This Wednesday (Nov. 6, 2013) Middleweight fighters Ronny Markes and Yoel Romero will square off on the main card of UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for Troops 3" in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Both fighters won their most recent Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout. Markes beat Andrew Craig via decision at UFC on FX 8. Romero made a splash in his Octagon debut by laying out Clifford Starks with a first round flying knee.
Markes may have more momentum on his side thanks to an impressive seven-fight win streak. He remains undefeated in UFC, and holds only one loss on his mixed martial arts (MMA) record. Markes is well on his way to establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with, but he'll need a convincing victory over Romero to continue his run.
Romero is relatively inexperienced at this point with only has six pro fights to his name. But he's a former Olympic silver medalist in wrestling who has shown knockout power to boot. Romero has shown that he is a relentless finisher, never once going to the judges' scorecards.
That makes him a tough out for almost anyone in the weight class.
Markes and Romero recently made the cut down to 185 pounds. A win in Kentucky is the only way to keep making noise in a new division.
This fight could end quickly. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Ronny Markes vs. Yoel Romero:
Record: 14-1 overall, 3-0 UFC
Key Wins: Andrew Craig (UFC on FX 7), Aaron Simpson (UFC on Fuel TV 1)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Markes is an extremely well balanced mixed martial artist who has five knockouts, four submissions, and five decision wins under his belt. He'll face off with the best wrestler he's ever fought in Fort Campbell.
Thankfully Markes trains at Nova Uniao, a camp known for their excellent takedown defense.
He'll need it against Markes because his best bet may be to keep this fight standing. Markes hasn't exactly been an effective closer in his three UFC bouts - he's won each fight by decision. But he'll take another win however it comes. If he can pick apart Romero on the feet, the fight will begin to go his way.
That plan is far from a guarantee for success - Romero has finished all of his five wins with strikes.
It's still a better gameplan that trying to out-wrestle a former world champion. If Markes gets slammed to the mat, all is not lost. Markes' Brazilian Jiu-jitsu skills will come into play once he's on his back. Romero has shown a smothering top game with vicious ground and pound, so utilizing some slick reversals and transitions will be paramount to Markes' success at "Fight for Troops 3."
Markes definitely has his work cut out for him. His opponent is a powerful wrestler who has bulldozed all but one of his MMA foes. Markes will need to fight a smart fight and keep his emotions in check to avoid being caught by Romero.
Record: 5-1 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Clifford Starks (UFC on Fox 7)
Key Losses: Rafael Cavalcante (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov)
Keys to Victory: Romero has translated his world-class wrestling skills seamlessly into MMA. He has the power to drive his opponents into the mat and end the fight with an onslaught of punches. Against Starks, he showed that he could also put his opponents to sleep while standing.
That combination makes the still-improving Romero a rising prospect in the UFC middleweight division.
Romero may be lacking in terms of experience and grappling here. Romero needs to be careful when dragging the fight to the mat because he could get caught with a submission if he gets careless. His massive strength will help him power out of perilous holds, but Markes is a seasoned veteran who can't be underestimated.
It's not rocket science that Romero is probably going to look for several takedowns during this fight. His raw power is legit and he'll be looking for the big knockout when the fight starts.
Romero's weight cut will also play a factor in this bout. If the cut goes smoothly, Romero should have a size advantage even over a big former light heavyweight like Markes. If he's too drawn from the drop, his conditioning could suffer.
Romero looks to have a ton of potential at middleweight - and Markes will be an excellent gauge for how ready he is to swim with the sharks.
Bottom Line From Fort Campbell: The bottom line here is that this fight could produce a "Knockout of the Night"-winning performance from either side. Both fighters have only lost once, making this fight very evenly matched.
Markes has never been knocked out, but Romero has the power to end anyone's night. Romero got knocked out in Strikeforce, giving Markes a glimmer of hope to end the fight on the feet.
This bout is most likely going to come down to two deciding factors.
Whoever can land the cleanest shot when the fight begins can potentially end the contest in the opening stages. If both combatants can weather the storm in the early minutes, the focus will shift to Markes' takedown defense and ground game.
Romero can easily turn this into his fight with his wrestling pedigree, so it's on Markes to implement a good counterattack. If Romero imposes his will from the outset, it'll be a bad night for Markes, but he's a wily veteran who has seen a lot.
However, it's debatable if he's ever faced someone with the skill of former Olympian Romero.
Romero is still a bit raw in his MMA career, but his potential is undeniable. Markes will probably be his toughest test outside of former Strikeforce 205-pound champ Cavalcante. Romero needs to keep his wits about him and not get too excited to pull off the victory in Fort Campbell.
This fight could go either way. Expect fireworks when these two heavy hitters clash in the Octagon.
Ronny Markes and Yoel Romero have a big chance to gain momentum at ‘Fight for Troops' 3. Which fighter will emerge with their flawless UFC record intact?