UFC Fight Night 70 took place on June 27, 2015, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in greater Miami, Florida. While the entire nine-fight card was surprisingly rich with talent, including future contenders Thiago Santos, Alex Oliveira and Santiago Ponzinibbio, all eyes were rightfully focused on the main event.
Yoel Romero, headlining his first event, was in all likelihood the most talked-about fighter in the middleweight division, an Olympic silver medalist wrestler and freakish athlete whose 9-1 record included five straight wins—four by knockout—to open his Ultimate Fighting Championship career. While he had been thrown no softballs in his UFC run, which included contenders like Tim Kennedy and Derek Brunson, his opponent that night in Florida represented a clear step up in difficulty. Lyoto Machida was, at the time, the No. 6 middleweight in Sherdog’s rankings and No. 4 according to FightMatrix’s algorithm—in either case, ranked above Romero. While “The Dragon” was not the undefeated, untouchable light heavyweight enigma he had been in 2010, he was still a tricky and dangerous fighter. That perception was borne out by the oddsmakers, who installed the Brazilian karateka as a modest favorite.
The fight lived up to expectations; while Machida clearly won the first round and Romero the second, both were competitive. Going into the fight, a major question mark hovering over the muscular and explosive Romero was his gas tank; his most recent win, over Kennedy, had been controversial due to a corner-assisted long break between rounds. However, the other lesson of the Kennedy fight—that Romero could mount effective offense even when exhausted—came into play again. In the third round, Romero tossed Machida to the ground from the clinch in a way no opponent had ever done, then absolutely obliterated him with five or six elbow strikes from half guard. With the emphatic knockout, the “Soldier of God” was undeniably a top 5 middleweight and likely title contender.
Romero’s performance against Machida that night was nearly eclipsed, however, by his post-fight interview. The Cuban-born fighter’s extravagantly broken English, deeply held Christian faith, post-fight shortness of breath and customary weirdness in interviews conspired to produce a quote that was apparently meant to convey “Don’t forget Jesus,” actually came out as “No forget Jesus,” but sounded to all the world like “No for Gay Jesus.” This led to several days of media and fans wondering whether Romero had been making some sort of oblique commentary on the then-current topic of marriage equality in the U.S., and believe me, it feels as weird to type that as it probably does for you to read it.
Ultimately, cooler heads won out, Romero issued a clarification of what he meant—still confusing, mind you—and the world of MMA kept turning. Romero would indeed challenge for a UFC title; more than once, in fact, despite his ongoing weight issues. Machida dusted himself off, bounced back and remains a dangerous fighter and tough out to this day, first in the UFC and currently in Bellator MMA.