Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight powerhouses Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa will slug it out this Saturday (Aug. 17, 2019) at UFC 241 from inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
It’s remarkable just how close Yoel Romero has come to capturing the title on multiple occasions — and that’s not even considering the years where Michael Bisping avoided a contest with the Cuban knockout artist. At the age of 42, Romero is looking to get back in the win column and earn another title shot, and if anyone can do it, it’s “Soldier of God.” Costa’s four fights inside the Octagon have gone largely the same way: the hulking Brazilian chases his opponents around the cage, wails on them with combinations, and eventually batters them into nothingness. Costa has earned his shot at an elite competitor, and it’s almost certainly going to be a ridiculous fight.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Luke Rockhold (UFC 221), Chris Weidman (UFC 205), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 194), Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 70), Tim Kennedy (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC 225, UFC 213).Rafael Cavalcante (Strikeforce: “Barnett vs Kharitonov”)
Keys to Victory: Romero makes a strong argument as the most athletic fighter on the roster. The Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling largely fights in bursts, occasionally exploding with a vicious offensive flurry, potent counter strike, or sudden series of takedowns.
Against Costa, Romero must do what all past opponents have failed to accomplish: earn the Brazilian’s respect. Uriah Hall and Johny Hendricks both landed some pretty decent shots on Costa, and Hall even rocked him briefly. All the same, Costa marched forward, and eventually his pace and power shots overwhelmed them.
Romero’s recent strategy has involved staying tight defensively and waiting for his moment, and that’s not a bad thought against the all-offensive style of Costa. Before he allows his foe to build too big a lead, however, Romero must sting him with a hard shot — something powerful enough to force Costa to respect his feints or even hesitate a bit before engaging.
Given how absurdly powerful Romero’s punches, kicks, and knees can be, it shouldn’t be an overly difficult task, but it’s one that must be accomplished early.
Key Wins: Uriah Hall (UFC 226), Johny Hendricks (UFC 217), Oluwale Bamgbose (UFC 212)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Costa is an absolute bruiser. Despite his giant muscles, Costa sets and maintains a high pace, throwing combinations of power punches punctuated by hard kicks until his foe crumbles.
Costa is perhaps the first opponent of Romero who can stand up to his strength and power. He does not have to carefully outmaneuver his opponent at every time — Costa can make this a war of attrition from the first bell and very possible come out ahead.
Romero is a foe who always bides his energy until he sees an opening, and that’s a habit Costa should take advantage of. Early in the fight while Romero is still trying to get a read on Costa, the Brazilian should be pressing his foe and trying to slam home that right body kick. If Costa commits to wearing his foe out early, it will make later bursts from Romero less dangerous and allow Costa to stay on his usual path of aggression with less chance of getting put to sleep in the process.
Bottom Line: It’s a must-watch fight, arguably the best on a great card.
Romero cannot outrun Father Time forever ... right? At some point, his age is going to catch up to him, which will be a disaster given how his game relies on freak athleticism. Each year, it becomes more and more likely that Romero will lose his edge, which makes this an extremely important fight for him. A win here puts Romero right back in the title mix, perhaps even earning him a title shot if Israel Adesanya were to capture the strap later in the year.
A loss is a signal that the inevitable has happened, and it may cost Romero any future chances at the title.
Costa is facing the scariest fighter without a title in the entire organization. If “The Eraser” is successfully in his attempt to beat up Romero, he’s immediately in the title mix with a fair argument at the next shot. It’ll depend on how the division shakes out, but expect a title eliminator at the very least next for Costa if he’s victorious.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 241 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the pay-per-view (PPV) main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 241: “Cormier vs. Miocic 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC 241, Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa will throw down. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?