The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Anaheim, California, this Saturday with a stacked UFC 241 event. A number of ranked fighters are competing on the main card, so let’s take a look at them and the possible implications their fights could have on the rankings.
In the main event, Daniel Cormier defends his heavyweight title in a rematch against Stipe Miocic. Cormier (22-1, 1 NC) remains undefeated in the weight class, having most recently submitted Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 last year. Having knocked out the most successful heavyweight champion in Miocic to win the title, it’s no surprise that the two-weight champion is not only rated as the best heavyweight in the world, but high up the pound-for-pound ranks. Sherdog and ESPN rate “DC” as the second-best pound-for-pound fighter in the world behind Jon Jones, while the UFC rankings place him No. 1 in their rankings. It’s hard to say if a second win over Miocic would move Cormier above Jones, but it would certainly help his case.
Miocic (18-3) will be looking to become a two-time heavyweight champion by avenging just his third professional defeat to Cormier. Before their UFC 226 title fight, Miocic had set the record for most heavyweight title defenses (three) which included victories over Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Francis Ngannou. Despite his long layoff, the Cleveland native still ranks highly. Sherdog and ESPN rate him as the second-best heavyweight in the world, while he’s the No. 1 contender in the UFC rankings. Miocic is also currently ranked No. 11 in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings, and a win over Cormier could see him shoot up the ranks further and reestablish himself as the top dog at heavyweight.
In the co-main event, Anthony Pettis welcomes returning Nate Diaz to action in a welterweight tilt. Pettis (22-8) is coming off a successful welterweight debut where he delivered the first knockout defeat of Stephen Thompson’s career. As a result, he shot right up the ranks and is currently No. 7 in the UFC’s welterweight rankings. A win over another big name could put “Showtime” in a position for title contention, though he might need a win or two more.
As for Diaz (19-11), this will be the Stockton, California, native’s first outing since losing a majority decision to Conor McGregor at UFC 202 almost three years ago. Because of his inactivity, he is absent from the rankings, but a win over Pettis would likely put Diaz in the Top 10 of the welterweight rankings at the least. Given his popularity, it’s entirely possible that Diaz could get a title shot next if he chooses to remain active. If not, there’s always the option of a trilogy fight with McGregor.
Powerful middleweights are also in action as former title challenger Yoel Romero takes on the rising Paulo Henrique Costa. Romero (13-3) is coming off a razor-thin split decision loss to middleweight champion Robert Whittaker last summer at UFC 225 — though he would not have won the title even if he emerged victorious since he missed weight. But with only Whittaker dealing Romero losses in the middleweight division, it comes as no surprise that he is ranked as the second-best middleweight in the world by Sherdog, ESPN and in the UFC rankings. There was previous talk of the “Soldier of God” moving up to light heavyweight and it would have made sense as it’s hard to see him getting another title shot, at least while Whittaker is the champion. For now, he’ll look to cement himself as the top dog besides the Aussie and hope that Israel Adesanya gets the job done at UFC 243.
A win over Romero would undoubtedly be the biggest of Costa’s (12-0) career. The Brazilian is undefeated with all his wins coming in the form of a finish -- 11 of them being knockouts, the most recent one being against Uriah Hall. And so, it’s easy to see why fans are particularly excited by this clash of heavy-hitters. “The Eraser” is currently rated as the seventh-best middleweight in the world as well as No. 7 in the UFC rankings. A win on Saturday could catapult him all the way to the top of the division and cement himself as the next challenger for the belt.
Finally, there is ranked bantamweight action as longtime contender Raphael Assuncao faces talented prospect Cory Sandhagen on the prelims. Assuncao (27-6) is coming off a defeat to Marlon Moraes, but still remains a top dog at 135. With 11 wins in his last 13 outings, the Brazilian is rated as the third-best bantamweight in the world by Sherdog, fifth by ESPN and is the No. 3 contender in the UFC rankings.
Sandhagen (11-1) undoubtedly has more to gain from this matchup as a win could see him enter the top five of the division and complete what has been a meteoric rise. The American is undefeated in four UFC appearances and recently got the biggest win of his career with a split decision victory over John Lineker. As a result, he is rated as the seventh-best bantamweight in the world by Sherdog while he is also ranked No. 9 in the UFC rankings. Again, he clearly has more to gain from this than Assuncao.