After a bout between the two was scheduled and then fell through in 2022, all-time great KO artists Melvin Manhoef and Yoel Romero met in the graceful twilight of their careers at Bellator 285.
Manhoef, who has knocked out everyone from Kasushi Sakuraba to Mark Hunt, had stated that after this fight, at the age of 46, he would lay down his gloves and call it a career. Opposite the cage from him stood Yoel Romero, still going strong at age 45, and looking to reinvent himself in the Bellator light heavyweight division. There he currently is ranked seventh, after a career spent largely in the UFC middleweight division.
Though their goals were very different with Romero still trying to win a belt while Manhoef was just trying to win his retirement fight, both men were expected to bring all of their intensity, determination, and explosive knockout power into the cage in Dublin, Ireland.
Yoel Romero is known for patience interspersed with massive explosions of power on the feet and that was on display early in this one. He connected with a left hook that countered a Manhoef leg kick early. Soon after that, a massive leg kick took the legs out from under Melvin and Yoel took advantage of his Olympic wrestling pedigree to gain control in top half guard.
Romero landed some ground and pound but did not get too excited as he maintained dominant top control. A massive elbow around the halfway point of the round drew reactions from the crowd and reminded everyone of his explosiveness. After that he began to look for an Americana submission. Although Romero had a solid grip, Melvin was able to defend and free his arm. The Irish crowd was fully behind the Cuban Yoel Romero at this point, as they chanted, “Yooo-el Romerrr-o,” repeatedly before the ‘Solider of God’ closed out the round with a pass to full mount right before the bell.
Manhoef came out in the second showing a lot of hand feints against the completely stationary Romero, but appeared initially hesitant to engage up close, opting for a leg kick from distance instead. When Yoel did explode he landed a right hand down the middle that wobbled the legs of Melvin, but Romero did not press the issue and Manhoef recovered quickly.
Melvin Manhoef then came forward with a left hand of his own that landed around the guard of his foe. Around the halfway point of the round Yoel shot a double leg but Melvin was able to shut it down and land a straight right hand soon after. Romero then landed a left straight that pierced the guard but did not stagger Manhoef like the last shot that he ate. A failed takedown attempt and a big round kick to the body were the next offerings from the Cuban before both men landed a hook simultaneously. Melvin got the worst of that exchange though, stumbling briefly once more. Romero shot a takedown with fifteen seconds left in the round. Manhoef stuffed the takedown, but on the sprawl he overexposed himself and ate a big strike before barely avoiding one of Yoel’s patented flying knees. It was a close, low volume round but Melvin reacted worse to the shots of Romero, who likely won the round.
Yoel Romero came out to start round three with a quick flurry that missed, backing up Manhoef to the fence. Melvin returned with a hook to the body of the Cuban. A feinted takedown from Romero made Manhoef bite hard and sprawl all the way to the ground. That may have dulled the reactions of Melvin Manhoef because Yoel’s next takedown attempt was successful at locking his hands behind the butt and dragging his opponent to the ground.
Romero kept his head buried into the chest of Melvin to maintain control while in half guard but he did land shots at the same time. A vicious forearm choke made it hard for Manhoef to breathe but he was not going to tap out from such a submission. ‘Solider of God’ opened up more after that, posturing up to land big elbows and punches. During this flurry, one of the elbows put Melvin Manhoef out cold on the canvas. So it was that Yoel Romero won another fight by brutal knockout in round three, a recurring theme in his career as he often waits and conserves energy before opening up in the final round.
In his post-fight interview Yoel Romero called for a title shot and claimed to be the best fighter in the world at 185lbs before ceding the mic to the retiring Manhoef. Despite not being victorious Melvin drew massive cheers, even on par with Romero’s, from the Dublin crowd as he thanked everyone for the support throughout his career and said that it indeed is time for him to hang up his gloves. An emotional, tear-stained embrace with his team and his family was the last picture of Melvin Manhoef inside the octagon that fans were left with.
— Cageside Press (@Cagesidepress) September 23, 2022
Official Result: Yoel Romero def. Melvin Manhoef by knockout, Round 3, 3:34