Yoel Romero made his name as an Olympic freestyle wrestler. But he's making hay in the UFC with his devastating power.
Derek Brunson is the latest victim and piece of evidence, after Romero rebounded from a so-so performance to score a third-round TKO victory at UFC Fight Night 35, which went down Wednesday from Duluth, Ga. He is now a perfect 3-0 as a middleweight in the UFC octagon and looks to be quite a load for anyone else in the division.
For approximately the first 12 minutes of the fight, Brunson controlled the action. Rightfully wary of Romero's bowling-ball hands, Brunson was elusive throughout while scoring from the perimeter while the contest was standing. Perhaps Brunson's biggest blow of the fight came in the first round, when he blasted Romero with a head kick that hurt Romero, though Romero was relatively quick to recover.
And surprisingly, Brunson held a clear grappling edge over the Olympian throughout all three rounds. According to stats provider FightMetric, Brunson landed three of his five takedown bids, while staving off all four of Romero's attempts.
Heading into the third and final stanza, it seemed Brunson might be poised to capture an upset win. The round opened and began to unfold much as the others had, with Brunson appearing to be more skilled and athletic than the wilder, more plodding Romero.
But then it happened.
With power like Romero's, the complexion of a fight can change on a dime. So it went Wednesday night, when Romero swooped inside and landed a monstrous winging left hand that crashed into Brunson's jaw and sent him reeling.
Brunson hit the ground quickly, and almost as quickly covered up. The stoppage ultimately came thanks to a series of absolutely brutal elbow strikes to Brunson’s midsection, which seemed to cave in a bit with each strike.
The referee officially called the TKO stoppage at 3:23 of the final round. Romero, 36, is now 7-1 as a pro. Brunson, 30, is now 11-3.
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