Can Yoel Romero Be a Legitimate Force in the UFC Middleweight Division?

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Jan 15, 2014; Duluth, GA, USA; Yoel Romero (red gloves) fights Derek Brunson (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Gwinnett Center. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Yoel Romero defeated Derek Brunson at UFC Fight Night 35 to move his UFC record to 3-0. A day before, on the UFC’s weigh-in coverage on Fox Sports 2, Romero won a poll that asked which middleweight on the card would be most likely to fight for a title.

Is that the case? What is the ceiling for Romero?

He is an Olympic silver medalist, but he is most known for defeating Cael Sanderson three times. No small feat. That speaks to how good of a wrestler he is. But MMA isn’t wrestling.

In his eight professional bouts, he is 7-1. All eight fights have ended via KO/TKO with his lone loss coming to former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael Cavalcante in 2011.

Romero’s ultra-aggressive style has been on display. He is comfortable throwing wild shots in an attempt to get the stoppage, and to date, he has been largely successful. However, that will not work at the highest level of the division.

If he hopes to compete at the upper echelon of the division, he needs to start game-planning more efficiently. He needs to learn when to pick his shots and when to utilize his wrestling a bit more. His striking is improving, but he should not be seeking stand-up wars.

He has not looked invincible by any stretch of the imagination.

Brunson was winning their fight until Romero took care of business in the final frame. He was also having trouble with Ronny Markes at UFC Fight for the Troops 3 in November.

Romero has elite grappling ability and fight-altering power. If he begins to blend these two elements more efficiently inside the Octagon, then we may have a future contender on our hands. Yet, his development is actually not the biggest thing going against him.

That would be his age.

He is 36 years old. He is not a spring chicken, and he is certainly past his athletic prime.

Father Time may catch up to him before he gets a chance to move too far up the UFC’s middleweight ladder. That is unfortunate, but it is the reality of athletics. There is a short shelf life for athletes. Romero is nearing his end.

His years of amateur wrestling have already taken a physical toll on his body, and now, MMA will do the same. How much longer can his body hold up to the rigors of training? The signs do not point to him being a force in the division.

If Romero wants to be a factor, he must dominate in 2014. He has to show the fans and the UFC brass that he is ready for the elite of the division. It’s a tall task.

He is exciting. He will be a welcome sight on fight cards, but don’t expect to see Romero challenging for anything significant in his UFC career. Temper your expectations.