Another week, another Ultimate Fighting Championship event soon to be in the books. I feel certain you feel the same way.
UFC 221 was supposed to be a major-league event with a headliner between legitimate 185-pound titlist Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold until a staph infection in and around the stomach area prevented “Bobby Knuckles” from getting his scrap on. Moving forward, the ersatz main event, interim title or not, between Rockhold and Yoel Romero is just fine -- fine, at least, if you are considering a Fox or Fox Sports 1 card.
Nonetheless, there are fights to be seen, and we cannot help ourselves. Might as well get into our UFC 221 breakdown, with respect to analysis and odds:
UFC Interim Middleweight ChampionshipYoel Romero (12-2) vs. Luke Rockhold (16-3)
ODDS: Rockhold (-140), Romero (+130).
ANALYSIS: How long will distance kicking carry a man in a high-level UFC bout? Well, we are about to find out.
I cannot thoroughly discount Rockhold’s southpaw literacy and how it has advanced him on other opponents. While the former champion lands 4.34 significant strikes per minute on his opponents and eats only 2.17, it harkens to the sort of exchanging that tends to favor the Californian. Romero has earned an unprecedented amount of third-round stoppages, but that all ceases if Rockhold can protect his chin.
That is the long and short of this fight. Rockhold is an ambidextrous puncher and kicker that should take Romero to school for extended periods of time; however, the question is whether or not the “Soldier of God” can suddenly land a big one out of nowhere. On the ground, there is no doubt who holds the edge. Rockhold remains one of the very best scramblers in MMA and, in fact, is at his home in the element. Blown takedowns are of little benefit if not detrimental to Romero. Simply put, the Cuban southpaw’s best route to victory is via a big, blind shot.
We cannot disregard the probability of that happening since Romero, for whatever reason, excels in throwing them. However, Rockhold’s distance-based management at the bare minimum figures to carry rounds, and if the explosive Romero cannot find his third-to-fifth-round stoppage, he will simply have to deal with the problem of being categorically outstruck. Despite an impressive eight-fight winning streak prior to encountering Whittaker, this is the same dynamic that foiled the 40-year-old against “The Reaper” in July.
If Romero remains at range throughout the contest, he will lose a kicking match. Even if he is able to get it on the floor, it may not be the bout for which he reckoned. Rockhold takes a stoppage victory, whether through unanswered strikes or by submission, within the first 15 minutes of our 25-minute show-closer.
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