The preliminary portion of UFC on Fox 7 was a fireworks laden affair as six fights ended inside the distance. Kicking things off were the Facebook prelims in which a couple Strikeforce newcomers looked to make the most of their debuts in the UFC.
When Starks and Romero began testing eachother with early strikes, it was obvious that this fight wouldn't go the distance. Both men snapped their muscular frames with shocking power; the end was only a matter of time. Still, the flying knee that Romero caught Starks with was a complete surprise. It could not have been timed or executed more perfectly and will be a highlight reel staple the rest of the year.
At this stage of his career it may be fair to say that Yoel Romero is a finished product. It's unfortunate, as he obviously has a huge amount of potential that will probably go untapped, but at 36 (this month) that's the most likely reality. All that aside, the fighter he is is plenty good enough to have a strong career in the UFC. He has a flair for dramatic striking technique and a knack for timing that is practically unteachable. Coupled with his wrestling pedigree, he has a decent chance to make a run at the top of the division before age catches up with him. Tom Watson or even Cung Le could make excellent fights if the UFC wants to bank on his ability quickly. For Starks this may be the end of the road; if it's not, Michael Kuiper would be a good fight.
Bowling started like a house on fire, winging wild punches and putting Njokuani in a number of uncomfortable exchanges. By the end of the first round, though, Njokuani had adjusted to Bowling's speed and power. From there on it was a deliberate, one-sided Muay Thai clinic. The fight's end came midway through the second, when a frustrated Bowling, tired of getting picked apart at range, rushed into a crushing left hook that put him out immediately.
All told, it's a powerful statement from Njokuani that he will always be an incredibly tough test for anyone in the division. He has that gatekeeper status that many lightweights seem to find. I'd like to see him fight Takanori Gomi or Ross Pearson, if for nothing else than to give one of them a career boost in a fight that's sure to entertain. For Bowling, this may have been his only shot in the UFC. His Strikeforce record wasn't particularly impressive, and his performance tonight was terrible. A bottom rung lightweight would be a nice way to give him another opportunity, but I don't know that he'll get it.