First things first, whenever the great and powerful Dave Reno reaches out to me and asks if I want to do a pick-em, the answer is always a resounding, “Yes!” This is a really fun card, so the opportunity to publicly embarrass myself was too much to pass up. That said, it’s time to unveil my 100 percent, absolute-lock-winners for UFC 241. Disclaimer, my locks sometimes don’t come true. Disclaimer, by sometimes I, of course, mean often. That said, enjoy the picks and enjoy the fights!
Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic (UFC Heavyweight Championship)
Dan Rose: If I’m being honest, and why wouldn’t I be, I would pick Daniel Cormier over anyone on planet earth right now. Yes, that includes the USADA-hamstrung Jon Jones. I just think when you hear DC say, “There are levels to this thing” he knows what he is saying. He has a career spent wrestling and has added some good standup to the mix. He’s one of the most complete fighters walking the earth and what puts him over the top, in my opinion, is his work ethic. He wants it more than the next guy and is willing to do what is necessary to stay ahead of the curve.
All that being said, Stipe is legit as can be. The dude is a banger and will absolutely show up in shape and ready to wage war. This is honestly one of those rare fights where the UFC is showcasing the best of the best. These guys are elite, and everyone else is simply not on their level. Stipe has only had a grappling match since his loss to Cormier and I would have liked to see him get a tune-up before the rematch, but he had no interest in anything other than a title fight. He waited and got his wish.
I see this fight going a few rounds, maybe the distance. I don’t suspect DC will get another KO. In fact, he’ll have to weather a storm or two early standing. However, Cormier’s grappling advantage is so big, I see him wrestling and dominating Stipe into the late third, fourth and final round en route to either a late TKO or a decision victory. Either way, DC leaves Southern California with his belt in tow.
Dave Reno: This is a heavyweight title bout that you should be excited about. Stipe finally gets the chance to reclaim his crown against the defending heavyweight champ in Daniel Cormier, one of the truest ambassadors for a sport that has and will continue to need him after he calls it a career. Will it be Saturday night?
Honestly, at 40 years of age, I truly believe that Cormier still beats everyone not named Jon Jones at 205 lbs and over. That includes this rematch with Ohio’s own Stipe Miocic.
Cormier is just too cerebral — if you have a single hole — he’ll find it. Figure that in with his ability to put it all together inside of the cage better than any big man in the game; the guy is too fast and too good and he wants it too much. That said, can you ever sleep on Miocic though. He’ll come out looking to take off DC’s head. He just opens himself up to all kinds of issues whether it be at distance, in the clinch (he shouldn’t make that mistake again) or on his back. Cormier dictates the pace in the end and gets another victory inside the distance. The real question for DC is, what’s next?
Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz
Rose: The return of Nate Diaz has the people excited. Nate is undoubtedly a major star and his presence on this card makes it must-see TV. This one is a tough one to nail down. Pettis is on a win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win cycle that says the laws of averages would signify a loss Saturday night. It’s not exactly a science though, and he has moments where he looks elite. He also has fights where he looks pretty pedestrian.
Nate Diaz was once asked what his game-plan heading into a fight was. He said, “The game-plan is to go in there, hit him with some good shit, don’t get hit, and come home with a pocket full of cash.” I think he was talking about McGregor, but I’m guessing he employs the same plan here with Pettis. It could very well work for him. I question whether or not Pettis has the power to hurt Diaz. On the mat, both men have great submissions, but I’m leaning towards this being settled on their feet. I think Pettis is a more dynamic striker, but Diaz has a power advantage and if he gets going, he can bury you with thudding shots. Flip a coin? Nah, I’ll go heart over the head every time. Give me Nate Diaz in two!
Reno: Nathaniel Diaz is a true mixed martial arts gangster. He’s someone that everybody has an opinion about but he almost becomes more endearing the longer he’s around. I’ve seen people that downright couldn’t stand the guy fall in love with him over time. And Anthony Pettis, well, he’s Anthony Pettis. One of the few superstars left in this game — can you believe we are coming upon the 9 year anniversary of the ‘Showtime’ kick? — is coming off a crazy KO win over Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in his welterweight return. A high-profile win over Diaz gives him the opportunity to join the growing list of fighters to claim gold in multiple divisions.
As long as he can find a way to put his combos together early and avoid the insane volume of Diaz, there should be no issue for Pettis to take a decision win if a finish doesn’t present itself inside of three rounds. That said, Diaz has nothing to lose. He’s getting paid and he already gets to smack a dude on PPV for the first time in a long time. He can come in there and piece Pettis up early without missing a step. There’s nothing more daunting than a guy touching you at a lighting quick rate, only taking breaks to gift you with double birds and other indelible pleasantries.
Regardless of what happens, it’s always a pleasure to watch both of these guys do battle and it’s great to have a Diaz fighting on a Saturday night again. I like Pettis to take this one via UD in a fight that has all the ingredients of an instant classic on paper.
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
Rose: Yoel seems to have a case of Benjamin Button disease as the older he gets the better he looks. The guy is a physical specimen. USADA spends more time trying to bust him than Trump spends thinking about his daughter. Yoel is just so durable and physical he normally holds a massive advantage in power but this time he’s facing an absolute beast in Paulo Costa.
Both of these guys look like they are made from CGI and green screens but Yoel is 42 and at some point, that has to play a role in his abilities to fight. Costa has more punching power than anyone Yoel has ever faced and if he stands for too long, he could likely get knocked out. Costa is younger at age 28 and has never tasted defeat or been beyond the second round. The guy is a killer.
I like Yoel if he plays it smart and grapples here. I think he can control and frustrate Paulo Costa on the mat. That said, we’ve all seen Yoel enjoy the standup at times and if he plays that game for too long, I expect Costa to knock him out. I think, in the end, Yoel gets comfortable standing and winds up looking up at the lights. The undefeated Costa remains that way and is set up for a HUGE fight in his next outing. Perhaps even facing the winner of Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya.
Reno: Yoel Romero scares the shit out of me. And he’s fighting another dude that scares the shit out of me, Paulo Costa, on Saturday night right smack in the middle of this PPV. If there was ever a can’t miss fight before the main and co-main, this is it.
Let’s be honest, both of these guys have the ability to finish the other with one clean shot. The first guy to make a mistake loses here. But the object of this internet article that Daniel and I are concocting is to make a sports prediction and what we have here is something we see a lot of in the world of pro wrestling — the older guy putting the younger guy over.
The aging Romero already had his three shots at UFC gold and failed on all accounts; whether it be in the cage or on the scale. But regardless of the scale mishap that made him ineligible for gold against Rockhold and the losses to Whittaker, in two of the best middleweight tile fights you’ll ever see, Romero has become a must see competitor who seems to have found a fountain of youth somewhere during this lifetime. He comes away a winner in defeat here against a potential future middleweight title holder in Borrachinha.
Sodiq Yousuff vs. Gabriel Benitez
Rose: To be completely honest, I don’t really care too much about this fight. I don’t think it belongs on the main card and I don’t have too much to say about it. I like both guys. They are both talented fighters who will be looking to climb the ladder in the Feathweright division. Sodiq earned his way into the UFC via the Dana White Contender Series and Gabriel Benitez found his way into the Octagon via season one of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America. Since coming to the UFC Gabriel is 5-2. Sodiq is 2-0 since earning his contract.
Whenever I’m really torn on a fight I like to look at the gyms the fighter represents. Sodiq comes from Team Lloyd Irvin while Gabriel trains at AKA with Cormier, Khabib, and the boys. I’m down with AKA forever and ever so I’m going to swing my pick and take Gabriel Benitez via TKO against a game and talented Sodiq Yusuff.
Reno: There’s a lot to like here as both guys look to make some waves in a division so deep at 145 lbs that just doesn’t make it easy unless you can truly make a statement. Benitez does just that here, following up his KO slam victory over Humberto Bandenay a few months back with another show stealing finish.
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch
Rose: This is a tough one for me as well. Brunson is 3-4 in his last seven and has lost two of his last three. His victory was a very lackluster performance against Elias Theodorou back in May. Elias was cut from the UFC after the fight. Brunson is a grappler who enjoys striking. He’s a talented fighter, but he doesn’t seem to be able to compete with the best in the division. I like him quite a bit, but he’s in need of a win here if he wants to keep his head above water in the always treacherous UFC.
Ian is a guy who I always seem to undervalue as a fighter. He won his Dana White Contender Series bout against Justin Sumter and since then has won two in a row in the UFC. He beat two guys who I have a lot of respect for. First, he beat Cezar Ferreira and then took out Antônio Carlos Júnior. He will have the ability to win this fight Saturday and he and Derek are opening the PPV portion so you’d expect them to want to set the tone early. I think Ian is going to make a statement Saturday night and hurt Derek standing and finish the fight with some big ground and pound. I think after this fight Ian will find himself in line for a top ten opponent.
Reno: The story and the heart of Ian Heinisch has been one of the greater stories in MMA. He’ll come face to face with another tough test in Derek Brunson, a 15-fight UFC vet who has shared the cage with around a half dozen potential future hall of famers.
The victory over Antonio Carlos Jr. was a real eye opener in regards to the future and overall potential of Heinisch in the UFC. He’ll run into some real issues on Saturday but he’s shown us that he has what it takes to grind one out with a veteran in Brunson who can do the very same. The thing of it is, Heinisch is just that much more violent to go places where others might not to get the finish. This is one heck of a PPV opener.
Prelim Quick Picks
Khama Worthy < Devonte Smith
Raphael Assuncao < Cory Sandhagen
Manny Bermudez > Casey Kenney
Drakkar Klose > Christos Giagos
Hannah Cifers > Jodie Esquibel
Kyung Ho Kang > Brandon Davis
Sabrina Mazo < Shana Dobson
Khama Worthy < Devonte Smith
Raphael Assuncao > Cory Sandhagen
Manny Bermudez < Chase Kenney
Drakkar Klose > Christos Giagos
Hannah Cifers > Jodie Esquibel
Kyung Ho Kang > Brandon Davis
Sabrina Mazo < Shana Dobson
UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story
UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9.
Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.
UFC Fight Island
Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.
“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”
The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry.
When, and Where?
The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.
The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.
The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.
As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249
It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia.
Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.
To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively.
But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.
Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib.
The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade.
All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.
Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC.
UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans
UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.
It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.
The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled.
And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.
Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport.
May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.
A welcome distraction
Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.
Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.
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