The UFC has booked a potential middleweight title eliminator for an upcoming spring card down south, and I’ll give my thoughts on this exciting new fight in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Yoel Romero vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza 2, UFC on ESPN 3
We all thought the main event of UFC on ESPN 3 was going to be a five-round middleweight fight between Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa. However, there’s been a change of plans. According to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Costa has been scratched from the card and now Romero will rematch rival Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a rematch. UFC on ESPN 3 takes place April 27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, and Romero vs. Souza 2 is set as the new five-round main event.
It was perhaps slightly surprising to see the UFC book this rematch at this point of time, with Romero coming off of a split decision loss to Robert Whittaker in his last fight and Souza a KO win over Chris Weidman, but looking at the state of the middleweight division more closely the fight makes sense. With Kelvin Gastelum fighting Israel Adesanya at UFC 236 for the interim middleweight title, and the champ Whittaker sitting on the sidelines with injuries, the division continues to move along and wait for no one. Both fighters needed a matchup to keep busy in one of the sport’s most active divisions, and with no other top-ranked contenders available to fight in April, this rematch between Romero and Souza was the way to go for the UFC.
The first time Romero and Souza fought was back at UFC 194 in December 2015 (the same night Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo), with Romero edging out a narrow split decision. Since then, Romero has gone 2-2 in the Octagon with a pair of decision losses to Whittaker bookmarked by KO wins over the aforementioned Weidman and Luke Rockhold. Souza, meanwhile, has gone 4-2 since then with finishes over Weidman, Derek Brunson, Vitor Belfort and Tim Boetsch and losses to Whittaker and Gastelum. Despite both Romero and Souza being 41 and 39, respectively, they remain at the top of the middleweight division, and the winner of this bout should be close to a title shot.
Romero (13-3) is 9-2 overall in the UFC and has emerged as one of the most devastating knockout artists in the sport today, not to mention one of the most accomplished wrestlers. Souza (26-6, 1 NC) is 8-3 in the UFC and is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division, not to mention one of the best MMA fighters ever to have not fought for a UFC title.
As for the odds for this rematch, I’m expecting something near a Pick ’em with a slight lean towards Romero just because he was already training for this card and because he won the first fight. But the first fight was only three rounds, and these extra two rounds could turn out to be the difference in the rematch this time around. It’s going to be a great fight, though, regardless of who gets their hand raised.