Main Event: Yoel Romero vs Luke Rockhold (UFC Interim Middleweight Title)
In the highly competitive UFC middleweight division, Yoel Romero & Luke Rockhold have hovered around the top spots in the rankings for several years without actually crossing paths, at UFC 221 they finally face off and attempt to add some much-needed stability in the turbulent middleweight division.
In June 2016 the shocking ending to Luke Rockhold’s reign as champion was the action that would unintentionally send the middleweight into disarray.
Micheal Bisping who took the fight on short notice (17 days) replacing an injured Chris Weidman went on to successfully defend against Dan Henderson who was a relevant opponent for Bisping at the time but nowhere near the top of the rankings. Bisping then lost the title to a returning George St-Pierre, soon after St-Pierre decided to vacate citing health issues as a reason for not being able to defend the title.
Earlier in 2017, Yoel Romero had fought Robert Whittaker for an Interim Middleweight belt which meant after St-Pierre vacated, Robert Whittaker who defeated Romero for the Interim belt was promoted to the undisputed champion of the weight class.
During the period Bisping participated in fights which didn’t correlate directly to the rankings the other middleweights have been held up, originally Robert Whittaker was pencilled in to defend the undisputed title against Rockhold but an injury resulted in Romero taking his place and the fight will now be for another Interim Championship.
The winner in Perth, Australia will naturally become the number one contender. Moving forward there should be a clearer picture for the rest of the middleweights once order has been restored when the victor of Romero vs Rockhold gets matched up with a healthy Robert Whittaker sometime in 2018.
Romero is the most athletic fighter I’ve ever seen, even now at 40 years of age he looks like a superhero from another planet,
outside of looking like a superhero, Romero has the ability to move his body with such speed and explosion it seems as if he’s in another timezone to his opponents.
His only loss in the UFC was a close decision a year ago against Robert Whittaker, prior to that Romero was riding an 8 fight win streak which included some impressive finishes.
Romero is for me the most dangerous fighter in the weight division because of his ability to end fights abruptly in various different scenarios. His weakness has been shown to be endurance, with all that gifted ability to explode quickly comes a cost of energy management.
Although he can hurt fighters with any technique he chooses Romero has to be careful not to expend too much of his energy at once especially in a fight scheduled to go five rounds.
it’s Safe to say Rockhold is one of the more talented fighters in the world of MMA, an opportunistic fighter who’s been competing at a high level for years. Rockhold is a former UFC & Strikeforce Middleweight Champion who has numerous wins over world class middleweights with the added advantage of only being 33 years old, 7 years younger than Yoel Romero.
Romero is facing in Luke Rockhold a well-rounded fighter with a slick grappling game & an arsenal of fluid kicking techniques.
As Chris Weidman found out Rockhold’s also extremely heavy with his pressure from the top, ground and pound seem’s to be an extinct art in modern MMA but Rockhold is as good at delivering damage from top position as anyone in the world. Something all the fighters from AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) seem to thrive at.
The biggest flaw in Rockhold’s game is his concentration, every one of his three losses (two in the UFC) have come by TKO.
Losing by TKO in itself against top competition isn’t unusual, the manner in which the Belfort & Bisping finishes came, however, are indicative of Rockhold becoming too comfortable and switching off, giving his opponents vital opportunities to finish fights.
Confidence is therefore both a strength and weakness for Rockhold, against Romero he can’t afford to give anything away, the slightest mistake could be fatal.
Yoel Romero vs Luke Rockhold (Romero)
Mark Hunt vs Curtis Blaydes (Blaydes)
Tai Tuivasa vs Cyril Asker (Tuivasa)
Jake Matthews vs Li Jingliang (Jingliang)
Tyson Pedro vs Saparbek Safarov (Pedro)