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Handicapping

UFC 221 Preview

UFC 221 Picks
Date: Saturday, February 10, 2018
Location: Perth Arena, Perth, Australia
TV: PPV
by Scott of Predictem.com

Fight Analysis:

UFC 221 comes from Perth, Australia, the 11th time the UFC has staged an event in the Land Down Under and the first time in this booming western Australian city. The pull-out of champion Robert Whittaker is a big blow for this event, as losing a home-country champion off the card put a dampener on it. But you can sure do a lot worse than Romero vs. Rockhold as a replacement, even if this a very top-heavy card and a bit dicey as a PPV proposition. Still, these are two highly-credentialed warriors and the winner of this fight becomes the most-compelling challenger for when Whittaker returns, while getting a shot at the interim belt. Rockhold, the 33-year old California-based ex-champion wants to get back to the top, as does the 40-year old Romero, whose time at the top might be limited. Letís see what we can come up with in this UFC 221 preview.

Yoel Romero, 12-2 (10 KOs), (-115) vs. Luke Rockhold, 16-3 (4 KOs, 10 Submissions), (-105)

In the main event of UFC 221, top middleweight contenders Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold do battle in a high-stakes 185-pound battle from Perth. This will be for the interim middleweight title, as champion Robert Whittaker recovers from a bad staph infection. The odds indicate a close bout where a case can be made for either man. Rockhold, the former king at middleweight, has had just one fight since losing his title to Michael Bisping, beating David Branch in September. Romero last fought against Whittaker, losing a decision. Hats off to Romero for coming in on short notice, as he looks to get another shot at glory.

Rockhold is 33 and has been forgotten by some for a fighter who last lost when he entered the octagon as a champion. His resume suggests a top fighter, with wins over the man who last beat him in Bisping, in addition to triumphs over Lyoto Machida, Chris Weidman, Jacare Souza, and others. In his 16 wins, he has stopped his opponent 14 times, with ten of those wins coming by the submission route. People think they have license to write him off. Getting KOíd by Michael Bisping is not a good look and he struggled in spots against Branch in his only fight since. But that could be a mistake. The rangy 6í3Ē middleweight can strike well and when he gets on top of you, youíre in trouble. His BJJ game is expansive, he can wrestle, and employ a long-range kickboxing style. Once he starts controlling his opponent, he can close escrow with a variety of moves, with a choke being one of his preferred methods.

Rockholdís weaknesses are enough to make people wonder and is why heís not really favored in this fight. He has been stopped three times by strikes. Heís not the most-durable guy. His frame betrays him on occasion, as his head sticks up in the air, accentuated by how he often moves in straight lines when a striking opponent is advancing. He has been largely inactive and has a budding modeling career that may have diverted his attention some. This is not a sport that treats those kindly who arenít fully-dedicated to the job of being a mixed martial artist. Heís facing a desperate fighter who really needs a win and will need to be fully-focused if he hopes to return from the Land Down Under with a win and the interim belt.

Still, Rockhold does a whole lot well, as evidenced by his resume and standing as a former champion. There arenít many weaknesses in his game. He translates his wresting and BJJ well to MMA and has ten submissions over some really tough fighters that illustrate that. He can be a major handful if able to control his opponents. Heís just a big capable middleweight who has a lot of tools at his disposal. His cardio might also give him an edge, as he is able to fight hard for five rounds if necessary. At 185 pounds, heís a handful for any fighter on the planet.

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Romero, 40, is a tough nut to crack. Heís the more-explosive athlete between the two, capable of tremendous physical feats in the octagon. He might not be as educated in an all-around sense as Rockhold, but he brings a lot to the table. His wrestling pedigree is massive, but heís learned how to close the show with strikes. And some of those are applied in explosive fashion. And heíll be looking to land those strikes against an opponent who has shown that to really be his only weakness. If the Rockhold we saw against Branch surfaces in this bout, he could be in trouble.

We shouldnít hold his loss to Whittaker too much against Romero. At this level, losses happen. Heís still a handful. Looking at him, heís likely the scariest-looking fighter at least in the middleweight division. And he has the wins to justify his standing, having beaten guys like Derek Brunson, Tim Kennedy, Lyoto Machida, Jacare Souza, and Chris Weidman. His wrestling is dynamic and his explosive striking has led to ten KOs in 12 wins. From a sheer athletic standpoint, you wonít find too many fighters capable of the feats Romero can accomplish. He can fly through the air with devastating knees, throw opponents around, and easily take guysí backs. He used a flying knee to stop Weidman, elbows to stop Machida, and fists to stop rugged Tim Kennedy. Heís beaten good fighters in a variety of ways.

Against a fighter who can strike with the velocity of Romero, it is understandable why some would be leery of Rockholdís durability. While he might have gotten a bad rap, as losing a couple fights with the resume he has is no high-crime, he isnít the most resilient guy when struck solidly. I just see Rockholdís skills being more-bankable at this level. There isnít much he canít do in the octagon. I see his experience, striking, and ground-game being the right recipe for victory in this matchup. Iíll take the former champion.

My Pick to Win: Iím betting on Luke Rockhold to win at -115 betting odds. Romero is certainly a dangerous opponent with a lot of skills that could trouble Rockhold, but I see Rockhold as the more-complete MMA product and a guy who has shown he can thrive in championship conditions. Bet YOUR UFC 221 picks and get a massive 100% REAL CASH bonus up to $500 FREE at GTBETS!

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