There’s great anticipation for UFC 241, which goes down on Aug. 17 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. The main event is a heavyweight championship rematch between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, 13 months removed from when Cormier knocked Miocic out in the first round to become a two-division champion. In the co-main event, Nate Diaz finally returns to the Octagon for a welterweight showdown with former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Middleweight contenders Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa will also square off in a pivotal bout.
This is a stacked card filled with very compelling matchups from top to bottom. As we near fight night in Southern California, let’s take a look at which fighters are poised for big performances that also will lead to high scores for your DraftKings teams.
Daniel Cormier ($8,500) vs. Stipe Miocic ($7,700)
You know Cormier’s story by now. One of the sport’s all-time greats has only ever been beaten by Jon Jones, and he’s one of the few who’s been able to boast simultaneous “champ-champ” status in the UFC. After his stunning KO of Miocic, Cormier let go of his light heavyweight title, but he defended his heavyweight belt with an easy submission of Derrick Lewis at UFC 230. Looking to get his belt back is Miocic, who has the record for most consecutive successful UFC HW title defenses (3). His resume is that of an all-time great heavyweight, with notable wins over Francis Ngannou, Fabricio Werdum, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Roy Nelson and Andrei Arlovski.
The first fight may have ended in a first-round KO, but the rematch is still insanely difficult to call. Cormier has the advantage in the clinch, Miocic has the physical advantages and can win by striking at range. Cormier is the better wrestler and grappler, but Miocic will be hard to hold down and has strong wrestling too. What Miocic lacks is a consistent kicking game, which has troubled Cormier before, and when comparing chins, Stipe’s is more vulnerable than Daniel’s. I see another closely fought battle, but Cormier will get another KO in the later rounds to further enhance his legacy.
Number of Note: 98. Cormier has outlanded his four UFC heavyweight opponents 177-69 in significant strikes, a differential of 98. Against Miocic however, he only had a 25-24 edge, but with the fight-deciding knockdown and subsequent KO.
Yoel Romero ($8,600) vs. Paulo Costa ($7,600)
We’ve not seen Romero compete since a razor-thin, exhilarating decision loss to current champion Robert Whittaker. Only Whittaker has been able to best Romero at middleweight, although Romero’s recent issue as of late has been making 185 lbs, as he missed weight for his KO win of Luke Rockhold and in the Whittaker rematch. Costa is undefeated and much like Romero, built like a tank. The Brazilian last fought in July 2018, knocking out Uriah Hall to improve his UFC record to 4-0. This is the third time in a row that the UFC has booked Romero vs. Costa, so hopefully this time it goes off without a hitch.
This is a fight that is destined to entertain. Romero is seemingly an ageless wonder with remarkable athleticism, and he comes in with Olympic-medal winning wrestling credentials and extremely powerful striking. This is a big step up for Costa that will test his chin, possibly his takedown defense, and his cardio. I believe Romero is great value at $8,600 and he’s going to punish Costa’s aggressiveness with big counter shots to put him away.
Number of Note: 6. Beware of “Third Round Romero,” as he’s won by third-round knockout an incredible six times out of 11 finishes. Costa has literally never seen the third round in his 12-fight career.
Devonte Smith ($9,500) vs. Khama Worthy ($6,700)
Smith is one of the brightest prospects on the UFC roster. Known for fast, accurate hands and a 76” reach, the knockout artist was signed through Dana White’s Contender Series and has since scored a couple of KO wins over Julian Erosa and Dong Hyun Ma. Originally scheduled to face John Makdessi, then Clay Collard, Smith now finds himself up against Khama Worthy. A fixture on the regional scene up in Pennsylvania, Worthy is a better fighter than his 14-6 record suggests, and he comes into this Saturday’s late notice contest on a five-fight winning streak. This will be the biggest test for “The Deathstar” during his run of success, and it comes in the biggest MMA promotion of them all.
Worthy’s style can be a bit awkward, but he does have powerful striking and usually gets the finish when he has his opponent in trouble. That said, Smith is faster, more technical, more athletic and Worthy’s history of knockout losses lead me towards Smith getting another KO win to add to his record.
Number of Note: 7. Smith has recorded a finish in all 10 of his wins, and six of them have been first-round knockouts. The bad news for Worthy is that he has been knocked out five times, including three times in the opening round.
Manny Bermudez ($8,400) vs. Casey Kenney ($7,800)
Bermudez is a dangerous submission specialist whose nickname is “The Bermudez Triangle.” In his brief UFC career, he’s racked up three wins, including a guillotine choke finish of Benito Lopez back in February. His other victories inside the Octagon have come against Davey Grant and Albert Morales. Kenney unsuccessfully tried to get to the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series, going 1-1 in his two appearances. However, the former LFA interim champion got the short notice call-up against former flyweight title challenger Ray Borg, and won a controversial decision.
This is an under-the-radar contest that should be quite competitive. Kenney has the advantage on the feet and the more well-rounded fighter. What we will most likely see is a real high-level scrap on the ground, with lots of grappling exchanges that should favor Bermudez. I think he’ll be the first to submit Kenney, and only the second man to defeat him.
Number of Note: 11. Bermudez has won 11 of his 14 fights by submission, and all of those have been either by rear-naked choke, guillotine choke, or triangle choke.
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