Preview and Picks – UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Romero

machida

After a busy week of MMA news it’s back down to actual fighting this weekend as the Octagon visits Hollywood, Florida this Saturday night for a UFC card which, like many before it, has been ravaged by one issue or another.

The main event does go ahead, though, and the only truly stand-out fight on the card sees a top middleweight match-up between Cuban Olympic wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero and former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in a fight which could have big title implications in the twelve months ahead.

Entering mixed martial arts in 2009 after finishing up his wrestling career in 2007, Yoel Romero has rapidly risen towards the top of the MMA world. Initially based in Germany, Romero won his first four outings in the sport via knockout and was soon signed by the now defunct Strikeforce. There, he suffered his one and only career defeat to date at the hands of Rafael Cavalcante before moving to the UFC as part of the Strikeforce takeover. In the Octagon, Romero has won all five fights in increasingly  impressive fashion the last of which, against Tim Kennedy, saw Romero get a controversial and crushing win to put him right in title contention.

For Lyoto Machida, title contention has been part of his career for the best part of seven years. Like Romero, Machida had an impressive and quick rise to the top of the sport. After winning fourteen fights in a row against the likes of Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin and Thiago Silva, Machida knocked out Rashad Evans in his fifteenth bout to win the UFC’s 205 lbs strap. And although Machida defended the title against Shogun Rua, it was a controversial decision which saw an immediate ordered and Shogun KO the champion inside a round. Since then the Brazilian hasn’t been able to recapture the gold in shots against Jon Jones and subsequently Chris Weidman after a drop to middleweight but wins against Ryan Bader, Gegard Mousasi and Dan Henderson have kept The Dragon more than relevant.

As a styles match-up this is one the likes of which we have seen many times before; striker vs. wrestler, although not as simple as that in this case. Machida, the striker, is a karate stylist who is light on his feet, defends strikes well and pops around the Octagon before stabbing in with vicious attacks. As a wrestler he isn’t particularly interested in offence but is good defensively mostly due to his speed while on the ground his Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt makes him a tough and dangerous match for anyone.

As an Olympic wrestling medalist with wins over the likes of famed grappler Cael Sanderson, Romero is, obviously, a unbelievably highly skilled takedown artist. The Cuban’s game is all about speed and strength as he floods in with wrestling attacks from all angles – which are usually successful. It’s not just wrestling he has, though. Romero is an ever improving boxer working with American Top Team and sets up his grappling extremely well with his hands. Power is also a huge plus point for Romero as he has the ability to knock someone out with either hand, especially late in fights. As of yet, Romero hasn’t fought the perfect fight but plenty of what he has done would suggest it’s not too far away.

The fight itself should be an extremely intriguing one between two men at the top of their respective fields. A few years ago, Lyoto Machida would probably have been an easy pick here due to his track record of beating wrestlers, but his loss to Chris Weidman and a heavy beating at the hands of Luke Rockhold just over two months ago will surely play a part. Nevertheless, his elusive, speedy style will be a tough conundrum for Romero to solve.

Over three rounds, I’d probably favour Machida here but it’s tough to keep up that sort of perfect gameplan over five periods with someone who improves as the fight goes on like Romero. I’d expect the first couple of rounds to be very cagey with Machida point fighting a lot. Eventually, though, Romero will catch him and once he gets him the first time it will keep happening, whether that be with takedowns or punches. For me, there will be a late finish in this one as the explosive and powerful Romero outlasts an aging former champion.

Outside of that main event, this card has been absolutely ravaged by what, according to the UFC’s official statement is “an issue affecting the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs visa system and a technical problem with the Consular Consolidated Database” which leaves the UFC “unable to secure entry into the country for 12 of its athletes slated to compete at UFC FIGHT NIGHT Machida vs. Romero.”

That sees the Ultimate Fighter Brazil finals slated for Saturday have been moved to UFC 190 while the original co-main event between Rick Story and Erick Silva will be on an upcoming Canadian card.

What we are left with is a pretty makeshift looking card featuring the likes of former NHL player Steve Bosse, Strikeforce veteran Lorenz Larkin, TUF 19 winner Eddie “Truck” Gordon and, of course, the blockbuster main event which makes the rest worthwhile.

FIGHT PICKS

Lyoto Machida vs. Yoel Romero – Lyoto wins the early rounds, Romero gets the late KO
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Lorenz Larkin – Close fight ends in a Larkin decision
Antônio Carlos Júnior vs. Eddie Gordon – Gordon wrestles his way to the decision
Thiago Santos vs. Steve Bossé – Santos gets his 7th career KO
Hacran Dias vs. Levan Makashvili – Hacran Dias via submission
Alex Oliveira vs. Joe Merritt – Olivera should take this one walking away
Leandro Silva vs. Lewis Gonzalez – Silva via decision
Steve Montgomery vs. Tony Sims – Monty takes it

BET OF THE WEEK

I’m going for a Romero KO which is currently around 3/1

START TIMES

Prelims – 1am BT Sport 2 HD

Main Card – 3am BT Sport 2 HD

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma