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UFC Fight Night 35: Yoel Romero vs. Derek Brunson preview and prognostication

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Yoel Romero takes his impressive Olympic pedigree, and looks to march towards a title shot at UFC Fight Night 35. Derek Brunson is standing in his way. Sort of.

Yoel Romero ain't no Chris Leben. Expect Brunson to be on the other side this Wednesday.
Yoel Romero ain't no Chris Leben. Expect Brunson to be on the other side this Wednesday.
Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Yoel Romero (6-1) vs. Derek Brunson (11-2) Middleweight

When we last left our heroes...When you're 36 years old, it's hard to really consider you a "prospect". But if we define a prospect as " a candidate deemed likely to succeed", as our friend Webster does, then why should age be a barrier to said definition?

Romero has seven pro fights to his name, but fans talk about him like he's a Jon Jones figure. Well...a few random lunatics I should say, but the point stands. Fans love what Romero brings to the table, and frankly, I do too.

He's knocked out or TKO'ed everyone in his 6 career victories. His only loss was to the very game and very tough stylistic matchup for him in Rafael Cavalcante (in his 5th pro fight). The Cuban freestyle wrestler who competed at the 2000 games in Sydney to a Silver medal will look to add similar accolades to his MMA resume. If any 36 year old can defy definition, and work his way towards a title shot in a post-Anderson Silva world Romero is as good a candidate as you'll find.

In a way it's fitting for him to fight Derek Brunson because it represents the UFC doing what Strikeforce should have done which is not feed him to the shark from Jaws in an underwater cage made of bacon.

Brunson isn't much of a threat. After a listless decision over a tattooed vegetable in Leben, and a quick submission over Brian "never heard of him" Houston, need I say more?

What both men can do: Unfortunately I have to. To be fair to Brunson, he's not a bad fighter. I make the same mistake casual observers do in sort of defining him by the Chris Leben debacle, but it's just one of those fights that really IS hard to ignore. Finishing Brian Houston so fast just illustrates how green and likely not qualified to fight in the UFC Houston actually is*.

He made a statement in his last bout, landing a vicious head kick and then finishing with the submission. Though it isn't indicate of what to generally expect from Brunson, hopefully it inspired him to work on his assets.

He loves the left high kick from his southpaw stance, and likes to wing wide left hands from afar, but it's his wrestling and persistent double leg that makes so difficult for opponents to deal with. In addition to knowing what to do once on the ground.

What both men can't do: With that said, what chance does Brunson have? Romero has a brutal right hook, and a strafing left from the southpaw position. The knock on Romero is that he fights like a neophyte: not sure when it mix it up, and becoming inert as a result. The main comparisons to draw from is usually Hector Lombard. Like Lombard the face melting power comes with strings attached; you've only got so many bullets in the chamber.

Still, Brunson needs the fight on the ground to win, and it ain't going there. Even if Romero fights with banana peels covered in KY for shoes, it just ain't happening for Derek. I don't want to sell Derek short on the feet because his kick could be a factor if Romero fails to block the leg kick (which Yoel tends to fall into the habit of doing), but there's no way I'd pick him either.

In other words, expect Romero to land shots eventually. When that happens, Brunson won't recover.

X-Factor: Romero might lose if Brunson has the Lament Configuration in his corner, but even then, my money is on the dude who doesn't need ready access to demonic spirits from another dimension.

In-Fight Soundtrack: Crimson and Clover...Over and Over... (the Joan Jett cover because well...Joan Jett).

Prediction: Yoel Romero by TKO, round 2.

*As an aside can we give it up for Brian Houston for what had to be a record for longest amount of time required to tap out after having a rear naked choke fully secured on him?