Is Yoel Romero destined for UFC Middleweight gold?
Yoel Romero is one scary athlete. Period. But, let's face it. Most fans didn't expect the Cuban wrestler to beat Luke Rockhold in the main event at UFC 221, which was recently held in Perth, Australia.
Post the weigh-ins for the event, Rockhold emerged as a strong betting favorite, while Romero ended up missing weight. This meant that even if Romero won the fight, he wouldn't be awarded the interim title as a penalty. However, Rockhold was eligible for the title since he had a successful weigh-in and it sure seemed like the Cuban's stars weren't bright.
In the first round of the main event, the former champion Rockhold looked smooth as he scored eighteen significant strikes against the Cuban's ten. Apparently, one of Rockhold's kicks badly injured Romero's leg as revealed in a post-fight interview with Megan Olivi. However, this setback clearly didn't slow down the Cuban juggernaut as he completely took over after the first round.
Second round onward, things began to go downhill for the former champ as the Cuban began to unload with his quick, explosive strikes. Romero landed 24 significant strikes while Rockhold managed only 17. The latter had lost his momentum and perhaps his confidence as well, as the Cuban seemed rather unfazed by the American's combinations.
As the third round began, Rockhold attempted to get back in the game and landed a few stiff jabs. The Cuban just bobbed and weaved, patiently waiting for the right moment to unload. And when he did, it was lights out for the American. Romero landed a mean overhand left followed by a brutal uppercut to secure a knock out a victory, leaving the world shell-shocked.
The Cuban may not have secured the interim middleweight title following his victory at UFC 221, but it seems that he will still be fighting for the undisputed title in his next outing against the current champion Robert Whittaker. ESPN's Brett Okamoto has confirmed the same.
Romero has faced Whittaker in the past when the two met at UFC 213. Though the Cuban suffered a decision loss in this bout, he seems to have improved his game tremendously since then. During a discussion with Luke Thomas (5:30-5:40), Romero's manager Malki Kawa said, "If we see the same exact Yoel Romero that fought Luke against Whittaker, Yoel Romero is your new 185-pound champion."
Age doesn't seem to be a factor for the 40-year-old Cuban as he seems hungrier and more focused than ever. He already has an impressive 13-2-0 fight record, having beaten other top contenders like Chris Weidman and Ronaldo Souza. On the other hand, Whittaker is currently on an impressive eight-fight win streak. So, he will probably head into the rematch with heightened confidence. However, given the ever-evolving skills and the unpredictable fighting style of the Cuban, Whittaker can't afford to take him lightly.
Will Romero create history by becoming the first Cuban UFC champion or will Whittaker strengthen his incredible streak? Regardless of the outcome, their second meeting will certainly make for a fascinating rematch.