By: Jesse Donathan
UFC 241 is set to take place on Saturday, August 17, 2019 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California and will be available for purchase on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV). On paper, this event is going to be one of the best fight cards of the year, featuring a rematch in the main event between UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former reigning UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. The co-main event will feature the return of Conor McGregor nemesis Nate Diaz vs. former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in a welterweight showcase. The card will also include the long-awaited clash between middleweight titan Yoel Romero and the bruising Paulo Costa in what should prove to be a pivotal middleweight showdown.
The real question on everyone’s mind coming into UFC 241 is how Stipe Miocic is going to rebound coming off a loss by knockout to the man who took his title just over a year ago at UFC 226 in Daniel Cormier. Miocic had captured the belt against former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum, defending the title a record three consecutive times before losing to Cormier in mid-2018. Since that time, Miocic has begrudgingly sat out from competition awaiting a rematch while Cormier successfully defended the title at UFC 230 against challenger Derrick Lewis.
UFC 241 Stipe vs. Cormier 2 has been such an anticipated UFC event that fans on social media virtually overlooked last week’s UFC Fight Night 156 Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2 card, with the mixed martial arts Twitter communities’ timelines spammed with UFC 241 promotional material well ahead of the Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2 showdown. A curious phenomenon to consider from a community who by in large prides itself on being the antithesis to the dreaded “casual fan” stigma so often tossed around by today’s new generation of fans.
Which begs the question, exactly who is behind some of these social media accounts and just how devoted to the sport are they, really? One would think their free promotional work, based at the grassroots level of mixed martial arts fandom would be devoting their promo efforts to Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche instead of overlooking these accomplished warriors completely in light of next weekend’s event. Casuals … aren’t we all, though?
At UFC 241 in July of 2018, Stipe Miocic stood 6-foot-4 and weighed in at 242.5 pounds in his first match against Cormier that ended in disaster for Miocic and put Cormier firmly in the driver’s seat as one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts history.
The then challenger, Daniel Cormier came in at 5-foot-11 and weighed 246 pounds as the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion. When the bell sounded for round one, the two fighters casually met in the center of the Octagon, their gloves touching in one final show of respect before the champions got to work. The two would begin circling each other in the cage, the feeling out process underway as Miocic slowly began to cut off the cage by walking Cormier down.
Nearly from the start, Cormier looked to work the over hook in the clinch, a dangerous technique UFC legend Randy Couture used to great effect throughout his storied mixed martial arts career. The fight would soon make its way to the fence, with Miocic surprisingly trapping the former two-time Olympic wrestler against the cage in a show of strength and dominance not generally seen from opponents in a Daniel Cormier fight.
Its around this time Cormier noticeably switched to using an open gloved approach after fighting his way out of the clinch with Stipe. When a fighter’s fingers become extended, as opposed to closed in a clinched fist, the risk of accidentally or otherwise eye-gouging an opponent increases exponentially; a technique that has long since been prohibited in mixed martial arts competition though justifiably receiving renewed scrutiny in recent years.
The fighters would make their way to middle of the cage with Stipe noticeably getting the better of the striking exchanges early on. With some spunk still left in him, Cormier began to fire back on Miocic before his opened gloved approach brought a halt to the action from referee Marc Goddard. An instant replay would show Cormier lunging at Stipe with an open-handed strike resulting in his fingers raking into Miocic’s eye. This was a turning point in the fight where everything began to go wrong for the now former reigning UFC heavyweight champion.
Mentally, Stipe appeared to be out of the fight, his rhythm broken. Cormier would immediately begin to turn the fight around, looking quite a bit better in the standup department after the referee break in the action. Clinching up with Miocic, Cormier would expertly switch from an over hook used to control Stipe’s head and posture to an under hook, freezing Miocic and preventing him from escape as Cormier bombed Stipe with a right hand into unconsciousness. Referee Marc Goddard rushed in to save Miocic from any further damage as Daniel Cormier became both the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champions of the world, cementing his place among the sports all-time greats in the process.
With Miocic well in control of the Cormier fight until he wasn’t, baring a quick finish from the AKA representative early on in the rematch things will likely begin to unfold in a similar fashion this time around as well too. While anything can and does happen in mixed martial arts, if the first fight is any indication of how the second fight will play out we can expect Miocic to get the better of Cormier from early on, the only question being how much dog is left in the 40-year old UFC HW champion to game plan his way to victory once again. Cormier is an intelligent fighter, not one simply prone to operate on instinct and overdrive, there is a method to his madness. An outstanding wrestler with a will to win, Cormier may once again reach deep into his offensive playbook and put the mixed back into mixed martial arts.