The Associated Press
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Stipe Miocic waited over a year to face Daniel Cormier again, and his plan for the rematch didn’t start to work until they were deep in the fourth round.
That’s when Miocic, the patient, determined firefighter from Cleveland, finally got his revenge — and suddenly reclaimed his Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title.
Miocic stopped Cormier with a barrage of punches in the fourth, taking back his championship belt with a comeback victory at U.F.C. 241 on Saturday night.
Miocic (19-3) lost the first two rounds on every judge’s scorecard in his rematch with the 40-year-old Cormier (22-2). After making some progress in the third, Miocic steadily came forward through Cormier’s blows in the fourth and finally hurt the champion with a punch to the body.
Miocic then landed several powerhouse right hands to Cormier’s head, buckling his knees and eventually forcing the referee Herb Dean to stop the fight with 51 seconds left in the fourth round. The 6-foot-5 behemoth leapt onto the wall of the cage and celebrated with fans still stunned by the fight’s sudden turn.
“I saw some weakness in that third round,” Miocic said. “And then in that fourth round, I caught him with that right hand. Thank God, because he’s tough.”
Nate Diaz also returned, from a three-year hiatus, with a dominant decision victory over Anthony Pettis at Honda Center. The 34-year-old Diaz (20-11) cemented his wild popularity with an impressive performance in his first fight since he split a pair of bouts with Conor McGregor in 2016.
Diaz punished Pettis (22-9) in standup striking and on the ground, winning, 30-27 on two judges’ scorecards and 29-28 on the third. Fighting through a serious cut near his eye, Diaz repeatedly hurt the former lightweight champion and nearly got a finish several times in the third.
“I wasn’t sure if there would be some rust or not, so I just treated it like there might be,” Diaz said. “I didn’t want to sit around and think about it. Just ignore it and go.”
Diaz’s popularity didn’t wane while he declined a series of matchups over the last three years. He sounds interested in fighting more frequently now, and he used his postfight interview to call out Jorge Masvidal, another popular veteran brawler.
“You’ve got to recognize the best of the best in this game, and it’s not who they’re saying it is,” Diaz said. “It’s who I say it is. That’s the best fighter, to me. The best martial artist who’s still on top of the game.”
The unbeaten Brazilian middleweight, Paulo Costa, won a bruising decision over Cuba’s Yoel Romero in a long-anticipated fight that was also worth the wait. Three previous bookings of this matchup fell through because of injury, but the two cartoonishly muscled 185-pounders captivated the crowd with a spectacularly physical fight that Costa won, 29-28, on all three scorecards.
Khama Worthy, a 32-year-old veteran making his U.F.C. debut on short notice, pulled the upset of the night with a first-round knockout victory over the touted prospect Devonte Smith on the undercard.