UFC FIGHT night 70 comes to Hollywood, Florida, with one of the more compelling middleweight fights the sport has seen in some time.
Lyoto ‘the Dragon’ Machida (22-6, UFC: 14-6) faces off against Yoel ‘Soldier of God’ Romero (9-1, UFC: 5-0).
The fight could propel the 37-year old veteran Machida back into the UFC title frame, or give the 2000 Olympic silver medallist Romero a shot at the gold he so desperately craves.
The match is over five rounds and will propel the victor into the middleweight title frame whilst condemning the loser to mediocrity in the division.
Machida is currently the favourite with online bookmaker Sportsbet at $1.55, while Romero is the outsider at the generous odds of $2.46.
Lets check out some of the statistics heading into the fight as well as some of the other odds and markets on offer.
The road to UFC fight night 70
Both men have a point to prove in this match up.
Lyoto Machida was completely outclassed by Luke Rockhold in his last fight, but one positive for the Dragon was his conditioning and his style held up well. There were no signs of wear and tear on the veteran.
Machida has a fantastic bounce back record in the UFC, with knockouts the likes of C.B. Dollaway, Mark Muñoz, Ryan Bader and Randy Couture proof that a loss reignites the hunger in the Dragon.
Yoel Romero is on a five-fight win streak, and while he has only been in the sport professionally for six years and in the UFC for two, he has quickly risen up the ranks to be the sixth in line in the middleweight division.
Romero’s career in the UFC has not been without its controversy, with the infamous ‘stoolgate’ fight against Tim Kennedy hanging over the Cuban’s head.
The man they call the Solider of God was visibly rocked by Kennedy, especially in the later stages of the second round, but utilised a ‘dirty old trick’ – as described by UFC President Dana White – to buy himself more time between rounds to re-energise.
The plan succeeded and Romero was victorious, but serious questions now linger over the 38-year-old’s conditioning and more specifically his ability to see out rounds as the fight progresses.
With a five round fight against the supremely fit Machida scheduled, can the Soldier of God match it with a man that knows what it takes to go the distance?
While it is unlikely the winner of this fight will get the next shot at the title after Weidman/Rockhold, the victor here is likely to face off against No. 2 Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza.
What they say
Both fighters have kept relatively quiet by UFC standards in the lead up to the fight, but Machida did have an interesting take on his opponent going into the weekend’s bout.
“Even though he’s a wrestler, he knows how to fight standing up,” Machida said.
“He knows how to keep the distance. But I believe in myself and my background in karate. I have a better chance than him and will be prepared on Saturday.”
The man they call the Dragon has also addressed the question marks surrounding the quick turnaround and the surgery which was required after his loss to Rockhold.
“It’s a great opportunity for me. I like to be busy and fight many times a year and showcase all my potentials,” Machida said.
“I had hand surgery after the fight. They took some fragments out. I returned to training in three weeks. I had a great camp. I’m ready to fight now.”
Yoel Romero has shown an enormous amount of respect for his opponent in the lead up to their pivotal clash, but does not lack confidence going into the biggest fight of his short UFC career.
“The importance of this fight is the middleweight belt … we all want the belt,” Romero said.
“I’m just going to try to give my best and Lyoto will try to give his best.”
The Soldier of God’s message was clear going into Sunday.
“I cannot stop and think about what he will do,” he said.
“I only know what I have to do … I will not give up on victory.”
The big questions heading into the main event
Machida, a future UFC hall-of-famer, is in the twilight of his career.
With just a two month turnaround after his crushing defeat at the hands of middleweight number one contender Luke Rockhold, a defeat here could spell the end for the Dragon.
Machida’s short turnaround, in addition to an injury to his right hand that required surgery post-fight, may mean the Dragon is not 100% fit for this contest.
Yoel Romero is a relative newcomer to the sport, with a professional record of just ten fights, with a 5-0 record since joining the UFC.
Half of Romero’s fights have gone into the third round – and he has won all five – the lingering question though is can the Soldier of God go the distance over five rounds?
Stylistically, Machida has the definite advantage over Romero, given his ability to find space and defend takedowns, so Romero’s best shot is to end the match early to negate the Dragon’s superior conditioning and experience.
Who will win and why
Winner:Loyoto Machida ($1.55)
Method:Machida by KO or submission ($2.40 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Total rounds: Over 2.5 ($1.80)
In terms of favourable match ups, this is one Machida would have wanted.
Despite Romero’s wrestling background, he has been hesitant in the octagon to take his opponents down, preferring to use his standing game to bludgeon his opponents.
Romero’s best bet is to use his straight left to his advantage and try and deliver some big blows to the Dragon, but it is easier said than done landing shots on the wily veteran.
Expect the Dragon to weather the early storm then use his superior technique and aerobic base to pick apart the Soldier of God.
Either way, it is hard to see this one going the full five rounds. Either Romero ends it very early, or Machida gets the win before the fifth.
Tip: Machida to win in round three – $12 with Sportsbet.com.au
Other fights and markets for the night
Danny Martinez ($1.71) vs. Sirwan Kakai ($2.14)
Steve Montgomery ($1.69) vs. Tony Sims ($2.18)
Leonardo Silva ($1.67) vs, Lewis Gonzalez ($2.22)
Alex Oliveria ($1.22) vs. Joe Merritt ($4.35 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Hacran Dias ($1.50) vs. Levan Makashvilli ($2.62)
Thiago Santos ($1.49) vs. Steve Bosse ($2.65)
Antonio Carlos Junior ($1.47) vs. Eddie Gordon ($2.71)
Santiago Ponzinibbio ($2.86) vs. Lorenz Larkin ($1.43)