Stipe Miocic (18-3) has not entered the Octagon since losing to Daniel Cormier (22-1, 1 No-Contest) by a surprising first-round knockout at UFC 226 a little more than a year ago.
The former heavyweight champion had previously set a division record for most consecutive title defences before falling to Cormier in stunning fashion, but he will try to get his belt back in the main event at UFC 241 this Saturday in Anaheim as a plus-115 underdog on the UFC odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Miocic saw a six-bout winning streak end against Cormier in the first fight, including three straight title defenses versus Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Francis Ngannou. Meanwhile, Cormier is a minus-145 favourite and became a two-division champ with the win over Miocic before successfully defending the title once with a second-round rear-naked choke submission of Derrick Lewis at UFC 230.
The key to this championship rematch might just be motivation, as Miocic did not seem to be in a good place the last time he met Cormier, who also had said that he would not fight past his 40th birthday. Cormier had hoped to meet the WWE’s Brock Lesnar in a big-money bout, and Miocic got the rematch because that matchup fell through.
The co-main event features another popular fighter who has taken a much longer hiatus than Miocic waiting for the right bout in Nate Diaz (19-11). After splitting a pair of highly publicized fights against Conor McGregor, Diaz will have been absent for two years by the time he takes on former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis (22-8) at welterweight.
Diaz is a plus-110 underdog at online sports betting sites versus Pettis, who is the minus-140 favourite. The long layoff might have something to do with that, as Pettis is a smaller man, standing two inches shorter than Diaz with a 3.5-inch reach disadvantage.
Pettis was successful in his return to 170 pounds at UFC Fight Night 148 on March 23, scoring a second-round knockout of Stephen Thompson to earn a Performance of the Night bonus. Many bettors remember what they saw last the most and will overlook the fact that he also lost six of his previous nine bouts before beating Thompson, including three at lightweight.