Two men making unlikely climbs up the middleweight rankings in Derek Brunson and Yoel Romero faced off at UFC Fight Night 35 on Wednesday.
Brunson was supposed to be a trampoline for Chris Leben to use to jump back to relevance. Too bad Brunson ruined those plans with a unanimous-decision win in December 2012 and followed that up with an opening-minute submission win against Brian Houston in November.
Yoel Romero, meanwhile, is one of those guys that you wish had started MMA earlier. He began his MMA career at age 33 after taking an Olympic silver medal in wrestling but has been wrecking people ever since. He has a 6-1 MMA record with every win coming by knockout.
When the two clashed, it gave us an early candidate for 2014 Fight of the Year. The two wrestlers battled back and forth, trading punches and takedowns. While Brunson took the first two rounds, Romero found homes for his heavy hands in the third. The Cuban ended up taking a huge comeback win by TKO.
So what did we learn?
Yoel Romero Is a Star in the Making
Will he ever be champion? Probably not. Romero is old, and this fight opened up questions on his overall MMA savvy and cardio.
Romero, though, has an almost Rashad Evans-like swagger in addition to a Shane Carwin-like fighting style. That's a great combination to have, and it's why he went from Facebook to main card within one fight.
Pay-per-view main cards are in his future.
Derek Brunson Has Something
For 10 minutes in this fight, Brunson looked great. And that's not meant to be pandering, either. He demonstrated all the tools necessary to compete in the upper echelon of the middleweight division.
He took the Olympic silver medalist down and landed some potent punches and kicks while displaying absurd power. He handily took the first two rounds. But...
Brunson's Cardio Isn't Up to Snuff
When the third round rolled around, he quickly shot for an uninspired takedown. This demonstration of weakness didn't go unnoticed by Romero, who let Brunson return to his feet before uncorking hand after hand. He rocked Brunson and then finished him with ground-and-pound.
Brunson showed some legitimate skills. Ten minutes of gas, though, won't do the trick. He showed a horrible gas tank against Leben but was able to edge out the equally wheezy veteran. He looked better here, but he needs to put forward a strong 15 minutes if he wants to crack into the Top 10.
Yoel Romero Hits Really Hard
With an Olympic wrestling background and devastating hands, it's not hard to draw comparisons between Romero and Dan Henderson. He didn't show the one-punch knockout power of Hendo, but in that third round, he let it rip.
It's hard to peg what kind of opponent the UFC will set him up against next, but either way, Romero is almost guaranteed to provide fun fights.