The Great Debate: Luke Rockhold vs Yoel Romero

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We have a new Great Debate champion. Keith Shillan had a long run as champion, but Jason Powers dethroned him at UFC 220. Now, Jason is the King of the Castle and will have to fend off all challengers. His first foe will be William Reat Noch. The two will debate the main event of UFC 221, the interim middleweight title fight between Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero. William will argue for Rockhold, while Jason backs Romero.

 

Why Luke Rockhold Wins by William Reat Noch

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Welcome to another episode of The Great Debate, in this one I will be explaining why Luke Rockhold will beat Yoel Romero at UFC 221 in Perth.

Let’s start with Romero, extremely athletic, not the most technical striker but explosive enough to threaten anybody in the division and above all, an Olympic wrestler who is extremely hard to take down as we seen in the Weidman fight. However, Romero’s explosiveness is also his biggest flaw as he lacks the cardio to fight at the pace he starts with for five rounds.

Rockhold, on the other hand, represents technicality in the sport. Not only is he extremely well rounded but he is also at a world-class level in every aspect of the sport, unlike Romero. As we seen in both the Weidman and Branch fights, Rockhold’s top game is easily the best in the division if not, the UFC. However, Rockhold has undeniably underperformed since he first won the title. Getting knocked out by Michael Bisping and stunned by David Branch leave his striking defense highly questionable, which could be a huge problem with Romero. However, inconsistency has always been a problem with Rockhold, especially when he enters the fight as a huge favorite. He admitted underestimating Bisping and clearly didn’t respect Branch’s striking. With Romero, an extremely dangerous opponent that has impressively beat the entire division except for Whittaker, we can be sure that Rockhold will not take this fight lightly.

I can only see Romero winning this fight by knockout, considering Rockhold’s last showings, it is very possible. Even if Romero is primarily a wrestler, Rockhold’s excellent takedown defense and submission skills (47% of his wins via submission) it would be very dangerous for Romero to try to bring this fight to the ground as Rockhold would most likely stuff his takedown and therefore, fatigue Romero.


In the striking department, Rockhold is way more complete. I believe his long reach and use of kicks will make it very hard for Romero to land shots in the pocket, I expect Rockhold to keep him at bay. However, Romero will still have to rely on his explosiveness to land that big knockout shot, otherwise, he represents absolutely no threat to Rockhold. By doing that, Romero will inevitably get tired and Rockhold will start dominating in the same way Whittaker did in round 4 and 5. As we seen in the Whittaker fight, a tired Romero ended up in the bottom and the discrepancy between his top and bottom game seemed quite big. I believe Rockhold will adopt the same gameplan as Whittaker and eventually exhaust Romero. Then he will able to make use of his incredible top game to finish the fight in the later rounds.

I predict that Luke Rockhold finishes the fight by ground and pound knockout in the 5th round.

 

Why Yoel Romero Wins by Jason Powers

 

Takeover’s #2 and #3 middleweights are set to clash at UFC 221 for the interim title and I’m here to tell you why it will be Yoel Romero with his hand raised, getting the win over Luke Rockhold and a setting up a rematch with Robert Whittaker. Romero had opened as a sizable favorite before the odds flipped in Rockhold’s favor late this week. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. I’m defending this title because I picked “underdog” Stipe Miocic over Francis Ngannou at UFC 220 and basically called exactly how the fight was going to go. I expect this prediction to go the same way.

Romero has only lost once in his UFC career and that was to Whittaker in their last fight. Romero was leading two rounds to none after two on all scorecards before losing the last three rounds and dropping a unanimous decision. I just don’t think Rockhold has the same kind of striking as Whittaker to be able to turn this fight around like Whittaker did in the latter stages, if it even gets there, which I don’t think it will. For those of you who talk about Romero’s gas tank, he hasn’t had a fight end in under 1.5 rounds since April of 2013. In the last seven fights before losing a decision to Whittaker they ALL went to the third round. Five of them ended with a finish. Please don’t tell me the guy doesn’t have a gas tank. This isn’t Francis Ngannou we’re talking about here.

Where can Rockhold win this fight? It won’t be on the feet. Let’s face it; if Romero clips him it’s over. Rockhold was KO’d by Bisping. You have to go back eight fights to find the last KO Bisping had in his career before Rockhold. You’d have to go back fourteen fights to find his last KO before that. The guy doesn’t exactly strike fear in opponents for his KO ability. You know who does? Romero. Yea, I know… anyone in the fight game can get clipped. But if Bisping is knocking you out, you clearly have gaps in the striking defense department and that’s bad news for Rockhold when the guy swinging at you is Romero. Romero’s striking stats are better across the board. He lands more strikes while defending at a higher percentage.

Rockhold’s only hope of winning this fight is getting it to the ground and getting a submission. Is now the time to point out Romero has never been submitted in his career? There’s a reason too. He’s an ex-world champion and Olympic wrestler. He defends 84% of his distant takedown attempts while Rockhold averages less than 1 takedown per contest and only gets 40% of the takedowns he attempts. Romero also defends 75% of his clinch takedown attempts. Romero wants to keep his fights standing, no doubt. But his ability as a wrestler makes his ground game dangerous. Rockhold likes to clinch and he likes to try takedowns from there but the numbers are in Romero’s favor. While Rockhold likes the clinch he defends less than half of the takedown attempts from there. So he’s susceptible to getting beat at his own game. For all the talk of Rockhold’s ground and jiu-jitsu game, it’s Romero who says he loves jiu-jitsu and will be a black belt one day. Perhaps we’ll get to see his skills put to use against one of the elite’s.

It’s no secret what the game plans here will be. Rockhold looked terrible on the feet against Branch and the fight was going Branch’s way until Rockhold got him to the ground. Romero will make him regret standing and banging with him if that’s what he chooses to do. It won’t be, though. Rockhold will try to make this fight dirty and get inside Romero’s power with the clinch. Romero likes to keep his fights standing and trusts in his power to end the fight at any time. I look for Romero to establish control in the striking department and for Rockhold to get frustrated and attempt to get inside on Romero. He’s going to want to get the clinch before taking elbows sending him to the mat and Romero following it up with punches from the top to end it. Romero gets the rare opportunity to fight in two straight interim title fights and this time he takes advantage of it. Romero by TKO (elbows and punches) Round 3.

 

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