Fight week #21

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Great kickboxer and mixed martial artist Melvin “No Mercy” Manhoef, a muscular 5’8″ bundle of fast-twitch knockout power, has spent his entire fighting career killing or being killed. not the black lights of his opponent, he was sent to slumberland.The last fight of his MMA career saw him put to sleep by vicious ground strikes from Yoel Romero.


Bellator, which staged this particular brawl for it all, continues to prove that there is at least one country for old men with big names: Manhoef is 46, Romero a year younger. Neither looked his age, as Manhoef entered the fight as well-conditioned as a 5’8″, 205-pound man of his vintage can probably get, and Romero… well, as for the superhuman physique of the Cuban star – a silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at 85 kilograms at the 2000 Summer Olympics – “which we can’t talk about, so shut up”.


Although Manhoef was the clear underdog, the match – which had been discussed for some time – made perfect sense considering neither fighter is doing it. “No Mercy” exploded onto the stage and knocked out the best of the best, including the worn-out shell of former great Kazushi Sakuraba in 2008, then the granite-jawed “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt in record time (18 seconds !) later that year. But he’s best known to fans for losing wild brawls to Robbie Lawler during Lawler’s remarkable Strikeforce resurgence and being submissive by anyone with wrestling skills.


Romero, on the other hand, is both an ageless wonder and someone who never realized his incredible potential. His career has involved brilliant saves from many of the UFC’s all-time great middleweights – Luke Rockhold, Lyoto Machida and Chris Weidman were rather ostensibly “laid among the candy peas” during his rise through the ranks of that company. – as well as bad decisions. losses, questionable and often oddly passive fight strategies, weight-cutting failures and a ridiculous TKO victory over Tim Kennedy in 2014 in which confusion over how much Vaseline was applied to Romero’s face earned him the precious seconds he needed to recover from a second-round playoff in which Kennedy, who was illegally holding Romero’s glove, beat the Cuban star’s prank.


I wasn’t expecting much from Romero’s Bellator run at light heavyweight, considering he’s just 5’10” and on the wrong side of 40. His first match in the promotion, against the impossible to hurt “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis, proved to be another cautious victory for Davis. After the fight, Romero claimed he did little punching or wrestling because he thought it was a 5 round fight, not a 3 round one. This statement did nothing to renew my confidence. Plus, even though Romero looked muscular and broad at 205, the taller and taller Davis – simply a great collegiate folk-style wrestler, although he incorporated wrestling into his MMA as well as never anyone in the history of the sport – rang the Olympian in all their struggle. Exchanges. Romero, it seemed, had become a true one-trick pony, a man who saved his wind for a few explosive moves every turn and relied on his elite wrestling simply to stay on his feet.


However, Romero surprised me in his second game against Bellator. Opposed to Alex Polizzi, a 197-pound NCAA wrestling tournament qualifier for Northwestern in the early 2010s who replaced an injured Manhoef (it was to be their first matchup), I expected Romero to get a sign that he should retire. Polizzi entered with only a decision loss to Julius Anglickas, another solid but unspectacular wrestler, spoiling his otherwise perfect record, but he had demonstrated a full set of skills during a 3-fight winning streak that would have him saw come back to submit. powerful forward Jose Augusto (who gave adjustments to Anthony “Rumble” Johnson) and picked up a decisive victory over Grant Neal, a squatted powerhouse and one of Bellator’s best wrestling-focused fighters. Polizzi, I assumed, would test Romero and probably find him lacking. Would the “soldier of God” even practice offensively at this point?


I was wrong. Romero looked as good as I’ve ever seen him, beating and – perhaps more importantly – beating Polizzi throughout the match and then knocking him out with exactly one second left in the third round. The whole thing was so easy, so perfectly paced, it seemed like Romero had timed it. And maybe he had; Romero was capable of beating or losing to anyone on any day, depending on the whims of his erratic mind.


Against Manhoef, Romero looked as handsome as I’ve ever seen him at 205, still moving in that fast-twitch style but now sporting a muscular ninja turtle shell on his back. When the match started, I assumed that Romero would try to trade hands – it was the easiest thing to do – but he surprised me again, following the book on Manhoef and eliminating as soon as the opportunity arose. As always, Manhoef offered little resistance as Romero maneuvered around him on the mat. Round two offered the same, with Romero easily controlling Manhoef. In the third, as if working against an internal clock, Romero again took Manhoef to the ground and beat him with just under 90 seconds remaining in the fight. Romero’s ground and pound was so easy in this fight – admittedly against a one-dimensional attacker whose Achilles’ heel was his grappling hook – that it made me wonder how things might have gone if the Cuban fighter had invested more time in the prep to take on Israel Adesanya got up in an uneventful UFC middleweight title fight that Romero, by scoring the most impactful strikes, already had at least an arguable claim to have won.


At the end of the match, Romero claimed he was the best middleweight in the world, despite now being armored with over 205 pounds of muscle so tight and thick it would seem impossible to undress. It was an odd claim, but given that “the human cheat code” Johnny Eblen – a fine collegiate wrestler and rising forward – is now dominating this division following a surprisingly conclusive blow from Gegard Mousasi, it could represent the last of Romero. best chance of winning gold. Failing that, a matchup between Romero and Mousasi — who also boasts a win over Melvin Manhoef — would be intriguing, especially since Mousasi was one of the few top UFC middleweights that Romero didn’t defeat in the UFC. of his race there.


As for Manhoef, what else can we say? The man has knocked out 29 of his 32 opponents in MMA, been knocked out seven times and submitted seven times. Only five of his 51 games have gone to a decision. Factor in a kickboxing career that has featured at least eight knockout losses and you’re talking about a badly damaged skull. , thanking fans for all the fun he had in a sport he loved, while us viewers at home marveled at how much the former Los Angeles cop and MMA referee ” Big” John McCarthy is taller than everyone he interviews (note to MMA promotions: consider sending out your smallest person, ideally the size of Laura Sanko or Dom Cruz or below, so that everyone else roster members look bigger; enough with McCarthy in Bellator and Daniel Cormier bloated and stuffed with pimples in the UFC manhandling everyone).


It was a sad but fitting way for Manhoef to end his career. He was a “two true outcome” brawler – either the opponent goes down or they do – and he stuck to that approach until the curtain fell, a moment that was neither bittersweet nor sweet. It was just the end of the line for one of the fiercest warriors of the early 21st century, even as one of his most eccentric indicated he could fight forever.

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