Yoel Romero is a scary man.
The 2000 Olympic silver medalist blasted Lyoto Machida with elbows from half guard for a third-round knockout in the UFC Fight Night “Machida vs. Romero” on Saturday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Romero finished it 98 seconds into round three, as he remained in six appearances with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Wary of Romero’s power and athleticism, Machida resorted to circling on the perimeter and picking his spots with lunging punches and kicks to the body and legs. For a round, it worked. By the time the second round bled into the third, however, Romero had found his range and effectively cut off the cage. The Cuban wrestler secured a knee-tap takedown, set up shop in half guard and blasted away, first with punches and then elbows. Machida went limp in the midst of the barrage, leaving referee John McCarthy no choice but to act on his behalf.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Machida vs. Romero,” here are six matchups that ought to be considered:
Yoel Romero vs. Ronaldo Souza: They were slated to meet at UFC on Fox 15 in April before an injury to “Jacare” altered those plans. Now, both men are on a short list of potential title contenders at 185 pounds. Romero has rattled off six consecutive victories, five of them finishes, since arriving in the UFC as a Strikeforce transplant a little more than two years ago. The American Top Team-trained “Soldier of God” has blended speed, technique and power in turning away Machida, Tim Kennedy, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Ronny Markes and Clifford Starks. Souza finds himself on an eight-fight winning streak and has targeted a September return following knee surgery.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Jake Ellenberger-Stephen Thompson winner: So far so good for Larkin at 170 pounds. The 28-year-old Millennia MMA rep recorded his second win in as many outings, as he dispatched Santiago Ponzinibbio with second-round punches in the co-main event. Always long on physical ability, Larkin seems to have found a home in the welterweight division. Ellenberger and Thompson will collide in “The Ultimate Fighter 21” Finale headliner on July 12 in Las Vegas.
Lyoto Machida vs. Vitor Belfort: Clearly diminished by age and MMA mileage, Machida has seen his better days. Less than a year removed from challenging Chris Weidman for the middleweight throne, the 37-year-old karateka seems to lack the juice necessary to compete with those how now occupy the upper reaches of the 185-pound division. His loss to Romero followed an even more lopsided defeat to Luke Rockhold just 70 days earlier. A similar air of uncertainty surrounds Belfort, who yielded to first-round punches from Weidman at UFC 187 on May 23.
Antonio Carlos Jr. vs. Rafael Natal: Still green in terms of mixed martial arts experience, Carlos lifted his stock with a third-round rear-naked choke submission on Serra-Longo Fight Team’s Eddie Gordon. The 25-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and winner of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 3 dominated every aspect of the match before finishing Gordon with a palm-to-palm choke. The decisive victory helped put some distance between Carlos and his Dec. 20 decision loss to Patrick Cummins, the move down to 185 pounds bearing immediate fruit. On a three-fight winning streak, Natal claimed a split decision over former Ring of Combat champion Uriah Hall at UFC 187 in May.
Thiago Santos vs. Derek Brunson-Sam Alvey winner: While he lacks the ancillary skills needed to compete with the 185-pound elite, Santos is quickly establishing a reputation as one of the UFC’s most dangerous kickers. “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 2 quarterfinalist cut down former hockey player Steve Bosse with a head kick 29 seconds into their middleweight encounter, the crushing blow leaving the Canadian stiff and unconscious on the canvas; it was not the promotional debut Bosse envisioned. Santos, 31, will ride into his next appearance on the strength of back-to-back wins. Brunson and Alvey will duke it out at a UFC Fight Night event on Aug. 8 in Tennessee.
Hacran Dias vs. Clay Guida: Dias did not inspire a lot of confidence in those looking for him to make a move toward becoming an upper-tier featherweight. The Nova Uniao export escaped his three-round encounter with former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder Levan Makashvili with a split decision. An Andre Pederneiras protégé, the 31-year-old Dias sports an 11-2 record across his past 13 appearances but has not recorded a finish since he touched down in the UFC in June 2012. Guida has alternated wins and losses in each of his last five outings, with victories over Hatsu Hioki, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Robbie Peralta offset by defeats to Chad Mendes and Dennis Bermudez.