UFC on ESPN+ 24: Blaydes vs. dos Santos Preview

Going head-to-head with Bellator this weekend, UFC will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, USA for a card on ESPN+. Headlining the show will be heavyweights Junior dos Santos and Curtis Blaydes. Both high ranked, the winner of this fight could move themself ahead in the line to challenge for Stipe Miocic’s UFC Heavyweight Championship.

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Prelims

Bout 1: Nate Landwehr (13-2) vs. Herbert Burns (9-2) (Featherweight)

Kicking off the preliminary card on ESPN+ at 5PM EST will be a featherweight battle between Nate Landwehr and Herbert Burns. The matchup is a double debut, with Burns getting a contract from Dana White’s Contender Series back in August. Burns had a 5-2 record in ONE FC and a 2-0 run in Titan FC prior ot the signing. Landwehr is on a seven-fight winning streak, with most of those wins from Russian MMA promotion M-1 Challenge.

Bout 2: Brett Johns (15-2) vs. Tony Gravely (19-5) (Bantamweight)

Another debuting Contender Series fighter is on this card in Tony Gravely, being put up against Brett Johns. Gravely stopped Ray Rodriguez in the third round on the show to earn his UFC contract and extend his winning streak to seven. Johns could be fighting for his future in the UFC on Saturday, as he is currently on a two-fight losing streak, his only two losses as a pro. He made his UFC debut in 2016, picking up three wins before losing to Aljamain Sterling and Pedro Munhoz.

Bout 3: Sara McMann (11-5) vs. Lina Lansberg (10-4) (Bantamweight)

Making her return after maternity leave, Sara McMann will challenge Lina Lansberg on the prelims. McMann’s last fight was in early 2018, losing to Marion Renau via triangle choke. After a late 2018 loss to Yana Kunitskaya, Lansberg has bounced back by getting scorecard wins over Tonya Evinger and Macy Chiasson. It’s safe to say that McMann will have a challenge in her comeback bout.

Bout 4: Montel Jackson (8-1) vs. Felipe Corales (9-1) (Bantamweight)

The next preliminary fight will see two more bantamweights compete. Montel Jackson and Felipe Corales, who are both coming off of wins in their short UFC careers thus far will be put against each other. Despite having similar records, Vegas heavily favours Jackson as a -600 favourite. Jackson was picked up via the Contender Series, going 2-1 since then. Corales is 1-1 in the UFC, recently going the distance for a unanimous decision win against Domingo Pilarte.

Bout 5: Justine Kish (6-2) vs. Lucie Pudilova (8-5) (Flyweight)

Justine Kish and Lucie Pudilova will both attempt to break their losing streaks on Saturday, but only one will prevail. Kish hasn’t been super active, with her last two fights taking place over the last two years, being losses to Felice Herrig and Ji Yeon Kim. Pudilova has been more active, with her last three fights, all losses, within the last year and a half. Most recently, Pudilova was stopped in the second round via rear naked choke against Antonina Shevchenko.

Bout 6: Arnold Allen (15-1) vs. Nik Lentz (30-10-2) (Featherweight)

The seemingly unstoppable Arnold Allen will be put against the much more experienced Nik Lentz in what should be an interesting matchup on Saturday. Allen has been undefeated since 2014, currently with six wins in his UFC run. His most recent win was easily his biggest challenge, being a decision win over Gilbert Melendez. Lentz is coming off of a loss to Charles Oliveira, however, there’s no doubt his advantage in this fight is having more octagon time, over doubling the number of professional fights that Allen has.

Bout 7: Bevon Lewis (6-2) vs. Dequan Townsend (21-9) (Middleweight)

The preliminary part of the card will be headlined be Bevon Lewis and Dequan Townsend. Lewis was signed to the UFC through the Contender Series but has yet to get a win in the octagon, falling to Uriah Hall and Darren Stewart before. Townsend made his UFC debut in 2019, having an unsuccessful outing against Dalcha Lungiambula.

Bout 8: Jamahal Hill (6-0) vs. Darko Stosic (13-3) (Light Heavyweight)

 

The main card will kick off with the sole undefeated fighter on the card, Jamahal Hill, fighting Darko Stosic. Hill impressed UFC brass in the fifth episode of the 2019 Contender Series season, stopping Alexander Poppeck in the second round with elbows. This fight will be his debut on the big stage. Stosic has something to prove as well, currently chasing the feeling he had when he had his one and only UFC win, back in July of 2018. He has since failed to prevail over Devin Clark and Kennedy Nzechukwu.

Bout 9: Hannah Cifers (10-3) vs. Angela Hill (10-7) (Strawweight)

Angela Hill was a busy fighter in 2019. After a run of taking four fights in seven months, Hill took an understandable break for the final quarter of 2019. She returns to the octagon on Saturday, fighting Hannah Cifers. Cifers is riding a two-fight winning streak, last winning over Jodie Esquibel at UFC 241.

Bout 10: Jordan Espinosa (14-6) vs. Alex Perez (22-5) (Flyweight)

In late 2018, Alex Perez tasted defeat in the UFC for the first time, taking many unanswered shots by Joseph Benavidez before the referee fully stepped in. That didn’t stop his momentum however, as he bounced back by beating Mark De La Rosa. Riding that momentum, Perez will fight Jordan Espinosa high up on this card. Espinosa sees himself in Perez’s position, attempting to come off his first loss in the UFC, which was also a first-round stoppage. On Saturday, another fighter will likely see their second loss in the big leagues.

Bout 11: Rafael dos Anjos (29-12) vs. Michael Chiesa (15-4) (Welterweight)

Michael Chiesa has been undefeated since making the switch from lightweight to welterweight back in 2018. He has defeated Carlos Condit and Diego Sanchez, and now eyes to beat Rafael dos Anjos in the co-main event slot of this card. “RDA” has lost quite a bit recently, however it’s worth noting his losses have come to notable names in the division. He lost an interim Welterweight Championship fight to Colby Covington in 2018 at UFC 225. He then lost to current champion Kamaru Usman, going to decision. He has most recently lost to Leon Edwards, defeating Kevin Lee before then. While Chiesa is being pitted against someone who has lost more than they have won recently, dos Anjos is the biggest welterweight challenge he has gotten so far.

Bout 12: Curtis Blaydes (12-2) vs. Junior dos Santos (21-6) (Heavyweight)

Main eventing in Raleigh will be Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos. The battle is one between one of the division’s rising stars and a more experienced veteran. Of course the star is Blaydes, with the more experienced being Santos. Blaydes holds an impressive 12-2 record, with the two defeats coming via fights against Francis Ngannou. He is on a two-fight winning streak, going through Justin Willis and Shamil Abdurakhimov. 

Santos’ last win gives him a way to relate to Blaydes, as he lost to Ngannou back in June. He failed to fight Alexander Volkov in November, falling victim to a bacterial infection. Santos is most known for his 2011 UFC Heavyweight Championship run, which saw him dethrone Cain Velasquez. After a defence against Frank Mir, Santos lost the belt in a rematch against Velasquez. Both Blaydes and Santos are highly ranked in the division, and a win could put them in closer reach to Stipe Miocic’s Heavyweight belt. With that being said, there are a lot of bidders for that title shot at the moment.

UFC will take next weekend off, returning on the 8th with UFC 247 in Houston, Texas, USA. Headlining that card will be Jon Jones putting his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on the line against undefeated Dominick Reyes.

UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic 2 Full Report

In one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year, Stipe Miocic will attempt to take the Heavyweight Championship from Daniel Cormier in a rematch. The former champ was stopped in one round against Cormier a year ago. He attempts to take back his belt after a year’s layoff. Also on the card is the return of Nate Diaz after almost three days of a layoff. In his return, he’ll face Anthony Pettis. Along with those two fights is 10 other fights. Stay tuned on this post for updates throughout the night.

Bout 1: Sabina Mazo (6-1) vs. Shana Dobson (3-2) (Flyweight)

Starting off the evening was a flyweight bout between Sabina Mazo and Shana Dobson. Dobson has been absent from MMA for a year due to injury, making her return with this fight. Very early in the fight, Mazo hurt Dobson with a kick to the mid-section. She came forward with punches, and then landed a takedown. After Mazo landed punches from above for a while, Dobson tried to take her back. It worked for a second before Mazo brought them back to the position they were in. They stood up in clinch up against the cage, but Mazo took them back down shortly after. Mazo utilized her kicks quite a bit at the start of the second round. Dobson searched for a takedown but couldn’t get one, being put in a standing clinch against the cage. With two minutes left in the second round, Mazo got a takedown. They went back to stand-up as the round concluded. Halfway through the final round, Dobson was put up against the cage and was getting hit with tons of knees. Referee Frank Trigg was getting closer, warning Dobson that she needs to fight back. Mazo got a trip takedown with just for 90 seconds left. The fight ran out of time as Mazo landed punches from above. The judges gave Sabina Mazo the win in very decisive fashion (30-24, 30-25 & 30-25).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Mazo 10 10 10 30
Dobson 9 9 8 26

Bout 2: Brandon Davis (10-6) vs. Kyung Ho Kang (15-8) (Bantamweight)

The next fight was a bantamweight battle between UFC veteran Kyung Ho Kang and Brandon Davis. In the first round, Kang was landing good jabs. Davis was targeting the left leg. Kang rocked Davis with a right jab, then took his back with a minute left in the round. Kang switched over into full mount before the round concluded. In the second round, Davis tried for an armbar to counter a takedown attempt by Kang. That didn’t work, with Kang taking top position moments later. When they went back to stand-up, Davis was swinging for the fences. His fought without his mouthguard for a minute or so. They went to the groudn early in the final round after Davis slipped and fell after throwing a kick. When they were on the ground in side control for a minute or so, the referee stood them up. The commentators seemed to be in disbelief about that. Kang got another takedown moments later. Davis got up and threw some punches before Kang landed a third takedown. The fight ended with Kang in top position. In a split decision, Kyung Ho Kang got the victory (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Davis 9 10 9 28
Kang 10 9 10 29

Bout 3: Hannah Cifers (9-3) vs. Jodie Esquibel (6-5) (Strawweight)

Finishing off the Fight Pass early prelims was Hannah Cifers and Jodie Esquibel in a strawweight fight. The first round of the fight was a slow one from both fighters. It was strictly stand-up. Esquibel got a takedown early in the second round. They were stood back up, although Cifers got another takedown right after. Cifers tried for an omoplata but couldn’t get it. They went back to stand-up with a minute left in the round. Halfway through the final round, Esquibel got another takedown. The fight went the distance with Hannah Cifers getting the victory (30-28, 30-27 & 30-27).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Cifers 10 10 9 30
Esquibel 9 9 10 27

Bout 4: Manny Bermudez (14-0) vs. Casey Kenney (12-1-1) (Catchweight 140lbs)

Kicking off the prelims on ESPN, Manny Bermudez put his undefeated record up against Casey Kenney in a 140 pound fight. Bermudez got a takedown after a minute of the first round. Both fighters had a fair share of control on the ground in the round. With more close ground fighting in the second round, Kenney tried for a choke. It was obvious that both fighters preferred being on the ground. Near the end of the second round, Bermudez had some good striking when they went back to stand-up. Kenney started to look very fatigued. Bermudez brought it to the ground and tried for a choke but Kenney got out and took top position as the round ended. On the ground in the final round, Bermudez tried for a guillotine but couldn’t get it. All three judges had it in favour of Casey Kenney (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28). Throughout it was a close competition on the ground.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Bermudez 10 9 10 29
Kenney 9 10 9 28

Bout 5: Drakkar Klose (10-1-1) vs. Christos Giagos (17-7) (Lightweight)

Continuing on the prelims was Drakkar Klose versus Christos Giagos. The first round was a quiet one, with Giagos doing most of the work. Klose landed a good shot right at the for at the end of the first round. On the ground in the second round, Klose was put in a rear naked choke. When they went back to stand-up, Klose was landing tons of punches. He got a trip takedown and took top position with a hammerfist. In the final round Klose looked like the fresher fighter. Klose continued to apply the pressure in the final round with striking. With a minute left in the final round, Klose picked up Giagos and did quite the ceremonial slam to the ground. Both fighters traded punches as the final round ended. The judges all were in agreement that Drakkar Klose had won the fight (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Klose 9 10 10 29
Giagos 10 9 9 28

Bout 6: Raphael Assuncao (27-6) (#3) vs. Cory Sandhagen (11-1) (#9) (Bantamweight)

In the first fight of the evening with ranked fighters, Cory Sandhagen fought Raphael Assuncao. Sandhagen was frequently the fighter coming forward with strikes in the first round. Assuncao wasn’t doing much in the first round, although he didn’t leave himself open to a ton of strikes. In the second round, Assuncao caught a leg kick and turned it into a takedown. Sandhagen was able to take control for most of the time on the ground in the second round. Assuncao got another takedown after a minute of the final round. They got back up immediately. Assuncao got a few more takedowns as the round continued, but they never stayed on the ground. The fight went in favour of Cory Sandhagen (30-27, 30-27 & 29-28). This was the highest profile win that Sandhagen got in his career up until this point.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Assuncao 9 9 10 28
Sandhagen 10 10 9 29

Bout 7: Devonte Smith (10-1) vs. Khama Worthy (14-6) (Lightweight)

Finishing off the preliminary section of the card was Devonte Smith and Khama Worthy in a lightweight competition. Worthy came into this fight was a steep underdog. This was also his UFC debut. Halfway through the first round there was a pause because Worthy was poked in the eye. The crowd started to boo as the first round was closing out. Both fighters were very methodical through the first few minutes. Worthy landed a combo of punches which dropped Smith, then finished the fight on the ground. The fighter who took the fight on less than a week’s time made a lot of underdog betters happy tonight. He asked for a performance bonus in the post-fight interview since he’s the first finish of the evening. 

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Smith
Worthy

Bout 8: Derek Brunson (19-7) (#8) vs. Ian Heinisch (13-1) (#10) (Middleweight)

The PPV started off with middleweight gatekeeper Derek Brunson facing up and coming fighter Ian Heinisch. Right off the bat, Heinisch opened with punches and a clean head kick which had Brunson in trouble. Brunson clinched up which stopped the momentum from the very start. They went back to stand-up. Brunson tried for a takedown with over a minute left in the round. Heinisch stayed hopping on one foot while throwing punches. He was able to avoid being taken to the ground. Brunson failed to score another takedown as the round ended. Heinisch tried for a takedown in the second round but Brunson stuffed it. Heinisch looked more tired in the second round, getting hit more in stand-up. In between rounds the crowd erupted with boos as Colby Covington walked into the venue. Both fighters were quite tired in the final round. Brunson was dictating the fight through the final round. The fight went all 15 minutes, with Derrick Brunson getting the unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Brunson 9 10 10 29
Heinisch 10 9 9 28

Bout 9: Sodiq Yusuff (9-1) vs. Gabriel Benitez (21-6) (Featherweight)

In the next main card fight, Sodiq Yusuff, a prospect from the Contender Series fought Gabriel Benitez. Yusuff was in control from the start, with powerful strikes making Benitez backtrack. Halfway through the round Benitez landed some strikes that had Yusuff in trouble. It seemed like both fighters were taking turns dictating the fight. With a minute left in the round, Yusuff landed a right hook which dropped Benitez. He landed lots of shots on the ground before referee Herb Dean stepped in. He was in trouble during moments in the fight, but his power to finish the fight got him the win. 

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Yusuff
Benitez

Bout 10: Yoel Romero (13-3) (#2) vs. Paulo Costa (12-0) (#7) (Middleweight)

In a real middleweight division superfight, Yoel Romero faced Paulo Costa in the next bout. Romero landed a high kick in the first minute and then got a takedown, but Costa got up right after. Romero was clipped with a punch after a minute of the fight, but when he got up he dropped Costa with a punch. He stood back up and went back to stand-up. Romero stayed on the outside of the octagon while Costa was coming forward. After being up against the cage for a while, Romero came forward with a flurry of punches. The action was paused after Romero was kneed in the groin. They resumed after a minute or two of a break. Romero tried for a takedown but it was blocked, with Costa landing punches to the body while stuffing it. Back on the feet, both fighters were eating hard shots. Costa seemed to be controlling the second round Romero was backtracking throughout the round. Romero threw a lot of jabs. Romero scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds of the second round. The crowd was cheering in appreciation before the final round started. There was a pause due to Costa getting poked in the eye. After they traded punches for a few minutes, they started taunting. Costa saluted Romero and stuck his tongue out. Romero had strung together some good combinations. Romero got a takedown again in the finale seconds of the round. The fight went the distance, with the crowd cheering quite a bit when it ended. The judges all favoured Paulo Costa (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28). The crowd was booing after the result was announced. He called out the winner between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Romero 9 9 10 28
Costa 10 10 9 29

Bout 11: Nate Diaz (19-11) vs. Anthony Pettis (22-8) (#7) (Welterweight)

In a long awaited return, Nate Diaz fought Anthony Pettis in the co-main event of the evening. Diaz’s last fight was his sequel bout against Conor McGregor, in the summer of 2016. Pettis has stayed active through that time, recently defeating Stephen Thompson via superman punch. Diaz took a takedown with 90 seconds left in the round, thought Pettis tried for a guillotine from it. Diaz got out of it in short time. Diaz took the back of Pettis twice. He was completely dominant on the ground. After a couple minutes in the second round, the referee paused the fight so that a doctor could check an eye of Diaz. He said he was fine, so they resumed. Diaz landed a good knee to the head and then a hard elbow in clinch. Up against the cage, Pettis was getting hurt by strikes. Diaz was landing punches until the last moment of the round. Up against the cage again, Diaz was landing punches and knees that dropped Pettis. Diaz took the back of Pettis, but Pettis flipped around. Diaz continued to be in control on the ground. With 30 seconds left, he tried for a rear naked choke. Pettis escaped as the fight ended. Diaz was cut around his right eye. Nate Diaz walked away with a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27 & 29-28). After the fight, Diaz called out Jorge Masvidal, saying he’s a gangster but not like him.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Diaz 10 10 10 30
Pettis 9 9 9 27

Bout 12: Daniel Cormier (22-1) © vs. Stipe Miocic (#1) (18-3) (UFC Heavyweight Championship)

Finally, in the main event of the evening, Daniel Cormier faced Stipe Miocic in a fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. This rematch is the second time DC attempted to defend his Heavyweight Championship. Both fighters threw leg kicks in the first minute. Cormier started to dip into the pocket with some punches, then backing up. He shot for a single leg takedown after a few punches. Cormier held Miocic up high for a few moments before dumping him onto the canvas. In top position, Cormier landed punches to the mid-section. On the back of Miocic, Cormier landed hammerfists. Cormier would land punches after grabbing the hands of Miocic. Cormier started coming forward more, but started get clipped with punches. They clinched against the cage after both fighters landed hard shots. Miocic started to utilize his reach advantage more with jabs. Upon replay it became obvious that Miocic was poked in the eye during the round. Miocic tried for a takedown in the opening minute of the third round but couldn’t secure it. They continued to practically take turns landing shots. Miocic put Cormier up against the cage in a standing clinch. Miocic got a takedown later in the round. They got back up wand went back to striking with a minute left in the round. Both fighters seemed very fatigued. Miocic was coming forward throughout the fourth round. Miocic hurt Cormier with a with a punch which stunned him, then dropped him with a few more. After numerous strikes, referee Herb Dean stepped in to end the fight. Stipe Miocic has gotten his UFC Heavyweight Championship back. Cormier said that he has to make an educated decision about his career moving forward.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Total
Cormier 10 10 9
Miocic 9 9 10

UFC’s next show is on the 31st in Shenzen, China, with Weili Zhang challenging UFC Strawweight Champion Jessica Andrade. That show will be broadcasted on the ESPN+ platform. Before then, UFC’s final two episodes of the Contender Series will air on Tuesday at 8 PM Eastern Time.

UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic 2 Preview

In one of the UFC’s biggest shows of the year, Daniel Cormier will attempt to repeat history, beating Stipe Miocic for the second time. Last year in the summer, Cormier earned a first-round KO victory over Miocic, ending the Ohio raised fighter’s two-year reign over the heavyweight division. In a well-deserved rematch, Miocic will try to take back the belt that he had for quite some time. Also on the card is the return of Nate Diaz. The polarizing fighter from Stockton will face Anthony Pettis after a few days short of a three-year absence from MMA. Along with those two fights are 10 other fights on the UFC 241 PPV card. Let’s start by looking at the preliminary card for the show.

Bout 1: Sabina Mazo (6-1) vs. Shana Dobson (3-2) (Flyweight)

Starting off the evening will be a flyweight competition between two fighters with small records. Mazo is coming back from her first pro loss, which came in her UFC debut against Maryna Moroz. Before then, she was a success story from the LFA promotion. Shana Dobson is coming back from a near year and a half layoff, losing to Lauren Mueller. Both early in their UFC runs, these fighters have something to prove on Saturday.

Bout 2: Brandon Davis (10-6) vs. Kyung Ho Kang (15-8) (Bantamweight)

The second fight of the show is a battle between two fighters who are no new faces to the UFC. Kyung Ho Kang joined the UFC in 2013 and since has racked up the respectable record of 4-2 1 NC. His recent win came over Teruto Ishihara in the February PPV in Australia. The placement of Kang on this card makes the timing work out that he can be on UFC’s end of year show in Korea. While Davis has spent less time in the UFC, his record is of a similar size, with 2-3. He’ll look to even his UFC record on Saturday against Kang.

Bout 3: Hannah Cifers (9-3) vs. Jodie Esquibel (6-5) (Strawweight)

Jodie Esquibel’s run in the UFC has so far been unsuccessful. Entering the promotion with a record of 6-2, Esquibel has since lost three in a row. In what’s likely her last chance to stay in the UFC, she will face Hannah Cifers, who has a 1-1 record in the UFC. With Cifers being the favourite to win the bout, Esquibel will try to beat the odds on Saturday evening.

Bout 4: Manny Bermudez (14-0) vs. Casey Kenney (12-1-1) (Bantamweight)

Ending the early prelims and moving to the prelims on ESPN, two big bantamweight prospects will face off. Casey Kenney, a fighter who has only faced defeat once in his career, will face the undefeated Manny Bermudez. Kenney took his loss in 2017 on the Dana White Contender Series. He since then went off to LFA, where he earned four straight wins. He got signed to the UFC, and most recently in March got a win over Ray Borg. Bermudez has had quick submission losses throughout his career. With 14 wins, he has only left the first round four times. In his three-fight UFC career, he has stopped all of his opponents within two rounds. In what could be an explosive fight, these two bantamweights will likely put on a show.

Bout 5: Drakkar Klose (10-1-1) vs. Christo Giagos (17-7) (Lightweight)

Both Drakkar Klose and Christo Giagos have been successful recently in their MMA career. Klose, who has been in the UFC for a few years now, is riding a two-fight win streak currently. Same is the case for Giagos. All of those aforementioned wins came from decision. Actually, neither fighter has seen a stoppage victory since they joined the UFC. Both fighters have gotten their first UFC win, but one of them might get a first in a stoppage on Saturday. What’s more likely though is that someone’s streak will end.

Bout 6: Raphael Assuncao (27-6) vs. Cory Sandhagen (11-1) (Bantamweight)

Cory Sandhagen has had an undefeated run in the UFC thus far but will meet his biggest challenge on Saturday when he faces Raphael Assuncao. Assuncao is currently coming off a loss from Marlon Moraes, but his decade of high-level MMA experience gives him an edge over Sandhagen. With a 4-0 UFC record, Sandhagen has gotten wins via strikes, submissions and decisions. His recent win came over John Lineker in April. Who will prevail on the prelims with near perfection faces a veteran of the sport.

Bout 7: Devonte Smith (10-1) vs. Khama Worthy (14-6) (Lightweight)

Finishing off the prelims of the card on ESPN is Devonte Smith versus Khama Worthy in a lightweight bout. Smith came from the Contender Series and has gotten two first-round victories since his debut. He’s a tall order for Worthy, who will be making his UFC debut. While he’s coming in as a huge underdog, Worthy is on a five-fight winning streak, all within a two year period.

Bout 8: Derek Brunson (19-7) vs. Ian Heinisch (13-1) (Middleweight)

Starting off the main card of UFC 241 is Derek Brunson facing Ian Heinisch. Brunson is coming off a victory of Elias Theodorou, which was a bounce back from losses to high profile fighters in Jacare Souza and Israel Adesanya. Heinisch is heading into his third UFC fight, coming from the Contender Series back in 2018. Heinisch has quickly established himself in the middleweight division. A win over Brunson would make it his first win over a real gatekeeper/contender fighter.

Bout 9: Sodiq Yusuff (9-1) vs. Gabriel Benitez (21-6) (Featherweight)

Before the AKA gym puts their focus on Daniel Cormier’s fight, they’ll have duty watching Gabriel Benitez face featherweight prospect Sodiq Yusuff. Making his UFC debut in 2014, Benitez has a record of 5-2. Yusuff has been perfect since his arrival, with 2 wins, one of them coming via first-round punches. He impressed in 2018 on the Contender Series, earning his contract. While Yusuff’s record in MMA is small, his success arguably makes him a fair opponent for Benitez, who hasn’t been doing too bad for himself either.

Bout 10: Yoel Romero (13-3) vs. Paulo Costa (12-0) (Middleweight)

In a fight that has been a long time coming, Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa will finally face off on Saturday. This matchup was first planned for November, but couldn’t happen as Romero wasn’t cleared to fight. Romero was then matched up with Jacare Souza, but pulled out of the bout due to pneumonia. Costa was offered to fight as a replacement in that bout but turned it down. Now, with tons of cancelled bouts, these two are paired up once again. Both fighters haven’t competed in over a year, but are both still valued highly in the middleweight division. Costa will be putting his undefeated record in the bout. Romero’s last fight was a championship loss to Robert Whittaker at UFC 225. Will Costa continue his slow but steady climb up the middleweight division, or will Romero prove he deserves another shot at the title?

Bout 11: Nate Diaz (19-11) vs. Anthony Pettis (22-8) (Welterweight)

In the co-main event, the fan-friendly fighter Nate Diaz will make his long-awaited return against Anthony Pettis. Diaz’s last two fights were his famous original and sequel bout against Conor McGregor. Since then, he’s faded into the background of the UFC. He was expected to face Dustin Poirier back in the fall, but Poirier pulled out with an injury, he was benched once again. Pettis has remained busy as of late, recently knocking out Stephen Thompson with a superman punch in a fight night main event. He took a loss to Tony Ferguson in the Fall, defeating Michael Chiesa before then. Those two fights were lightweight bouts. While Pettis won’t have the concern for ring rust like Diaz might, he is still testing the welterweight waters.

Bout 12: Daniel Cormier (22-1) vs. Stipe Miocic (18-3) (UFC Heavyweight Championship)

In the main event of the PPV, Daniel Cormier will attempt to defend his UFC Heavyweight Championship against Stipe Miocic. He earned the belt in their first meeting, knocking out Miocic with an elbow while in a clinch. Cormier has since fought once, defeating Derrick Lewis to make the first defence of his belt. Miocic hasn’t fought since last summer.

The first fight with Miocic was an uphill battle for Cormier, being the short fighter by quite the length. His win proved that he can hang with Miocic, though the sudden fashion of the victory opened speculation about if he could do it again. On Saturday he’ll have the chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke, while Miocic will have the opportunity to do the opposite.

UFC will take a week off next weekend after having many consecutive weeks of events. The promotion will come back at the end of the month, with Weili Zhang facing Jessica Andrade for the Strawweight Championship in Shenzen, China. While there will be no fight night next weekend, the promotion will air the second last episode of Season 3 of the Contender Series on Tuesday. The show will conclude on the following week.