Stipe Miocic regained his place at the top of the heavyweight division with a thrilling fourth round stoppage of Daniel Cormier in the UFC 241 headliner in Anaheim.
The Cleveland native earned a TKO victory to avenge his loss from UFC 226 over thirteen months ago.
Cormier had the better of things until that point, but could not contend with a change in Miocic’s tactics, and a vicious right hand.
Earlier in the night, the co-main event saw a return to the Octagon for Nate Diaz after a three-year hiatus.
He showed no effects of the lengthy break as he downed Anthony Pettis in a resounding unanimous decision win.
Paulo Costa moved to 13-0 in the middleweight division following a fight of the night with Yoel Romero. There were fireworks from the start as the pair traded relentlessly for 15 minutes, but it was the Brazilian’s pace and willingness to come forward that scored him the win.
The California card also saw victories for the explosive Sodiq Yusuff, Derick Brunson and Cory Sanghagen.
Here are the key talking points.
Work the body
Heading into the fourth round, Miocic needed something special if he was going to prize the heavyweight title from the grasp of Cormier.
DC was arguably three rounds ahead, having manhandled him in the first, and found his target with the hands with alarming regularity from then on – closing distance and nullifying Stipe’s long-range weapons.
The champ had been chastised by his corner for not sticking to the game plan, which was obviously to try and wrestle the life out of Miocic, but he was still in firm control.
Stipe threatened to establish himself early in the third with some solid jabs from range, but again Cormier would do enough to win it, closing the gap and being able to stay in the pocket.
However, he would have no answer for the change up in the fourth, with Miocic switching to ripping left hooks into the body that clearly took their toll.
The old adage of working the body to open up the head came to fruition with a minute of the round to go as another left found a home in Cormier’s ribs before two rights up top finished the contest.
It was a masterful change in approach from Miocic, while Cormier will be left ruing the fact he didn’t take his wrestling dominance from round one further into the fight.
Normally, we would be looking for a trilogy to see who would get bragging rights for these two greats, but with Cormier and Miocic things feel a little different.
At 40, Cormier has a lot of other opportunities available to him both in and out of MMA, and you really question now if he has the desire to go on.
A win here could have set up another showdown with Jon Jones, but there is certainly no appetite for that now.
For Miocic, another fight with DC would bring him the best pay day the heavyweight division can offer. Otherwise, he is likely to face a resurgent Francis Ngannou – a man he schooled at the start of last year.
Diaz doesn’t miss a beat
Diaz said he had been out of the Octagon for three years because there wasn’t anyone for him to fight – if his performance against Anthony Pettis was anything to go by, they won’t exactly be lining up to face him now.
With no sign of ring rust, the Stockton slugger, hunted down Pettis for a dominant 15 minutes. After the fight he called out Jorge Masvidal – a fight that would be a huge amount of fun, but you can’t imagine Conor McGregor’s name will be out of this conversation for too long.
The two have one win apiece from their two fights to date and a rubber match would certainly pull in the audience.
Masvidal has the right to claim to a welterweight title shot and may want to head down that route before taking on Diaz.
Counting the Costa
When the two most physical specimens the middleweight division has to offer clash you expect fireworks, and Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero did not disappoint.
Despite the lop-sided scorecards, it was Romero who landed the most significant head strikes, while the Brazilian had more success to the body and certainly pushed the pace of the fight. The reaction by the crowd to the result said a lot.
Costa may think his 13-0 record now opens the door to a title shot, but this is by far his biggest win to date and he may still need another victory to secure a tilt at either Robert Whittaker or Israel Adesanya who meet in Melbourne in October.
A 42-year-old Romero has now lost three of his last four but the Soldier of God shows no sign of slowing down just yet.
A rematch won’t happen, but nobody would complain if it did.
Abu Dhabi, get ready
We are now just three weeks away from UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi – the next showpiece event in the company’s calendar.
Headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier for the undisputed lightweight crown, September 7 is going to be spectacular.
If you’re not excited, you should be.
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