He didn’t get an interim UFC title, but Yoel Romero earned a crucial career victory on Saturday when he defeated former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in UFC 221’s headliner.
Romero (13-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) stopped Rockhold (16-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) via third-round knockout in the pay-per-view main event at Perth Arena in Perth, Western Australia, to set up a title shot.
Prior to the big finish from “The Solider of God,” Curtis Blaydes (9-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), Tai Tuivasa (7-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC), Jake Matthews (12-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) and Tyson Pedro (7-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) earned victories on what had been considered a weak main-card lineup.
After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 221’s winning fighters.
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The Australian gave his fans something to cheer when he took advantage of Safarov’s sloppy grappling and applied a slick kimura for the finish. It was the perfect way to put his UFC 215 defeat against Ilir Latifi behind him, and it showed why he’s considered a potential future player in the light-heavyweight division.
At just 26, Pedro is still rather inexperienced in the sport. Half his pro fights have taken place in the UFC, and it’s imperative not to rush him into another matchup with someone who is too much for his current skill set. A name outside the top 15 such as Roehrick (7-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) would be a fitting foe.
Matthews is 2-0 since he moved up to the welterweight division, and at just 23, “The Celtic Kid” seems to have a bright future despite experiencing some hiccups in the octagon. He continued to display development to his game in his fight with Jingliang, especially when he stayed composed to fight through a nasty intentional eye-gauge.
Given what Matthews has accomplished already, it will be interesting to see where he’s at a couple more years down the line. The win over Jingliang should begin to move him into the thick of the 170-pound weight class, and there’s no one better to welcome him there than Good (19-4 MMA, 1-1 UFC).
Should fight: Walt Harris
Why they should fight: Tuivasa provided more evidence he could be a key player in the future of the UFC heavyweight division when he picked up another brutal first-round TKO win, this time against Cyril Asker.
At 24, Tuivasa has serious potential. He has a dangerous style and a high ceiling, and fighters like that are exactly what the UFC needs at this point – particularly at heavyweight.
Despite quickly making waves with a pair of UFC knockout wins, Tuivasa should not be rushed into big fights too quickly. He should get at least one more opponent on Asker’s level, and if he can get through that matchup in impressive fashion, it’d be time to move him into fights with ranked opposition.
Harris (10-7 MMA, 3-6 UFC) would be a more decorated foe than anyone Tuivasa has faced so far, but it’s also a reasonable step up in terms of competition level.
Should fight: Alistair Overeem
Why they should fight: Blaydes picked up the signature victory of his young career when he managed to outwork heavyweight legend Mark Hunt for a unanimous-decision win in their co-main-event matchup.
Blaydes was nearly knocked out in the opening round, but he displayed tremendous durability in coming back. He wore down Hunt over three rounds and extended his unbeaten streak to four fights.
Blaydes is what the heavyweight division needs at this point. He’s fresh blood, and at just 26, he seems to have real upside. Beating Hunt makes him relevant, and if he can get another notable win, “Razor” will be securely in the title picture.
Most of the top names in the division are currently booked. But as Blaydes mentioned in the post-event news conference, Overeem (43-16 MMA, 8-5 UFC) is available. And “The Reem” has the experience and defensive grappling to make a showdown with Blaydes a very compelling affair. Additionally, it would give Overeem a needed chance to fight someone whose primary strength isn’t knockout power.
Should fight: Robert Whittaker
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Romero should fight middleweight champ Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) next.
- Thanks to Yoel Romero's hellacious left hand, middleweight is right back where it started
- Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Luke Rockhold and UFC 221's other losing fighters?
- UFC 221 loss didn't halt Mark Hunt's afterparty
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Yoel Romero and UFC 221's other winning fighters?