UFC 241 is tonight, read who MMATorch handicapper Michael Grocke picked to win every fight!
The UFC heads west to the Honda Center in Anaheim, California for UFC 241 on Saturday night. The main event takes place in the heavyweight division where Daniel Cormier defends his UFC heavyweight championship against Stipe Miocic.
Daniel Cormier won the title by defeating Miocic via first-round knockout at UFC 226. He then successfully defended the title by subbing Derek Lewis in the second round at UFC 230. The former UFC light heavyweight champion will defend his heavyweight championship for the second time on Saturday night. Of his twenty-two career victories, the AKA product has ten via (T)KO to along with five by submission. At forty-years-old, Cormier will make the walk for the twenty-fifth time on Saturday night.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic hasn’t fought since dropping the title to Cormier. Miocic won the UFC heavyweight championship by defeating Fabricio Werdum via first-round knockout at UFC 198. He holds the record for the most consecutive heavyweight title defenses in UFC history with three. The successful title defenses include Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Francis Ngannou. At thirty-six-years-old, the part-time Valley View firefighter will make the walk for the twenty-second time when he steps into the cage for his rematch with Cormier. Fourteen of his eighteen career wins are via knockout.
In the co-main Nate Diaz makes his return to the cage after a three-year hiatus to take on Anthony Pettis. The last time we saw Nate Diaz was at UFC 202 where he lost a majority decision to Conor McGregor. That was the second of back-to-back fights against McGregor. The first fight occurred at UFC 196 where Diaz submitted McGregor in the second round via rear-naked choke. Of his nineteen career victories, sixteen ended inside the distance. Saturday’s fight will be the thirty-first for Diaz.
Anthony Pettis is 4-3 over his last seven fights dating back to UFC on FOX 21. His most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 148 where he knocked out Stephen Thompson with a Superman Punch out of nowhere off the cage. Other more recent victories include Michael Chiesa, Jim Miller and Charles Oliveira. His recent losses are against some of the best fighters in the world including Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway. Eighteen of his twenty-two career wins ended inside the distance. This will be the thirty-two-year-old’s thirty-first professional fight.
The third fight on the main card takes place in the middleweight division where Yoel Romero takes on Paulo Costa. Romero enters the fight having lost two of his last three. Both losses were against Robert Whitaker. The win sandwiched in between those losses was against Luke Rockhold. At forty-two-years of age, Romero will make the walk for only the seventeenth time on Saturday night. Eleven of his thirteen career victories are via (T)KO.
Twenty-eight-year-old Paulo Costa has yet to taste defeat in his professional MMA career. His most recent win was at UFC 226 where he finished Uriah Hall in the second round. The Brazilian born fighter has yet to see the third round in any of his fights.
Also, on the main card Gabriel Benitez goes up against Sodiq Yusuff and Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch.
UFC 241 Broadcast Information
The early prelims will stream on ESPN+ beginning at 5:30 PM (CST) with the prelims airing on ESPN starting at 7:00 PM (CST). The main card will stream on ESPN+ PPV at 9:00 PM (CST).
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.
Daniel Cormier (22-1, 1 NC) vs. Stipe Miocic (18-3) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Cormier -145; Miocic +115
Pick: Cormier by (T)KO.
I expect Miocic to come out a bit more tentative in this one. I think DC’s pressure and power caught him by surprise in their first fight. Stipe is arguably the more technical striker, but DC’s clinch work is second to none. Sadly, for Miocic, I don’t see this fight going much differently than the first one. I think Cormier’s grinding style will eventually wear down Miocic leading to another finish.
Anthony Pettis (22-8) vs. Nate Diaz (19-11) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Pettis -140; Diaz +110
Pick: Pettis by decision.
This should be a very competitive fight and the narrow odds reflect that. Both fighters prefer to stand and trade, so I expect the fight to play out primarily on the feet. Diaz has excellent boxing and likes to push a pace. Pettis is a good striker, but what sets him apart is his ability to mix-up his offense. He has excellent kicks from range, and I think he’s going to do some serious damage to Diaz’s lead leg. Pettis will have to deal with the pressure Diaz likes to put on his opponents, but if he can control range with his jab and kicks, I think he’ll be able to frustrate Diaz. I don’t see a finish for either fighter, but I do think Pettis will win on the judge’s scorecards in what should be a very close fight.
Yoel Romero (13-3) vs. Paulo Costa (12-0) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Romero -145; Costa +115
Pick: Romero by (T)KO, but with little confidence.
I’m impressed with Costa’s offense. Everyone is aware of the ridiculous power he has, but he really mixes up his offense well. He likes to work the body and if he goes into this fight focused on that I think it will give Romero problems. I also think it will be a mistake for Romero to engage Costa in a firefight.
Romero has fought every big name there is to fight so there isn’t anything Costa can do that Yoel hasn’t seen before. If he gets in trouble on the feet, he has his Olympic level wrestling to fall back on. And I think that will be the difference. If Romero can refrain from standing and trading and use his wrestling, I think he cruises to a decision win.
With his wrestling he should take Costa down early and often forcing him to exert all his energy by making him continuously work back to his feet. Romero’s cardio isn’t a question, but Costa has yet to see the third round in his career. I’m not confident Romero will use this game plan which makes me hesitant to bet him. Costa is dangerous, but Romero is a whole other level of competition. But you never know, maybe at forty-two years of age, father time might have finally caught up with the “Soldier of God.”
Gabriel Benitez (21-6) vs. Sodiq Yusuff (9-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Yusuff -280; Benitez +220
Pick: Yusuff by (T)KO.
Both fighters are going to stand and trade. While both are quick, Yusuff is quicker and has more power. I don’t see this one making it to the judge’s scorecards.
Derek Brunson (19-7) vs. Ian Heinisch (13-1) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Heinisch -150; Brunson +120
Pick: Heinisch by (T)KO.
The big question here is, will Brunson use his wrestling, or has he fallen in love with his striking? Heinisch doesn’t have the best takedown defense so I think Brunson will be able to take him down. However, I don’t see Brunson being able to hold him down for extended periods of time. I like Heinisch’s striking better than Brunson’s so if he can stuff the takedowns and force Brunson to stand and trade it bodes well for him. Brunson is a fast starter and will try to get Heinisch out of there early. If Heinisch can make it to the second round, I think the fight is his.
Devonte Smith (10-1) vs. Khama Worthy (12-6) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Smith -975; Worthy +580
Pick: Smith by (T)KO.
I will be surprised if this fight makes it past five minutes.
Raphael Assuncao (27-6) vs. Corey Sandhagen (11-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Sandhagen -225; Assuncao +180
Pick: Sandhagen by decision.
Assuncao has been in the cage with the best in the division and has only lost to the top tier fighters. He’s a good striker and what I really like is the way he mixes up his offense with kicks. I do question his age though. Sandhagen looked good in his win over a very tough John Lineker. Personally, I thought Lineker won the fight, but that’s neither here, nor there. Sandhagen is a tough SOB and his pace and volume will be the difference in the fight. Granted this is a big step-up in level of competition but I feel the UFC sees Assuncao as a gatekeeper at best.
Christos Giagos (17-7) vs. Drakkar Klose (10-1-1) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Klose -180; Giagos +150
Pick: Klose by decision.
Klose is the more well-rounded fighter with a ton of power in his hands. I don’t like Giago’s chances on the feet. If he resorts to his wrestling, I don’t think he’ll have much success there either due to Klose’s excellent takedown defense. Giagos might have success early, but Klose will begin to take over as the fight progresses.
Manny Bermudez (14-0) vs. Casey Kenney (12-1-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Bermudez -165; Kenney +135
Pick: Bermudez by decision.
Kenney is better on the feet, so I expect Bermudez to take the fight to the ground early and often. That might not bother Kenney though considering how good his wrestling skills are. However, he hasn’t fought a fighter with the submission skills of Bermudez. I think it would be a better game plan for him to keep the fight standing and force Bermudez to stand and trade. Each fighter has a clear path to victory in my opinion. If Kenny can stuff the takedown attempts and keep Bermudez standing, I like his chances. That said, I don’t see him being able to fend Bermudez off for three rounds and it only takes one takedown for Manny to end the fight.
Hannah Cifers (9-3) vs. Jodie Esquibel (6-5) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Cifers -285; Esquibel +225
Pick: Cifers by decision.
Cifers is just the better fighter here. Esquibel has horrendous striking defense so Cifers should be able to piece her up on the feet. Cifers does need to be careful though because Esquibel does have some power. At these odds, I’ll pass. Cifers has no business being this big of a favorite against anyone. If you’re into parlays, you might want to consider using Cifers.
Kyung Ho Kang (15-8, 1 NC) vs. Brandon Davis (10-5) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Kang -190; Davis +155
Pick: Kang by decision, but Davis is live dog.
Both fighters have decent striking, with below average striking defense. Kang will want to take the fight to the ground where I feel he has the biggest advantage. Davis’s game plan should be to stuff the takedowns and keep the fight standing. His pressure and power can give Kang problems. The thing is I don’t believe he can fend Kang off for three rounds.
Sabino Mazo (6-1) vs. Shana Dobson (3-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Mazo -135; Dobson +105
Pick: Dobson by decision.
This is a tough fight to predict. Mazo is so young and raw. It will be fun to watch her improve with experience. Dobson is no world beater, so I like the matchmaking. Dobson has the experience and her pressure and grinding style might be too much for Mazo.
Enjoy the fights!
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