Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Yoel Romero and Derek Brunson went to war on the main card of UFC Fight Night 35, which took place last night (Jan. 15, 2014) at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
Undefeated in UFC, Romero came in with the momentum of two first round knockouts over Ronny Markes and Clifford Starks. The Cuban-born Olympic silver medalist wrestler had already made a splash in mixed martial arts (MMA). He was looking to cap off an incredible calendar year against dangerous Strikeforce veteran Brunson, who was also undefeated in two UFC bouts.
Brunson gave him all he could handle, but ultimately Romero pulled off a huge victory in "The Peach State." And it wasn't without its bizarre moments, as Romero appeared to have soiled his shorts during the fight. He later claimed it was just water, however.
Regardless, Romero got the job done to notch his third straight Octagon win. Let's take a look back at the brilliance of Romero's come-from-behind victory.
The fight started with Romero looking for one of his trademark flying knees, but Brunson countered by landing some crisp shots of his own. Not to be outdone on the mat, former NCAA Division III All-American wrestler Brunson scored the fight's first takedown. Romero got back up quickly, but Brunson kept a high volume of strikes in Romero's face, even nailing him with a huge left high kick that looked like it should have had a much bigger effect. Romero showed a very solid chin, but was taken down yet again. Brunson thoroughly outclassed Romero in the opening stanza.
In the second, Romero threw a glancing body shot that deflected down into Brunson's groin, but the fight resumed without a hitch. The trend of the first round continued with Brunson maintaining an advantage in the striking department. Romero was planting his feet and throwing big shots, but Brunson beat him to the punch by landing a solid elbow. Brunson shook his head at a Romero flying knee, scoring another takedown. He shockingly mounted Romero to score big points. Brunson surprised throughout the fight's first two rounds to take a decided advantage.
It was a completely different story in the third round, however. Most likely down two rounds to none, Romero came out with an increased sense of urgency. Brunson may have been gassed from the frenetic pace of the first two rounds. Romero landed a huge left hook that wobbled Brunson, following with several hard punches. Romero followed a dazed Brunson to the ground to unleash a torrent of vicious shots. Brunson wasn't defending himself all that well, but the fight was allowed to continue nonetheless. He blasted Brunson with a series of ruthless elbows to the body to finally earn the stoppage.
Romero scored a huge walk-off victory for his third UFC victory inside of a calendar year. He showed a ton of heart and resiliency in weathering the storm of Brunson, who surprisingly won in the wrestling department. Romero's power simply proved to be too much in the end. He has one of the best killer instincts in a very talented UFC 185-pound division, and should get a huge step up in competition for his next fight.
The loss is a very deflating one for Brunson. He was well on his way to winning three in a row, but instead ended up a bloody heap on the canvas. Still, his wrestling looked great and his striking wasn't far behind. Brunson can't be faulted too much for succumbing to the scary knockout power of Romero. He'll most likely get another chance to prove himself against an opponent just outside of the Top-15.
Yoel Romero continued to impress by overcoming Derek Brunson's all-around game and a little something extra. Is the surging Cuban ready to take on the best middleweights in UFC?