Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa will throw down on the UFC 241 main-card in a fight that will likely single out the next contender to the middleweight crown.
Fights like these truly don’t come around often enough.
Those tuning in to watch Saturday’s tantalising UFC 241 in Anaheim, California will witness a clash between two of the most physically impressive athletes the sport has ever seen in the form of former divisional title-challenger Romero and the powerful Brazilian Borrachinha.
Both guys have the ability to make this a short and brutal night for their opponent and each will come into this one knowing full well that the man standing opposite to them is perfectly equipped to steal away their own hard-earned momentum.
The rising talent Paulo Costa has been on my radar for quite some time now.
A man miles more athletic than anyone in the division with the exception of Romero himself, brutal knockouts of the likes of Johny Hendricks and, most recently, Uriah Hall, have displayed his ability to mix his ridiculous power with some deceptively slick boxing combos in a manner that makes him a terrifying proposition no matter where your base lies.
Hall, who is as pure a striker as anyone at middleweight, had quite a lot of success peppering his face with the jab during their UFC 226 matchup but crumbled as soon as Costa started to find his mark.
Like Romero, the sheer mass of muscle he carries has led to many questions over his ability to maintain that ferociousness into the later rounds but in a three-round fight, I would be inclined to think that stamina won’t be an issue against someone like Yoel.
He does throw in high-volume but with the undeniable threat of the explosiveness that comes with taking on The Soldier Of God, I can see him dropping his output to a certain extent.
Romero’s chin is quite frankly incredible, but if anyone has the power to put him down at 185lb right now, it’s Costa.
At 42, one would have to assume that Yoel’s long and strenuous history as an athlete would see him show the signs of degradation but it has become abundantly clear that this man is a one in a million specimen.
To be honest, even those numbers don’t do justice to how special he is.
Though holding an extensive background in freestyle wrestling, striking is the name of the game when it comes to Yoel.
And despite his incredibly late start in the sport, he’s damn good at it!
Everything from his stamina conservation and tempo to his explosive jolt and ability to lull you to sleep make him a very unique challenge and in a fight against someone who, in some ways, mirrors his power, I’m ready to wager that it will all come down to the condition of his body at this late point in his run.
Anyone who knows anything about Romero knows of his long history within the Cuban Olympic wrestling program that led to his eventual transition to MMA will know exactly how much he has been required to put himself through to reach this point.
After over two decades of putting his body on the line to do what he loves, would anyone really be surprised if we finally began to see this man start to diminish?
His pair of showdowns against reigning champion Robert Whittaker displayed Yoel at his very, very best. And while he didn’t do enough to take home the belt (according to the judges, at least), in my opinion, he’s still the very best middleweight on the planet.
If the same Romero who arguably should have left UFC 225 with the title steps up and takes on Costa on Saturday night, I can see this ending very, very badly for the underdog.
Sure, the fight is a thing of beauty on paper but with wins over only the battle-worn Hendricks and the completely hit-or-miss Hall on his resumé (a fight that saw Costa absorb far too many jabs to the dome), I’m going to guess that this is a case of far too much, far too soon.
Romero’s going to get this one done in style after a slow and technical opening few exchanges.
Prediction: Yoel Romero by second-round KO.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena