As we’ve posted many of these scouting report pieces across the various weight classes we’ve already covered, there is one complaint that I’ve heard consistently among readers. Where are the heavily-credentialed wrestlers who have historically dominated the landscape of mixed martial arts? Nik Fekete, Jesse Juarez, and Chris Weidman are three prospects out of the thirty-four that we’ve covered who have backgrounds in wrestling, but they haven’t attained the level of wrestling credibility that someone like Dan Henderson or Matt Lindland garner from fans.
At #6 on our 2011 World MMA Light Heavyweight Scouting Report, Cuban world champion freestyle wrestler Yoel Romero (2-0) makes a case that there are still Olympic-level wrestlers out there looking to make the transition to mixed martial arts. Romero was a silver medalist at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games in the 85kg freestyle wrestling category along with the 1999 World Champion. He also placed third at the 1998 and 2000 World Championships and second at the 2002 and 2005 World Championships. An incredible background to say the least.
Offensive Skills: Interestingly enough, Romero, at this very early stage in his career, has chosen to use his developing boxing skills over his vaunted wrestling ability. He’s shown that he has some huge power in his striking, but his technical prowess is lacking. Despite a deficiency in stringing together straight punches and powerful overhands, that power has caused his opponents to be reluctant to go toe-to-toe with him, resulting in a lot of cowering at the sight in his rushes.
Against the lesser competition he’s facing, Romero has no problems stuffing takedowns and pounding on opponents. He’s obviously worlds better than anyone he’ll face when it comes to wrestling at this level, but I think his hesitance to play in someone’s guard mostly stems from the fear he may be submitted.
With all of that said, it’s evident that Romero could become a very dangerous opponent for even top twenty-five light heavyweight talent. He’s unbelievably explosive in his striking, and all he really needs is some assistance in the technical department to make those skills land more often.
Defensive Skills: We haven’t seen enough of Romero to truly break down where he’s at defensively. He has a solid understanding of how to bob and weave in the stand-up game, likely stemming from some of the boxing training he’s received. He’s very quick to see incoming attacks and move out of the way for the counter, and his footwork, for a fighter with only two fights, isn’t terrible by any means.
His takedown defense, as you can imagine, is nearly impenetrable for the competition he’s facing, and I would wager that even more well-rounded and experienced competition will have problems trying to take him down. His offensive abilities can turn a takedown attempt by an opponent into a world of hurt quickly, and the fact that he is physically superior to most light heavyweights only adds to the problem.
Progression: Again, it’s difficult to measure how he’s progressed as he only has two professional mixed martial arts bouts under his belt. All signs point to his continued success in mixed martial arts though. With his younger brother Yoan Pablo Hernandez, a professional boxer, in his corner, he should be able to bring his boxing to a new level in the coming year, and his wrestling is already solid. If he can work on his knowledge of the grappling game, I’d be willing to believe he could make a splash in a major promotion by the end of the year if he fights often.
|#1 – Thiago Michel
#2 – Ricardo Tirloni
#3 – Magno Almeida
#4 – Ui Cheol Nam
#5 – Henrique Mello
#6 – Reza Madadi
#7 – Alexander Sarnavskiy
#8 – Ole Laursen
#9 – Guillaume DeLorenzi
#10 – Al Iaquinta
|#1 – Yuri Villefort
#2 – Alex Garcia
#3 – Erick Silva
#4 – Douglas Lima
#5 – Luis “Sapo” Santos
#6 – Jesse Juarez
#7 – Gunnar Nelson
#8 – Quinn Mulhern
#9 – Alberto Mina
#10 – Joe Ray
|#1 – Papy Abedi
#2 – Chris Weidman
#3 – Vitor Vianna
#4 – Vyacheslav Vasilevsky
#5 – Bruno Santos
#6 – Costantinos Philippou
#7 – Jordan Smith
#8 – Uriah Hall
#9 – Victor O’Donnell
#10 – Assan Njie
|#6 – Yoel Romero
#7 – Ryan Jimmo
#8 – Nik Fekete
#9 – Marcus Vanttinen
#10 – Ronny Markes
Environment: Romero currently trains in Germany with a relatively unknown outfit. Most fans would see this as bad news for his development, but his brother likely works with him in the boxing arena and he knows how to maintain his base in wrestling. I wouldn’t mind seeing him seek out Carlos Eduardo Rocha, current UFC fighter who defeated Kris McCray at UFC 122. He’s a high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu grappler in any country, and he actually resides in Germany. He could go a long way to filling out Romero’s MMA resume.
Potential: At 33 years of age, it’s a little difficult to see what the goal is for Romero. Obviously, his entire life has been filled with that competitive spirit, and I have no doubts that he is aiming to be the very best in this sport as well. He is physically superior to nearly anyone who steps into the cage or ring with him, but his greatest asset is his developing stand-up game. His strength alone could get him back to his feet without any problems if a grappler happens to trip him up, but he’ll have a major advantage over those types of fighters with a formidable boxing game.
2011 could be a big year for Romero. If he can round out his skills and prove he can finish fights quickly, it isn’t unfathomable that a major promotion seeks him out for development under their banner. Strikeforce could benefit greatly from his presence and use him on their Challengers’ series cards. I wouldn’t put it past the Asian promotions to do the same, especially Sengoku.
As for our ranking, #6 is a bit conservative, mainly due to the fact that he only has two fights under his belt. If he hasn’t signed with a major promotion by the end of 2011, he could very well be the #1 fighter on our 2012 ranking.
Michał Fijałka vs Yoel Romero Palacio
Yoel Romero vs. Sascha Weinpolter
Adam Saitiev (RUS) vs. Yoel Romero (CUB) – Wrestling – 2000 Olympic Games
Revaz Mindorashvili vs Yoel Romero – 2005 World Championship Final
Sajid Sajidov vs. Yoel Romero – 2003 World Championships
Cael Sanderson vs. Yoel Romero – 2004 Olympics
Soslan Gattsiev vs. Yoel Romero – wrestling
Yoel Romero v.s Dragomir Stoychev – Wrestling
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