Saturday night saw the UFC take their efforts back to Florida for a card that went through as many changes as any in recent memory. The event was originally supposed to be held in Brazil, then was to feature fighters from TUF Brazil 4, then just became an amalgamation of random Brazilians, and whatever Floridians the UFC could produce on short notice. The important part of the card was always the main event however, and luckily that stayed intact. Well, luckily for Yoel Romero, not so much for Lyoto Machida. Early in the bout, Romero was content to keep things on the feet, answering every bit of Machida’s unorthodox style with his own histrionics. Most seemed to score the opening stanza for the former champion, but I thought Romero equaled him in volume and landed the more demonstrable blows. The second round was much more clear, as Romero began to tag and wobble Machida regularly, even throwing in a ‘Showtime’ superman punch and a flying knee to fake takedown for good measure. As he so often does, the Cuban kicked it into a next gear only he and a handful of other fighters seem to possess. He tossed Machida to the ground with a gorgeous knee tap, instantly postured up and landed elbows which removed Machida’s consciousness.
To me, the performance was just as impressive — if not more so — than Rockhold’s demolition of Machida. While Rockhold capitalized on an opportunity, Romero created his own opportunities to the same effect, and also found a great deal of success against Machida on the feet. Post-fight, Romero ruffled some feathers unintentionally, as apparently a good portion of the MMA fanbase has never heard a non-native English speaker attempt English before. I don’t particularly come to MMA to catch up on social issues, so I don’t particularly care what Romero said, but I didn’t hear anything offensive in his rant. The MMA viewership has long been one that overreacts to almost anything, and I simply see this as another case of that. What I do care about, is what happens with Romero next. The Cuban has now defeated a pair of top 10 middleweights by third round TKO, just the same as Rockhold, and possesses a six-fight winning streak to Rockhold’s five. The other player in the middleweight title picture, ‘Jacare’ Souza has one top 10 win and an eight-fight winning streak. I know that Rockhold is the “money” matchup for Chris Weidman next, but we’ve never seen Rockhold draw anything, and at 30 years of age, he’s got far more time left in his career than either Romero (38) or Souza (35). After UFC on Fox 15, I said I prefered ‘Jacare’ as the next title challenger, but I would be just as happy with Romero in that spot. Unfortunately, Romero and ‘Jacare’ will likely be matched up together (again) in their next outing, and hopefully this time the fight stays together. In the co-main event, Lorenz Larkin put on another solid performance at welterweight, this time stopping Santiago Ponzinibbio with strikes in the second round. Larkin’s effort was not without some flaws, as he left himself exposed on the cage more than one would like, but his overall volume has picked up greatly since his days at 205 and 185lbs. Coupled with the speed and power which he is carrying very nicely down to 170, there aren’t going to be many fighters in the division who want to strike with him. Larkin deserves a step up into the top 15, so if the UFC wants to get a bit more juice out of Thiago Alves’ name, I would be perfectly content to sit down and watch those two throw leather at any point.
Aside from those two fights, the card left a bit to be desired. There were some nice performances, as Antonio Carlos Junior looked impressive in his middleweight debut, outdoing Eddie Gordon in every department. Eventually the TUF Brazil 2 winner sunk in the rear-naked choke for the tap in the third round, but I think we’ve seen by now that Gordon simply isn’t cut out for the UFC, so I’ll be interested to see how the Brazilian fares against a stiffer test. Perhaps Krzysztof Jotko or Magnus Cedenblad would be an appropriate next step for him.
You can’t blame Steve Bosse for getting kicked in the head so hard. After all, the only thing everyone wanted to tell us prior to this fight was that he was a hockey enforcer. In all of my experience watching hockey fights (and I’m Canadian, so there’s a fair bit), kicks really aren’t used all that often. The man who did the kicking, Thiago Santos may have the most vicious left kick in MMA at the moment. Bosse is the third fighter he’s stopped with that weapon, and this was by far the most vicious of the stoppages. Santos is still going to struggle against strong grapplers, so I’d prefer to see him against someone like Tom Watson or Chris Camozzi next, and those two are fighting, so give him the winner.
Opening up the main card (and I don’t think I’ll ever understand why), Hacran Dias put on a typical Hacran Dias kind of fight in grinding out a split decision over Levan Makashvili. Dias was simply the bigger, stronger, more seasoned fighter between the two, and managed to win enough of the little battles early to completely give away the final round. It ended up being a split decision, and I don’t think many cared one way or the other about the outcome unless they had money on the fight. Another ranked featherweight who recently picked up a relatively nondescript win is Tatsuya Kawajiri. Match those two up in a bout that feigns relevance only because of the small numbers beside each man’s name. Next up for the UFC is the big one, UFC 189. The organization has smartly taken next weekend off to allow for an actual build towards the featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor (if that is indeed what ends up headlining the card). It should be an absolute circus of an event. The full lines are out for UFC 189 already, and will be released shortly for the TUF 21 Finale, which takes place the following night. Stay tuned to MMAOddsBreaker.com for those odds and analysis for both cards.