In this edition of Pundit Arena’s Fighter of the Week, we celebrate the genetic specimen that is Yoel Romero despite his loss at UFC 225 last weekend.
You know you’ve put in a good shift when your status elevates to a higher level in spite of a loss. Yoel Romero was never exactly out of the spotlight at middleweight since his original run towards the title but after the events of UFC 225 over the weekend, people started firing some serious praise in his direction.
Both he and the champion Robert Whittaker took to their spot atop the main-card and put forth the type of spectacle that reminds you exactly why you love the sport in the first place. It was a tour de force in brutality – the type of war that some fighters never fully recover from but when all was said and done, against all odds, ref intervention was not needed and the fight was left in the hands of the judges.
We all know what transpired next and while Whittaker’s legacy as champ had only been strengthened, the bout as a whole stood as a tremendous showcase for Yoel Romero’s gifts as an athlete.
Earlier years in the world of freestyle wrestling saw him represent his home country of Cuba in both the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics – taking home a silver medal in 2000.
Olympians have been decently well-represented in the UFC over the years with the likes of Ronda Rousey, Daniel Cormier, Dan Henderson and Henry Cejudo amongst the most recognizable of the names but even within that category, the physique of this truly terrifying middleweight sets him apart from all others.
From the eight wins that can be found between his debut back in 2013 to his first clash with Robert Whittaker in 2017, only Brad Tavares and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza escaped being brutally KO’d and in a rather strange run, Romero was able to rack up five of those six finishes in the third round.
It was as violent an ascent as you could ever imagine. Split-second overhands, hook-kicks, spinning back-fists and, of course, flying knees. Yoel utilized them all to pick up wins over some of the greatest middleweights to ever do it.
His penchant for the late finish might seem weird to some but when you think about it in relation to his style, it actually makes perfect sense.
Cardio was always pointed to as a weakpoint for the muscle-bound monster as he knocked at the door of the 185lb top-15 and while that was certainly something that proved to be an issue in his earlier days, the way he has adapted his game to suit his talents has been truly remarkable.
To say Yoel Romero attacks in bursts would be the understatement of the century. Slowing himself to an absolute minimum, he will often sit back – sometimes for as long as several minutes at a time – and gauge his opponent. He has criticised for this approach given how it affects his ability to take home rounds but the explosive nature of the flipside of this tactic makes it more than worthwhile.
When Romero switches it on, he really switches it on.
The phrase ‘lulling him to sleep with his movement’ can apply to a lot of fighters for a lot of different reasons but in his case, if you’re standing across from him inside the octagon, history will show that your lights will more-than-likely be shut off if you let your concentration drop for even a split second.
Ask Chris Weidman, who succumbed to one of the most brutal flying-knees we have ever seen in round-three of their UFC 205 matchup. Or Lyoto Machida, who despite understanding the fear of the takedown going into the third – was KO’d shortly after the only shot Yoel attempted in their fight. Luke Rockhold was doing alright for sure when he fought Romero at UFC 221 but all it took was one deft shot from his opponent in – you guessed it, round three – to flatten him on the canvas.
Genetics will only get you so far in life and while there’s no doubt that he can do things other fighters can’t, the manner in which Yoel Romero has carved out a unique fighting style for himself will ensure that he will be remembered long after he ends his career.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena