Just four days ago, Yoel Romero overcame the drama of a suspenseful weigh-in ordeal and rose to the occasion in the main event of UFC 221. He shut down former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and finished him with an uppercut that looked like it was removed from Mortal Kombat. It’s not surprise that current champion Robert Whittaker was watching this fight and keeping an eye on who could be his next opponent. However, he didn’t just watch it, he absolutely dissected it.
“[Yoel Romero] was mentioning a back injury earlier, so we can’t be sure if it was the back injury that’s what prevented him from doing his usual explosive, unorthodox movement patters, or it was a gameplan because it worked so well. He stood at perfect range for [Luke] Rockhold, he predicted all his strikes, all his combos. When Rockhold couldn’t kick – cause he always leads the kick, or tries to, doesn’t really set up his kicks too well – he’d check it. When Rockhold would work with his combos – no more than two or three – he’d block him. Then he’d just explode moving forward, landing punches, not overextending too much.”
— Roy Nelson (@roynelsonmma) February 11, 2018
“Once [Romero] started realizing, ‘Oh okay, he’s not knocked out,’ he backed it up, took a breath, did absolutely nothing until he was ready to explode again. Genius or injured? Who knows. Yes, I was impressed. I was impressed with Romero’s confidence in Rockhold’s patterns. For Romoer, for anyone to go in there and put in that sort of gameplan and that sort of show, he had undoubted confidence and prediction of what Rockhold was going to do. And Rockhold did it. […] That’s why he had that 70-percent striking defense, because Rockhold was doing everything that Romero knew he was going to do.” — Robert Whittaker speaking to GrangeTV.
Can confirm @YoelRomeroMMA has no breaks in his leg, and is injury free… everything came back ok. Looking forward to Robert Whitaker getting healthy and making that fight in the summer
— malki kawa (@malkikawa) February 11, 2018
With a keen eye and fight mind like this, Robert Whittaker should be in the short list of UFC fighters available for an analyst desk job. Dana White has already said that Yoel Romero will get the next shot at Whittaker, which will be a rematch from their close encounter at UFC 213. Romero ended up on the wrong side of a decision that time, despite the devastating state of Whittaker’s knee. It will be interesting to see how the sequel plays out and if Romero can put together another genius gameplan.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/15/2018.