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Luke Rockhold: 'Sloppy' Yoel Romero has 'no jiu-jitsu,' but could still beat 'Jacare' Souza

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Luke Rockhold, hasn't been shy in saying that he's going to dominate Chris Weidman and take the UFC middleweight championship on Saturday night at UFC 194 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

But as far as who gets the next title shot, whether it's against Rockhold or Weidman, that will likely be determined just moments before they step into the cage.

The other two members of the middleweight "big four" collide right before the title bout. Ronaldo Souza (22-3,1 no contest) puts his eight fight winning streak up against Yoel Romero (10-1), who has won his last six.

It's a rare case of a UFC fight between two men who came into MMA having captured world championships in their respective original sports, Souza in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Romero in wrestling.

As a former world champion and 2000 Olympic silver medalist, Romero would be, along with flyweight contender Henry Cejudo, one of the two best credentialed wrestlers on the UFC roster. While Cejudo has the edge in taking gold, Romero's success at the top of the world stage in wrestling had far more longevity.

Rockhold went five rounds with Souza four years ago in Strikeforce, in winning a decision that gave him the Strikeforce title, but freely admits both he and Souza are different fighters today.

He's never faced Romero, but given the fact he trains with Daniel Cormier on a regular basis, he has full comprehension of what a wrestler at that level can do.

Rockhold wouldn't make a prediction on Saturday's fight, past saying that if it was a championship fight between the two of them, or a main event, he'd go with Souza. But it's a three-rounder.

"In a five-round fight, I'm going to favor Jacare," he said. "Yoel Romero has shown some signs of fading. He uses his athleticism and explosiveness, but he can only maintain that for so long. He's a freak athlete. Jacare's a freak athlete, but Yoel is just on another level. It's hard to fathom some of the movement and explosiveness he has, especially at his age."

Romero is 38, although Souza just turned 36. Knowing controversies about Cuban athletes in other sports, Romero joked that maybe we don't even really know how old he is.

"I don't even know if that's his real name," said Rockhold, clearly tongue in cheek. "Is he really 38? We need to check some records. But he's sloppy. He's got no jiu jitsu. And he puts himself in bad positions. But he's one of the best wrestlers ever to grace the sport of wrestling, and obviously when it comes to MMA, he's the best wrestler ever. I don't think there is any comparison to Yoel in MMA. But does he use it correctly?"

Romero burst onto the international scene in wrestling in 1997, and placed second at the world championships in 1998, 2002 and 2005 and won in 1999, as well as captured Olympic silver. He has multiple wins in international competition over Cael Sanderson, generally considered the best American wrestler of this generation.

Souza captured world championships as a black belt in jiu jitsu in 2004 and 2005.

"He's (Romero) going to have to rely on power and explosiveness," said Rockhold. "Jacare's sharp. He hits hard. But his movement is limited. We'll see if Jacare can catch him on the way in. Yoel has holes, but Yoel's explosive and Jacare can be hit.

"I don't know. I keep racking my brain over these fights (Romero vs. Souza as well as Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo). That's the excitement of this fight card. Everyone's going back-and-forth on who they think is going to win every fight. I think it's one of the best events ever."