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Daniel Cormier’s best efforts were not enough to beat back Stipe Miocic a second time.
Miocic reclaimed the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title with a fourth-round technical knockout of the American Kickboxing Academy captain in the UFC 241 headliner on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Cormier (22-2, 11-2 UFC), who knocked out the Strong Style Fight Team cornerstone a little more than a year ago, met his end 4:09 into Round 4 of their rematch.
“DC” was in control for a majority of the fight. He executed a slam takedown in the first round, advanced to half guard and poured on the punishment with ground-and-pound. The 40-year-old Lafayette, Louisiana, native spent the second, third and parts of the fourth rounds flexing his hand speed with crippling jabs and powerful right hands. Midway through the fourth, Miocic (19-3, 13-3 UFC) tweaked his approach and focused on the champion’s midsection with a series of left hooks, the last of which set up a right cross that began Cormier’s downward spiral. Miocic pushed him to the fence and swarmed him with punches until referee Herb Dean intervened.
Returning Diaz Overwhelms Pettis
“The Ultimate Fighter 5” winner Nate Diaz returned from close to a three-year layoff and did not skip a beat, as he pocketed a unanimous decision against Anthony Pettis in the three-round welterweight co-main event. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, all for Diaz (20-11, 15-9 UFC), who competed for the first time since Aug. 20, 2016.
Pettis (22-9, 9-8 UFC) sliced open the Californian above the right eye and landed a number of counter right hands but too often drifted in the wrong direction. Diaz engaged him at close range, overwhelmed him with output and either executed takedowns or initiated scrambles that resulted in his moving into top position. He had Pettis teetering in the third round, where he pinned the Roufusport star to the fence and uncorked a volley of crushing knees to the face that had him ducking for cover. “Showtime” survived, but his fate on the scorecards was sealed.
Diaz has won four of his past six bouts, decision defeats to Conor McGregor and Rafael dos Anjos his only missteps.
Related » UFC 241 Round-by-Round Scoring
Undefeated Costa Decisions Romero
Former Jungle Fight champion Paulo Henrique Costa kept his perfect professional record intact, as he was awarded a unanimous decision over Yoel Romero in a crackling middleweight barnburner. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Costa (13-0, 5-0 UFC), who went the distance for the first time in his 13-fight career.
Both men were credited with knockdowns in a back-and-forth first round that seemed to tilt Costa’s way. The undefeated Brazilian dropped Romero (13-4, 9-3 UFC) to all fours with a clean left hook and managed to weather a flying knee from the 2000 Olympic silver medalist. The middle stanza saw Costa attack the body with kicks and hooks from both hands, only to concede a takedown in the closing seconds.
Perhaps sensing the need for a finish, Romero found another gear in Round 3, where he continued to absorb body blows without so much as a deep breath and responded with a savage right uppercut, straight lefts, heavy combinations and an inside trip takedown. His efforts fell short.
Romero, 42, has lost three of his last four fights.
Once-Beaten Yusuff Dispatches Benitez
Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Sodiq Yusuff cut down “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” semifinalist Gabriel Benitez with punches in the first round of their featherweight feature. Benitez (21-7, 5-3 UFC) bowed out 4:14 into Round 1, his modest two-fight winning streak having reached its conclusion.
Yusuff (10-1, 3-0 UFC) hit the deck on the end of a left hook but bounced back to his feet and withstood the American Kickboxing Academy rep’s follow-up efforts. Both men suffered cuts -- Benitez near the left eye, Yusuff above the right eye -- and fired punches without much regard for their well-being. A counter right hook sent Benitez crashing to the canvas in a dazed state, unable to defend himself from the punches that came next.
The 26-year-old Yusuff has rattled off five straight wins.
Resurgent Brunson Denies Heinisch
Derek Brunson recorded his second win in as many appearances, as he took a unanimous decision from former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion Ian Heinisch in a three-round middleweight showcase. Brunson (20-7, 11-5 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks from all three judges.
Heinisch (13-2, 2-1 UFC) held nothing back at the start, connected with a glancing head kick and continued to fire punches at max effort. As the fight drifted into the second round, Brunson exploited the fatigued Factory X standout with straight left hands and an effective sprawl. He secured a takedown in Round 3, countered effectively and kept Heinisch at bay despite moving backward.
The loss was Heinisch’s first in nearly two years.
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