UFC 221 Picks: Rockhold To Make Emphatic Statement Vs Romero
Rockhold Will Finish Romero in a Bloody War
It is now or never for both Luke Rockhold (-145) and Yoel Romero (+115). This may be either fighter's last shot at gold as both lost their last championship fights.
In Rockhold's case, he was on the wrong side of one of the UFC's greatest upsets when Michael Bisping knocked him out in one round. For Romero, he's eager to get a rematch against Robert Whittaker and avenge his closely contested defeat last summer.
Rockhold opened as an underdog at +150 then quickly got steamed and is now at -145 with a bit more action coming in on Romero. This comes with good reason as the former American Kickboxing Academy fighter eats wrestlers like Romero for breakfast.
Still, Romero is as explosive as they come and it's a question of whether Rockhold can keep Romero at bay or if Romero will feast on his chin. Whatever the case, this fight is not going to a decision. It's just a question of which fighter breaks the other first:
Rockhold left AKA to "get out of his comfort zone" and this comes with both positives and negatives. But Rockhold has likely developed his defensive wrestling to the point he can neutralize most of Romero's takedowns. Despite his prestigious amateur wrestling background, Romero only lands 32.69 per cent of his attempts. Rockhold also has beaten other wrestlers like Chris Weidman and Jacare Souza.
Romero is explosive at any point as evidenced by his consecutive third-round knockout victories. He can seemingly pull flying knee knockouts from out of nowhere. And when he gets top position, it's a wrap. If he has a weakness here, it's his lack of size and reach, which Rockhold will look to expose.
Rockhold utilizes kicks and straight rights to keep his opponents at bay but when they do close the distance, he has an underrated clinch game. For a lanky guy, he is strong and hard to keep down or bully up close. Chalk that up to his experience wrestling with the likes of Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier. Most importantly, he has more ways to finish this fight.
Prediction: the difference-maker here is Rockhold's jiu-jitsu. He can utilize this offensively and capture Romero's back or to get top position, where he rains down vicious elbows, or defensively, to prevent Romero from securing top position. Rockhold is the pick here to outlast Romero within four rounds despite running into some close calls throughout the fight.
Our Record: 7-2
Betting Stats & Tidbits:
- -43%: the line movement favouring Rockhold, by far the most significant of the whole card and over 29% more than the second mover in big favourite Israel Adesanya (-365)
- 3-1: Rockhold's record when he opens as an underdog; his only loss came against Vitor Belfort in Brazil when he opened at even odds (+100)
- 60.5%: the percentage of UFC middleweight bouts ending in a finish; of 638 fights, 235 (36.8%) ended by T/KO while 151 (23.7%) ended by submission
- 4/2: the over/under record for Rockhold and Romero's last three fights, combined; Rockhold's over/under is 1/2 while Romero is 3/0
UFC 221 Fight Card Predictions
All betting odds via Sports Interaction.
Lock it Up! With Tyson Pedro (-320) who will run through Saparbek Safarov (+235). Pedro is the superior fighter in almost every way: he's faster, more powerful, and more skilled. Safarov is tough and can get wild but doesn't have the power or skills to seriously threaten Pedro.
Our Record: 7-2
Who's A Good Dog? Get on Ben Nguyen (+105) now while he remains an underdog because this is tremendous value for the superior striker. While Jussier Formiga (-135) only loses to top-five fighters, Nguyen has the explosive striking and aggression to hurt Formiga and he is unbeaten in Australia.
Our Record: 5-4
Just Say No: to Li Jingliang (-170) versus Jake Matthews (+130), which is a fantastic welterweight scrap between prospects but is difficult to read based on Matthews' enigmatic persona. The Aussie has all the tools to be a top-10 fighter but can't put it together and Jingliang is too wild to keep your money safe.
Main Card (PPV, 10:00 PM ET)
- Interim Middleweight Championship (185 lbs): #1 Yoel Romero (+115) vs #2 Luke Rockhold (-145)
- Heavyweight (265 lbs): #5 Mark Hunt (+130) vs #9 Curtis Blaydes (-170)
- Heavyweight (265 lbs): Tai Tuivasa (-345) vs Cyril Asker (+245)
- Welterweight (170 lbs): Jake Matthews (+130) vs Li Jingliang (-170)
- Light Heavyweight (205 lbs): #13 Tyson Pedro (-320) vs Saparbek Safarov (+235)
Prelims (TSN 2, 8:00 PM ET)
- Lightweight (155 lbs): Damien Brown (+115) vs Dong Hyun Kim (-140)
- Middleweight (185 lbs): Rob Wilkinson (+270) vs Israel Adesanya (-385)
- Featherweight (145 lbs): Alexander Volkanovski (-185) vs Jeremy Kennedy (+145)
- Flyweight (125 lbs): #4 Jussier Formiga (-135) vs #8 Ben Nguyen (+105)
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30 PM ET)
- Lightweight (155 lbs): Ross Pearson (-160) vs Mizuto Hirota (+125)
- Bantamweight (135 lbs): Teruto Ishihara (+175) vs Jose Quinonez (-235)
- Welterweight (170 lbs): Luke Jumeau (+120) vs Daichi Abe (-150)
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