Yoel Romero is the best middleweight in the UFC even though the title is not around his waist, but part of that could change on Saturday night.
The UFC middleweight championship is currently around the waist of Michael Bisping. However, the consensus best middleweight in the world is almost unanimously Yoel Romero. “The Soldier of God” is undefeated in the UFC and has become more intimidating with every outing against the elite of the division.
Yoel Romero is the fighter most affected by the situation at 185. He is the top contender and has been so without peer since November of last year. However, talk of super fights between Bisping and Georges St-Pierre have relegated Romero to the background. Without the name value of “Rush,” he is the one whose career priorities are left out. Both men want the fight with each other, and that has made it difficult for Romero to talk his way into a title contest.
Normally, there is no reason he shouldn’t get a shot at the title next. However, injuries to Bisping and GSP have pushed their timeline towards roughly November. With no guarantee of a title shot when Bisping returns, Romero now risks his spot in line against fellow contender Robert Whittaker. The consolation, their fight on Saturday is for the interim title which means the winner is guaranteed an opportunity for the undisputed belt down the road.
For Romero, he is in a particular situation but not one without upside. Romero has already defeated Lyoto Machida, Jacare Souza, and Chris Weidman on his current win-streak. If he defeats Whittaker, he will have dispatched three of the top five contenders at middleweight, all of which are elite level contenders themselves. If he were to complete the sweep, as he is already close to doing, then he would undisputedly go down as the best middleweight of the post-Anderson Silva era.
Arguably, Romero would only need a win over Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping after Saturday to complete a sweep of the division. Such a feat is incredible considering that 185 is arguably the most competitive in terms of the top five. Romero does not have a shot at the belt he wants next, but he does have a great opportunity at the next best thing if he continues to win. At 40 years old, Romero may be an imposing physical specimen but time is not on his side for a long title reign. However, he may not need one if he can complete the sweep before his skills begin to decline.
Stylistically, Romero possesses plenty of physical advantages to give Whittaker problems. He looks to be the bigger athlete and has explosive one-shot KO power. However, Whittaker showed in the fight with Jacare that he is able to stay disciplined and use his speed and striking to dart in and out with shots. The accumulation of punches eventually wore down Souza and led to the finish.
Romero is a southpaw and should look to circle away from Whittaker’s power. He also is a very talented wrestler. Although he has looked to strike with recent opponents, he should look to use his hands to set up an explosive shot to get the fight to the mat. On the ground, he nullifies the speed and movement of Whittaker and can use his size and power to deliver brutal ground and pound.
Romero’s career has been marked by controversy as much as it has been by success. His failed drug test at the end of 2015 proved to be false: he had received a tainted batch of supplements that had ingredients that were not labeled. That does not, however, take away from incidents where his corner has doused him with water between rounds that allowed him more time to rest in critical moments. He has also faced plenty of accusation from fans for possible steroid use due to his incredible physique at his age, even though he has never tested positive before a fight.
Nothing short of dominance will help Yoel Romero’s legacy when there have been several glaring moments of controversy during. That said, he is the middleweight contender who has appeared tailor made for dominance since he joined the UFC. A victory over Whittaker would make him the heavy favorite in every fight moving forward and certainly against Rockhold, Bisping and whomever he needs to face next. For “The Soldier of God” to march forward, he will just need the fireworks to explode in his favor at UFC 213.