Despite the setbacks that come with his Cuban nationality and the fact that he's 34 years old, 2000 Sydney Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero is heading stateside to battle former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante. Sources close to the fighter have confirmed that he will make his debut on September 10th in Cincinnati, Ohio, a card that includes the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinals and a middleweight title fight between Ronaldo Souza and Luke Rockhold. The rest of the card includes: Roger Gracie vs. Muhammed Lawal, Maximo Blanco vs. Josh Thomson, Marcos Rogerio "Pezao" de Lima vs. Mike Kyle, and Jordan Mein vs. Evangelista 'Cyborg' Santos.
Romero was featured on the 2011 World MMA Scouting Report at #6 on the light heavyweight rankings. His world class freestyle wrestling background, which includes a 2000 Olympic silver medal, 1999 World Championship, third place finishes at the 1998 and 2000 World Championships, and second place finishes at the 2002 and 2005 World Championships, make him bar none one of the best wrestlers to ever enter the sport. He's went toe-to-toe with some of the most outstanding freestyle wrestlers of our generation, including the great Cael Sanderson.
Those credentials may be a bit of a detractor for some fans hoping for more exciting prospects. Luckily, Romero answers that call emphatically with solid boxing technique and brutal power. In four professional bouts, he's stopped all comers, three in the first round. With his younger brother, professional boxer Yoan Pablo Hernandez, helping him hone his boxing skills along with his continued progression in Germany, it isn't unfathomable to believe Romero could be a true dark horse in the division.
Cavalcante will provide a huge step up the ladder for Romero. He was able to knockout vaunted world class wrestler Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal at Strikeforce: Houston in August before succumbing to Dan Henderson's power in March of this year. Despite the setback, Cavalcante should be considered a very dangerous opponent for a green mixed martial artist like Romero.
Call me a homer for my own work, but I'm very excited to see what Romero has to offer on September 10th. The combination of world class wrestling, solid boxing, and great power is tough to find, but Yoel Romero possesses all those gifts. Thirty-four may seem like an age that would cut into his performance, but as we've found out in the past -- wrestlers are different breed. Fantastic fight that we will hopefully enjoy on aired prelims or on the main card.