Miocic has incredible wrestling and boxing, but is seriously dangerous with his power, especially in the first round. He uses a high volume in combination with amazing footwork, making it easy if it goes to the judges based on his volume. With Stipe’s power, it often doesn’t.
The first match saw Miocic actually going for the takedowns and landing one, although DC hopped right back up. The disadvantage of height actually helped DC in that match, allowing him to get inside and land the power shots that led him to that TKO win. That’s kind of a one-shot thing, though, as an advantage like that only tricks your opponent once. Stipe has the volume and the power to take home that win any day on the feet and I don’t see DC holding down the much bigger man for long.
Take the Shot: Stipe Miocic via Round 3 Knockout
Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz (WW)
A new weight class shot Anthony Pettis (22-8, 9-7 UFC) to the top ranks with a brutal Superman punch knockout of Wonderboy Thompson, making the former Lightweight champ an immediate contender. Pettis is dangerous from every territory with his flashy and creative striking making him an constant KO threat, especially with his newfound Welterweight power. He also has impressive jiu-jitsu and having an underrated submission game, but rarely taking it to the ground of his own accord.
Nate Diaz is always a fan favorite, but his two FOTN bouts with Conor McGregor gave him enough of a payday to leave the sport for a bit, now making his return after almost three years. Although Diaz is always in fighting shape with his triathlon competitions, it will be interesting to see how much that layoff plays into the game here. Diaz is a BJJ elite, training with the Gracie family, but doesn’t have the best wrestling to get it there, usually pulling guard or relying on his striking to force opponent to make a bad move. His striking is very technical and he has one of the best jabs I have seen, disregarding maybe Jan Blachowicz and JDS.
In a match with two jiu-jitsu experts, I don’t see this touching the mat. Neither fighter likes to pull the trigger on going to the ground and both would rather stand and trade in a brawl. Pettis has struggled with fighters that never let him off the cage and don’t give him room to string together those high-octane strikes. Diaz simply doesn’t have that style. Pettis’ superior combinations and power will outdo the reach and one-twos of Diaz in a match almost certain to be Fight of the Night.
Take the Shot: Anthony Pettis via Round 3 Knockout
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa (MW)
Yoel Romero (13-3, 9-2 UFC) has been a mainstay at the top of the UFC Middleweight division, from his two Fight of the Year contenders (and one winner) with the champ Robert Whittaker to stunning knockouts of Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida. The Olympic silver medalist has incredible wrestling in addition to furious one-shot power. He fights in bursts, standing in almost slow-motion before exploding towards his opponent with supernatural speed and fight-ending power.
This is a big step up for Paulo Costa (12-0, 4-0 UFC). Borrachinha’s most recent win was a knockout over Uriah Hall that shot him into the top 15, but still a win over an aging Uriah Hall who has problem absorbing shots. Costa has finished every victory and 11 of those by knockout. In fact, he has never made it past that second round. We have never seen him extended to the point where his cardio has become a concern, but with a build like that, it must be exhausting. Still, Costa has devastating one-shot power and throws the kitchen sink into every shot and kick he attempts.
This is a match USADA had some interference in happening, but either fighter is the contender for who was at fault. You cannot count on either fighter’s cardio, with Yoel’s continuous problems with weight cutting and endurance and Borrachinha’s seeming inability to make a fight last that long.
Both fighters can end the fight with one shot and when taking a look at their styles, you can’t help but give Romero the immediate advantage with his elite wrestling. But, and that’s a big but, Costa has great takedown defense and has been training this one with Usman and Cejudo, two stunning wrestlers in their own right. The downfall to Romero’s game has been when he is pressured and unable to let off those explosions, something Whittaker was able to exploit in both their matches. Pressure is the name of the game with Costa. That in combination with his brutal power and accuracy, shutting down every opponent who stands directly in front of them (did I mention Romero doesn’t move a lot) makes this a match sure to be painful for Romero in the morning.
Take the Shot: Paulo Costa via Round 1 Knockout
Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff (FTW)
The last outing for Gabriel Benitez (21-6, 5-2 UFC) ended quickly, finishing Humberto Bandenay with a slam in under a minute. Benitez has a jiu-jitsu background and is skilled st wrapping up his opponent’s neck. However, he has struggled with wrestling and instead taking a ground advantage when his opponent goes for it. His striking is clean, but it is mainly kicks and an occasional power hand from that Southpaw stance.
Sodiq Yusuff (9-1, 2-0 UFC) tore through Sheymon Moraes in late March, someone equally adept and dangerous on the feet. Since coming to the Octagon after a dominant performance on the Contender Series, Yusuff has torn through everyone put in front of him. He has expert striking and a high volume in addition to ruthless power. He does not have much of a groudn game offensively, but is incredibly difficult to take down, a factor that will no doubt help him here.
I can’t help but think that this is a setup fight for Sodiq Yusuff on a major card. This should play out entirely on the feet because of Benitez’ poor takedowns and Yusuff’s impeccable defense. It is near impossible to outdo the volume of Yusuff. Now factor in the leg kicks and intense power and this becomes a match sure to favor Yusuff for almost the entire duration.
Take the Shot: Sodiq Yusuff via Unanimous Decision
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch (MW)
Derek Brunson (19-7, 8-5 UFC) has been kicking it at Middleweight for FOREVER now and was actually the headliner for the first UFC fight I saw live. He has elite wrestling and striking with some real power behind it, too. The biggest issue, time and time again, for Brunson has just been his cardio. Although he was able to extend himself more against Theodorou in his last match, he kicks and screams for the first round, but dramatically fades after that.
Ian Heinisch (13-1, 2-0 UFC) was able to work over two submission elites in Cezar Ferreira and Shoeface to make it into the top 15. Now, he has to back it up against a fellow wrestler. In terms of offensive wrestling, Heinisch isn’t the best, but he has the scrambling ability of a Flyweight and is damn near impossible to hold down. His striking is powerful and he utilizes that eight-point striking style to great success, using his timing and footwork to nail crucial shots.
Although Brunson looked revitalized in his match against Theodorou, the 35-year-old has had a consistent cardio challenge that will not get better with age. That’s a bad sign against a fighter like Heinisch, who is more than willing to drag Brunson into deep waters. Although Brunson has one-shot power and a blitzing style that is sure to cross his opponent’s mind whenever looking across the cage at him, Heinisch has the much better endurance and volume to piece Brunson up over three rounds or finish the fight if Brunson cannot tango any longer.
Take the Shot: Ian Heinisch via Unanimous Decision
We have such a stacked card for this night, be sure to take a look at the prelims picks and the early prelims as well!
Until next time, Freaks!