Yoel Romero is an absolute wrecking machine.
This past Saturday, in the main event of UFC 221, top Middleweight Yoel “Soldier Of God” Romero achieved a brutal and shocking KO victory over former champion Luke Rockhold.
There were a lot of variables heading into this fight. Rockhold was initially slated to face Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, who beat Romero by decision last year to claim the belt. However, Whittaker fell seriously ill during camp, and Romero stepped in against Rockhold for an Interim title fight. At weigh –ins, Romero measured 188 pounds, 3 over the limit, so Rockhold took %30 of his purse and Romero was no longer eligible for the interim belt.
There were several theories on this development. On first glance, it was a bad sign for Romero- missing weight usually means that you had a bad weight cut. But Luke looked much more depleted than Romero, especially during this interview where he is almost delirious. Many speculated that Romero intentionally missed weight to ensure he would be in top fight shape. He forfeited some money and became ineligible for the interim belt, but that belt is essentially just a #1 contender spot, which he would claim anyways with a win over Rockhold.
The fight itself was fascinating, as both athletes have very well defined skill-sets. Rockhold uses his left kick to punish opponents at long range, intercepts with a right hook when opponents come in, and has phenomenal top grappling. Romero is a special athlete, mounting no offense for most of the duration of his fights, simply moving and reading his opponent. But when he explodes it is unlike anything ever witnessed in MMA. He can finish a fight with any limb, and has phenomenal takedowns.
In the first two rounds, Luke used his left kick to the lead calf of Romero extremely well – after the fight, Romero was hobbling – and he employed jabs to keep the Romero at bay. When the Cuban decided to explode, he landed some good blows against the fence, but was unable to drop Luke. The big problem for Luke was that he did not pressure Romero as Whittaker did, he let the Cuban dictate pace, and even though Luke arguably won the first two rounds, Romero was comfortable throughout.
The knockout was beautiful. Romero closed distance with a double jab and perfectly anticipated Luke’s signature right hook, throwing his own left inside of it. Even though the blow was glancing, it dropped Luke against the fence where he was a perfect target for the brutal uppercut that finished him.
Romero will feature on Joe Rogan’s MMA podcast this week, and will likely rematch Robert Whittaker for the undisputed title later this year.