A fighter with an Olympic silver medal in freestyle wrestling, a quickly improving striking game and a massive amount of knockout power sounds like a very legitimate mixed martial arts (MMA) prospect, right?
Despite those factors, however, there is one overwhelming one that means he will have to step it up fast if he wants to reach the top of his division, which is his advanced age ... 36. Indeed, Romero is a "prospect" older than many of the established fighters who are already considered well past their primes such as Shogun Rua and B.J. Penn (just to name two ... of many).
Despite his age, Romero has been able to impress fight fans since coming into Mthe sport just five years ago. The only blemish on his record came at the hands of Rafael Cavalcante in a Strikeforce bout in 2011. Since then, he has accumulated three straight wins in UFC, all by (technical) knockout.
Romero is an interesting fighter because although he is lauded for his wrestling accomplishments, he doesn't really tend to leverage his strength in the cage. Even though King of Hyperbole Joe Rogan quickly proclaimed Romero the greatest wrestler to ever step foot in UFC's Octagon, he's had his fair share of poor takedown attempts and failed takedown defenses.
Instead, he relies on a tricky, dangerous striking approach that seems to throw many opponents for a loop at times.
Romero is constantly moving -- an impressive feat in itself for someone with such a hulking presence. And his footwork and head movement provide for an opponent who is rarely where you expect him to be.
Fighting Brad Tavares is no easy task. And for Romero to win this fight he's going to have to be at the top of his game. Tavares is a smart fighter with good timing, footwork and clinch fighting, which will test Romero in a way similar to Derek Brunson in his last fight.
Romero was largely unable to stop Brunson from beating him in striking exchanges and on the mat, but was able to finish the fight before it reached what would likely have been a decision loss for "Soldier of God." He will have to be more effective in his clinch work and grappling for this fight or else he may not come out with his hand raised.
At this point, every fight matters for Romero. He will have to win several more fights in succession to reach a top standing in UFC's suddenly crowded Middleweight division. It all starts later this evening in primetime, no better place -- or opportunity -- to make a memorable impression.