Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight standouts Lyoto Machida and Yoel Romero will battle tonight (June, 27, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 70 inside Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Though Machida has won just three of his last six fights, he's been fighting the absolute cream of the crop. In his last fight -- which was just three months ago -- Machida took a severe beating at the hands of Luke Rockhold en route to a submission loss, so it's quite important for him to return to the win column here.
Romero, meanwhile, has climbed the 185-pound ranks with impressive speed since joining UFC. He's finished four of his last five opponents via knockout and was actually matched with "Jacare" Ronaldo Souza in a title eliminator, but an injury scrapped that opportunity.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Rashad Evans (UFC 98), C.B. Dollaway (UFC Fight Night 58), Ryan Bader (UFC on FOX 4)
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC 175), Luke Rockhold (UFC on FOX 15), Jon Jones (UFC 140)
Keys to Victory: Known for his elusiveness and mastery of Karate, Machida is one of the savviest strikers in the sport. He's very patient with his attack, which has nonetheless resulted in nine knockout victories.
In this bout -- and in most of his fights for that matter -- Machida really needs to focus on keeping his back off the fence. Romero really works well from that position, as he blends his wrestling and dirty boxing together with violent efficiency.
So long as Machida stays in the center of the Octagon, it's a favorable match up for him. Romero likes to work from distance, which is Machida's preferred distance. He's an expert from that range and has plenty of experience there, while Romero, despite his quick development, is much less polished in that area.
In a kickboxing battle, Machida's advantage will grow as the fight wears on. He's experienced in five round wars, while Romero slows down in standard fifteen minute bouts. Machida's defense is incredibly, so surviving the early rounds shouldn't be too much of an issue for him.
Then, "The Dragon" can turn it on later in the fight.
Key Wins: Tim Kennedy (UFC 178), Brad Tavares (UFC on FOX 11), Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 35)
Key Losses: Rafael Cavalcante (Strikeforce: "Barnett vs Kharitonov")
Keys to Victory: Romero was a silver medalist at the 2000 Olympics in wrestling, but he's spent most of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career separating his opponents from their senses. Thanks to his incredible timing and raw explosive ability, Romero has secured all but one of his victories via knockout.
Romero should put the pressure on Machida early. His end game should be pushing his opponent into the fence, where he can work with both punches and takedowns without having to worry about Machida's counter punches.
To get Machida there, Romero should look to replicate Chris Weidman's game plan. The champion used a high volume of kicks to shut down Machida's lateral movement. Without the ability to circle freely, Machida was much easier to track down.
Considering "Soldier of God's" own kicking ability and the fact that this fight will take place in the smaller-sized Octagon, Romero should be able to copy that game plan here. Then, he'll be in range to shoot for a takedown.
If Romero can drag Machida down early, he's in really good position to do damage. Machida is not much of an offensive submission threat, so Romero can take advantage of any early takedowns to let loose with his ground strikes.
Bottom Line: Both men are Top 5-ranked Middleweight veterans who prefer to strike. It has the potential to get slow at times, but the combined knockout ability of these two men means there's also a chance someone makes something spectacular happen.
Machida is 37 years old and has been at the top of the game for some time. After perhaps the most ugly loss in his career, Machida needs to prove that he's still in prime form. A second consecutive loss would be a very bad sign for Machida's future, particularly if he takes more damage.
Alternatively, this could be a big win for Machida. Romero is unbeaten in the Octagon and has largely looked like a killer so far. If Machida becomes the first man to defeat him in the UFC, it would be a big feather in his cap and put him back in the title hunt.
For Romero, this is a big fight in the long term. While it won't earn him a title shot right away -- he's behind both Rockhold and "Jacare" at the moment -- it's still a major accomplishment. Plus, it could lead him to Souza once again, which would be a true title eliminator's bout.
If Romero falls to "The Dragon," he's in a tough position. He's still undoubtedly a top fighter, but there are plenty of other middleweights gunning for the title. At his age, he may not be able to make another run towards the strap.
Later tonight, Lyoto Machida and Yoel Romero will collide in the main event of UFC Fight Night 70. Which fighter will have his hand raised?