Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight fringe contenders Yoel Romero and Brad Tavares went to war last night (Sat., April 19, 2014) in the opening main card bout of UFC on FOX 11 from Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
No. 14-ranked Romero blasted his way into the Octagon in 2013, winning his first three bouts with impressive striking stoppages. The Cuban Olympic silver medalist freestyle wrestler most recently destroyed Derek Brunson in a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance at UFC Fight Night 35 in January.
He faced arguably his toughest test in Tavares, who brought the momentum of a five-fight win streak into Orlando. However, it was to very little fanfare given the mid-level quality of his opposition and the fact that Tavares failed to finish a single one of those victories. The Hawaiian-born striker had only one loss on his mixed martial arts (MMA) record.
That all changed at Amway Center last night, as Romero showed his rapidly improving worth in one of the toughest divisions in the sport.
Tavares came out throwing a right hand and a solid kick. Romero went for one of his dangerous flying knees and the fighters traded strikes. Romero pushed forward with a straight left and a knee, securing a power takedown to maintain a front headlock on the ground.
Tavares reversed to clinch on the cage and Romero went for a kimura. Romero got another takedown and landed in side control. The fight went back to the feet with "Soldier of God" having Tavares' back to land some knees. Tavares broke and threw a good combination, but was taken down yet again, with Romero going for a submission as the round wound down.
Romero went back to his wrestling immediately at the start of the second, again landing in side control. Tavares got up to pepper Romero with a couple good shots, but ate an elbow while rushing in. Romero faked a flying knee and landed a big shot, following up with a good combo of uppercuts. Tavares went for a takedown of his own, going for a flying knee and eating a right hand from Romero. The round ended with Romero controlling the clinch against the cage.
Tavares missed on a takedown early in the third and Romero made him pay with a knee against the cage. Tavares snapped a good hook and a few leg kicks, but time was beginning to run out. He scored a good combo before getting slammed to the mat again. Romero smothered Tavares on the cage as the crowd booed, and the final minute wore down with Tavares landing an elbow only to get taken down yet again.
Romero took home the unanimous decision to earn his fourth straight UFC win and cement himself as a legitimate contender. He's looked dominant since debuting in UFC last year, and finally broke out his top shelf wrestling with an impressive seven takedowns.
The American Top Team-trained product is due for a big fight; a match-up against Tim Kennedy, who beat Michael Bisping at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" finale last Wednesday (April 16, 2014) would be a true test of just how good the 36-year-old Romero truly is.
Tavares will experience a fall out of the Top 15 after losing a bout that truly could have made him ascend to the next level. He can take solace in the fact that he became the only Romero victim who wasn't finished by knockout, but that's hardly a consolation prize.
He's clearly not ready for the best middleweights in the world and will most likely go back to treading water against mid-level opposition for the time being.
To check out complete UFC on FOX 11: "Werdum vs. Browne" results, including play-by-play coverage of the entire event, be sure to check out our complete story stream right here.
Yoel Romero showed us why he's one of the best wrestlers in MMA today with a thoroughly impressive win over Brad Tavares. Who is next for the surging "Soldier of God?"