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Rafael Cavalcante pitches Yoel Romero rematch in Bellator: ‘He hasn’t changed that much’

Rafael Cavalcante stopped Yoel Romero in the second round of their Strikeforce bout in 2011.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In a surprising turn of events, Yoel Romero parted ways with the UFC and signed with Bellator in December. Rafael Cavalcante, the first man to beat “Soldier of God” in MMA, wants in.

“Feijao” took on Romero, a 4-0 light heavyweight at the time, in his first fight since losing the Strikeforce belt to Dan Henderson in 2011. Romero had no success taking the Brazilian down, but had him in trouble against the cage in round two. Back to the center of the cage, Cavalcante missed with a head kick but immediately followed up with a spinning backfist that dropped Romero.

Romero survived the onslaught and got back to his feet, only to get knocked down again before referee Dan Miragliotta put an end to the bout with nine seconds left on the clock.

Romero made his UFC debut 19 months later with a first-round knockout over Clifford Starks, the start of an eight-fight winning streak that earned him a shot at the UFC middleweight throne against Robert Whittaker. Cavalcante also joined the UFC in 2013, but won just one of five inside the octagon.

“Feijao” returned to the column in July 2017 with a first-round knockout against Dan Konecke in Spain, and now he’s interested in joining the Bellator roster to give Romero a rematch.

A decade later, Cavalcante sees it going down the same way.

“I’d have the same strategy against him,” Cavalcante told MMA Fighting. “He won’t take me down, he will have to stand and trade with me. He hasn’t changed much, especially on the feet. It’s basically the same [fighter].

“He’s explosive, just like my fighting style. He smashes you when he can get you down, people get hurt, and that’s something I like doing as well, that dirty boxing. He tried against me the same thing he does to his opponents today, and I won.”

“Feijao,” who just turned 40 in January, says he’s had conversations with Bellator in the past, but wants to hear an offer good enough to bring him back for one final run as a fighter.

“I’ll do three more fights and that’s it,” he said. “But I’m feeling great. My conditioning is incredible, I’m training with 25-year-olds in the gym, so let’s do this.”

The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion holds MMA wins over the likes of “King Mo” Lawal and Igor Pokrajac, and currently works as a coach and manager for undefeated Bellator flyweight titleholder Juliana Velasquez.

Bellator has yet to set a date and opponent for Velasquez’s first title defense, Cavalcante said, but just re-signed the champion to an “excellent” new deal.

“She will hold that belt for a long time,” he said. “She loves training and she’s living the dream.”

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