The Severe Spotlight: Alexandr Romanov 

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the jeopardy and storyline element is paramount to a successful card. MMA is a sport. From a purely sporting perspective, UFC Vegas 53 featured 11 fights. 6 fights ended in a finish. Finishes are the culmination that we should be engineering the sport toward, finishes are an unquestionable conclusion to a fight. There are questions to be posed about why the sporting aspect alone is not enough to satiate the appetite of the MMA community, but it does not. 

Let us begin with the usual rundown of UFC Vegas 53. Marlon Vera picked up the biggest win of his career, taking a decision win over Rob Font in the main event. Andre Arlovski upped his winning streak to 4 in the Heavyweight division. Joanderson Brito made a huge statement, finishing Andre Fili in the first round to strikes, that is a large announcement to the rest of the 145lb division. Grant Dawson extended his UFC unbeaten run to seven. Dawson is slowly building a particularly good structural foundation to his UFC tenure.  

Darren Elkins out-damaged Tristan Connelly, and Krzysztof Jotko decisively outpointed Gerald Meerschaert.  

Aloft the featured prelim stood surging Romanian heavyweight, Alexandr Romanov. Romanov was scheduled to fight Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 52, however Boser was forced to withdraw. Chase Sherman stepped in for UFC Vegas 53. Sherman has had a tumultuous relationship with the UFC, but was brought back for this late notice replacement, his 3rd stint with the promotion.  

Let us make no illusions. Romanov decimated Sherman for the 2:11 that this fight lasted. Sherman needed to stay away from the grappling early, however the first shot came within 12 seconds, a nice level change pushed Sherman against the fence with Romanov deep in a double leg. Although being taken down, Sherman did an excellent job of posting on his free arm and returning to his feet. In the process he elected to give his back, with Romanov in a back bodylock. 

The suplex that followed was gorgeous, Romanov dragged Sherman backwards, whilst taking a slight pivot to his left, which allowed him to take both of his feet behind Shermans and shelf the Americans hips onto his own. The back arch, roll through and finishing hip/head position was fantastic. The bodylock controlled Shermans hips, weighted by the wedge Romanov had created with his hips under Shermans thigh. The head position into the near shoulder of Sherman made turtling difficult. He immediately transitioned into a conventional side control.  

Half guard is a position that in MMA, allows the fighter in the top position dominant positional control, but also the opportunity to land shots. Romanov allowed Sherman to recover a half guard, and then picked him up and moved him to the fence. After being unsuccessful with his attempt to pummel an underhook, Romanov elects to take a collar tie with his right hand, pulling Shermans head toward him, disrupting head position is a fantastic method to A) elicit reactions and, B) stop movement. From here he props up his right leg, allowing him to posture whilst still maintaining some wedging, and landed some shots.  

Sherman did well to recover an underhook and use that to get to his feet. Romanov went right to a front headlock, chaining that to a single leg, he ran the pipe and Sherman again found himself on the mat. A beautiful backstep from the butterfly hook saw Romanov find himself again in side control, this time with a tight waist grip. With his cross face, he forced Sherman to attempt to make space, and in that reaction, stepped over into the mount, with a crossface. 

Once more Romanov dragged his prey to the fence. Creating space with a stiff arm to Sherman’s face the shower of shots began to rail against the tarmac of Sherman’s head. It is difficult to fathom the panic of having a 236lb man unloading strikes to your head, but your job in that moment is to defend yourself intelligently. Chase Sherman was unable to do so, arms outstretched, desperate to turtle.  

He left his right arm out. This means his elbow was not connected to the side of his body. In mount, or generally in grappling scenarios, this means the limb can be attacked. Attack Romanov did. He laced his right arm over Shermans head and locked up a slick Americana. Driving his head over Shermans right shoulder to limit the ability of Shermans shoulder to rotate, he torqued the arm through, and Sherman tapped. 

On our hands is a European heavyweight that we can add to the list of exciting prospects. Will he reach the same levels of excitement as Tom Aspinall and Cyril Gane? Only time will tell.