UFC on Fox 11's main card kicked off with a highly anticipated bout between fast-rising middleweights Yoel Romero and Brad Tavares. Romero entered the night with an impressive three-fight knockout streak while Tavares was riding high after winning five fights in a row.
When the two faced off, Romero absolutely mauled Tavares with powerful, physical wrestling. Romero took Tavares down at will, ragdolling him with powerful takedowns and cracking him repeatedly with huge punches and elbows.
So what did we learn?
Romero Has the Tools to Win the Belt
I'll probably look back on this and laugh in a few weeks. I feel this way right now, though.
Yoel Romero has what it takes to win a belt.
That isn't to say that Romero would necessarily beat Chris Weidman. But between his Herculean wrestling, raw punching power and legitimate athleticism, there isn't anybody that would really be immune to Romero's home invasion-like fighting style.
The Cuban lacks the cardio right now, and he is still very raw, but he has the tools. He just needs to sharpen them a bit.
Tavares' Time Isn't Now
There's no real way around this. Tavares is a grinder who just found himself out-wrestled in every conceivable way. He was out-struck, out-clinched and out-muscled.
Tavares is 26 years old and had an impressive 7-1 UFC record entering the night. With a five-fight winning streak, he was on the verge of forcing his way into the title picture. But Romero completely tossed that notion to the wind.
The Hawaiian has obvious skills and is young enough to make plenty of runs at the belt. Right now, though? It isn't his time.
Romero Needs to Fight a Top-10 Guy
Romero vs. Tavares made sense. Now, though, it's time to determine whether or not Romero is actually a title contender or just a sort of middleweight Gleison Tibau.
There are plenty of potential opponents for Romero. Tim Kennedy, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and the winner of Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch all make sense.
The UFC Was Smart in Building Romero
Seriously, while I criticize the UFC a lot for how it sets up cards, it has given Romero the opportunities and exposure to succeed with the spotlight on him, and it has paid dividends.
Right now, Romero is a star. He isn't the most accomplished fighter by any means, but he is somebody fans want to see and somebody that the UFC can use to break into a new market, specifically Cuba.
It will be interesting to see where the UFC will end up putting him next.