The Great Debate: Yoel Romero vs Robert Whittaker

With International Fight week here, we have two title fights at UFC 213. We have decided to debate both title fights. Our current Great Debate champion, Cory Groeneveld will be arguing for Valentina Shevchenko on Friday, so this Great Debate will not be for our website title.

In today’s matchup, we will debate the interim title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker. Long time Great Debate stalwart, Justin Peck will be arguing for Robert Whittaker, while Great Debate newcomer, Jason Powers will be arguing for Yoel Romero.

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Why Yoel Romero Will Win by Jason Powers

Takeover’s Middleweight #1 contender and #2 overall, Yoel Romero, is set to take on Takeover’s #3 Middleweight, Robert Whitaker, for the interim title at UFC 213 in the absence of Michael Bisping due to injury. With a late start to his MMA career, thanks to his decorated background as a wrestler for his home country Cuba, this will be the 40-year old Romero’s first title fight in his MMA career. This is much deserved and a long time coming for Romero. There aren’t many fighters in the sport with his resume, even in his short career. He’s undefeated since signing with the UFC with six of his eight fights ending early by KO or TKO and five of those earning some sort of bonus for performance. His run at eight straight wins is currently the best active streak in the division. The list of his victims includes ex-champions Lyoto Machida and Chris Weidman. He also destroyed Strikeforce Middleweight title contender and recently retired UFC fighter, Tim Kennedy, who was coming off of a win against current champ Michael Bisping at the time of their fight. Clearly, he’s on the better run coming into this fight than his opponent, albeit Whittaker’s run and subsequent seven-fight win streak has been impressive as well.

As stated before, Romero has a much-decorated background in wrestling, winning the World Championships and being the runner-up in the Olympics before defecting to Germany and starting his MMA career. His Muay Thai training has also been on display during his MMA career resulting in a variety of knockouts, including knees, elbows, and punches. He’s an absolute wrecking ball and dangerous on every level. Romero is going to be able to keep Whittaker off-balance with his threat on both the feet and taking the fight to the ground. Even Souza was able to get Whittaker down early in their fight, but the game Whittaker got back up in seconds. That won’t happen with a wrestler like Romero. It wasn’t until the second round that Whittaker really dialed in with his striking in the Souza fight. Romero, however, has clearly implied that won’t happen to him; “First thing is not to lose your focus, not to forget your dreams, to follow your strategy and follow it step by step. I, for one, think that’s exactly what will happen. Fortunately, he’s learned from the mistakes of his peers and will be the smarter fighter.

I don’t want to hear about Romero’s age. Age has clearly not caught up to him yet and at 40, he looks better than ever getting better with every fight. He recognizes that all opponents are dangerous and have talent. He calls Whittaker a young fighter, stating he’s hungry. He knows how dangerous he is. That’s a great quality for a fighter to have. If anything Romero may be more dangerous because of his acknowledgment of it and the fact that he, even at a very “young” 40, clearly is on the downhill of his late career. Who is more dangerous or hungrier than that? Clearly, Romero is a man on a mission and has been for some time. Now, only one man stands in his way of the pinnacle. I just don’t see him not getting there. Nobody works harder in the gym and their training than this guy. He’s smart and calculated and his results show it.

Another thing, I don’t want to hear about are common opponents and the results. MMA math just doesn’t work. Executing game plans do. And while Whittaker may have gotten the better of common opponents knocking out Souza and Tavares (they both KO’d Brunson), Romero still has the better resume with his other opponents and results. Whittaker got TKO’d the best opponent he’s faced in his MMA career, Welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson. Romero has steamrolled through his toughest challengers. If that wasn’t enough, when common opponent Ronaldo Souza, who Whittaker just knocked out, was asked his opinion on the fight, he picked Romero stating Romero is stronger, keeps his distance well and is really calm. Sounds like the recipe to counter the speed of Whittaker.

As far as this fight goes, expect a slow start while they both get a feel for each other much like the Romero-Weidman fight. Except Romero doesn’t have to worry about Whittaker’s offensive takedowns. Romero is too smart and won’t get over-emotional. He’ll use his distance to pick off Whittaker and look for takedown attempts early to put Whittaker on alert of the threat later in the fight. I expect he’ll get him down on a couple of attempts and be able to do some damage from the top position. I look for Whittaker to get frustrated in the second, he’ll fall for a pump takedown attempt and Romero catches him with flying knee-crumpling Whittaker… a few punches and it’s the end the fight… a Weidman repeat. I just have to go with the man on the better run and the bigger mission here. Whittaker’s time will come… but it won’t be now. Romero by TKO (knee and punches) Round 2.

 

Why Robert Whittaker Will Win By Justin Peck:

Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker is fresh off of an enormous victory against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in which not many fans gave him a chance. He stepped up and accomplished a victory in pretty dominant fashion. He has now gotten the attention of those who weren’t paying attention.

He has also gotten the attention of Dana White who now has him in a fight for the interim Middleweight Championship against Yoel Romero. Romero is coming off of a brutal KO victory over Chris Weidman at UFC 205 and many feel has been cheated out of an opportunity against Michael Bisping.

The two are set to collide. While Robert Whittaker is potentially the nicest face puncher on the planet outside of the cage (see our interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUeQfBcLDJE ) a switch gets flicked once he enters it. Whittaker has a very aggressive style and is a great striker.

Whittaker circles his opponents very well, is accurate, is very fast, and throws excellent combinations. These combinations are paired with a tight, but powerful, left hook that commonly knocks the wind out of his opponent’s sails. With the punch being so compact, Whittaker is a threat to throw it at any time. Although it’d be incorrect to label Whittaker a counter striker, he does have multiple wins, notably over Derek Brunson, throwing his left while back pedaling and countering. Romero will need to be on his toes.

While Whittaker is a very good striker, Yoel Romero is incredibly explosive. We’ve witnessed two sudden knees stop fights in his favor. Whittaker will also need to be on his toes as Romero can be tough to read when a flurry is coming. Whittaker seems to get stronger each camp at defending his opponent’s greatest strength and he will need to do so again.

Many are predicting Romero to make this a wrestling match, but I don’t see it for a number of reasons. For starters, the much older Romero doesn’t have the same level of cardio as Whittaker.Look at how tired he got in the Tim Kennedy contest and the Chris Weidman fight. Whittaker held his own grappling against BJJ ace Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza without having his gas tank drained. I feel that Romero would tire himself out more than anything. Second, although he’s an Olympic Silver Medalist, he just doesn’t seem to use his wrestling much in the UFC.

I believe Whittaker will use a lot of movement in the first two rounds to drain the energy bar of Romero before really digging in and going to work in the third. He’ll begin landing his combinations on a tired opponent before ultimately finding a home for the left hook to end the fight.

Prediction: Whittaker by Rd 4 TKO

 

 

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