Five Questions with Phil Chertok: The UFC 241 Edition

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This Saturday, the UFC returns to pay-per-view with the UFC 241 card from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

It is the site of Daniel Cormier’s last fight with Jon Jones at UFC 214 from July 2017 where Jones stopped Cormier in the second round, but it was later ruled a no-contest when Jones failed his drug test that was administered after the weigh-ins.

On this night, Cormier will be defending the UFC heavyweight title against former champion Stipe Miocic in a rematch from their UFC 226 clash that saw Cormier drop and finish Miocic in the opening round. Since then, Cormier has defended his title against Derrick Lewis while Miocic has not fought since the loss. The talk of Cormier’s pending retirement has amplified throughout the lead-up to the fight with Cormier unsure if this will be his final walk to the cage.

In another return, Nate Diaz will enter a UFC cage for the first time since August 2016 when he fought Conor McGregor at UFC 202, losing their rematch by a majority decision. He returns against Anthony Pettis, who made the move up to welterweight with a stunning knockout of Stephen Thompson leading into this fight.

Plus, Yoel Romero returns, fourteen months removed from his last fight with Robert Whittaker in June 2018 and will meet undefeated Paulo Costa in a middleweight fight.

POST’s Phil Chertok discusses these fights and more in this week’s edition of Five Questions.

POST: How do you view this Saturday’s rematch between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, and do you expect a different type of fight than their first one at UFC 226 in July 2018?

Phil Chertok: I’m really excited about this fight. The former champion, Stipe Miocic is the longest defending UFC heavyweight champion in history and Cormier, the current belt-holder is one of the greatest fighters of all time. Their first encounter was action-packed and I expect this rematch to be the same way. Both fighters are aggressive and throw heavy shots, and while both have run the distance in several five-round fights, I’d be surprised if this contest completes the scheduled 25 minutes.

Win or lose, how likely is it that Daniel Cormier fights Jon Jones a third time before retiring? Does the outcome of this weekend’s fight affect a third fight with Jones from happening?

A loss and the Jones fight never happens, a win and the Jones fight happens…maybe. If Cormier loses on Saturday night there’s not going to be a lot of demand to see him fight someone who’s already beaten him twice. Cormier has already stated he doesn’t want to be the fighter who goes out on a string of losses, so the idea of losing to Miocic then risking another loss against his greatest rival seems unlikely. On the other hand, Jon Jones has been active in the last 9 months but has not had any marquee matches that have garnered the public’s imagination. The history and controversy between the two-future Hall-of-Famers have always excited fans and since Cormier has become the Heavyweight champion, a third fight has been the biggest potential bout for both. Even with all that build-up and a win this weekend, we still might not get that 3rd fight. Cormier is already 40 and if he’s not able to secure the terms he wants for that scrap, I doubt he’ll wait around. Outside of the cage, he’s got a lot of projects and more than enough to keep him busy. Inside the cage, he’s got nothing left to prove and has cemented a legacy as one of the all-time best.

It has been three years since Nate Diaz last fought and will meet Anthony Pettis this Saturday. Do you like this matchup for Diaz as well as his decision to return at welterweight?

I love this matchup, I love that it’s at welterweight and I love that Nate Diaz is back! Diaz is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC and we’ve not had the chance to see him in the Octagon for far too long. A matchup with Anthony Pettis is the perfect bout for his return. It’s a fight that fans have been speculating about since Anthony Pettis first joined the UFC when the WEC lightweights were combined. Both fighters are incredibly exciting, and I’d be hard-pressed recalling a boring fight from either of them. While Pettis might have the advantage with his striking, particularly his kicks, Diaz has second-to-none cardio and has very good boxing himself, often outboxing fighters thought to be better at ring craft. With 3 years away from the cage, I’m glad that Nate is returning at 170, his cuts to 155 looked like they were getting awful and going up against someone else who’s new to welterweight seems like the right fit.

UFC 241 also marks the return of Yoel Romero, who hasn’t fought since June 2018 and meets undefeated Paulo Costa. At 42 years of age, are you expecting a slower or diminished version of Romero?

When it comes to Yoel Romero I’ve learned to expect nothing. Do I expect him to be slower at age 42? No, if anything I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s faster and better! Yoel has always been a freak athlete and his rise to the top of professional MMA in a very short amount of time is remarkable. He’s also done it with exceptionally exciting performances and extremely controversial moments. He’s definite must-see-TV if you are an MMA fan and I’m thrilled that he’s back on Saturday night.

Of the top fighters on this card, who is in the most vulnerable position that needs a victory the most?
If heavyweight weren’t so shallow, I’d say Stipe. He hasn’t fought since losing his title and it feels like the division is ready to get behind Francis Ngannou again. Losing to Cormier again would set him quite far down the ladder if there were more than a few rungs. Since he probably only would need a couple more wins to get back in the title chase, I’m going to go with Yoel Romero. He’s already had 3 title fights scheduled with him only being able to make weight for 1 on them, which turned out to be one of his 2 losses to current champ Robert Whittaker. With the third loss in four fights and the fact that middleweight has a long line of potential contenders, Romero has the most to lose in Anaheim.

Phil Chertok and John Pollock will be back late Saturday night with their UFC 241 POST Show here on the site with a full review of the card from Anaheim, California.

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