The fact he beat him up on the feet before doing so? That was the unexpected part.
Romero (10-1) knocked out the former light heavyweight champion in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday inside Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Referee John McCarthy stopped the middleweight bout at 1:38 of the third round, after Romero knocked Machida unconscious with elbows from top position.
"I have great respect for Lyoto," Romero said. "This is the fight I expected. He's a great athlete."
Machida (22-7), who was fighting on the quickest turnaround of his career at 70 days, fought well in the opening round but slowly succumbed to Romero's pressure as the fight progressed. He kept Romero guessing with an ever-changing array of kicks, but none of them were able to stop the Cuban fighter's aggression.
Early in the third, after wobbling Machida with a straight left the round before, Romero ducked into a bodylock for the first time in the fight and executed a quick outside trip. Machida went tumbling to his back, where he attempted to sit up and pull Romero into his guard. Romero shoved him to the canvas and unloaded a string of brutal elbows that ended Machida's night.
The 38-year-old middleweight, who was twice scheduled to fight Ronaldo Souza this year before the bouts fell through, did not offer an immediate opinion on who he should fight next.
"Whoever God puts in my path," Romero said.
Machida, 37, has now been finished in back-to-back fights. He suffered a second-round submission loss to Luke Rockhold on April 18 in Newark. It is the second time in Machida's career he has suffered consecutive losses. It is also the second time in his career he's been finished via strikes.
Fighting out of Black House MMA in Southern California, Machida had the outside leg kick working early and won the opening round on two of the three judges' scorecards. Romero, who has a bit of a history of slowing down in three-round fights, appeared to be pacing himself during the first five minutes, stalking Machida but not really opening up with combinations.
That started to change in the second round. Romero started to find a home for his signature straight left, and at one point leaped high into the air with a flying knee attempt from inside the clinch. Machida continuously circled away from Romero's power and popped him with the counter jab whenever he could, but it was clear Romero's forward movement was starting to bother him -- particularly in the smaller UFC cage, which was used on Saturday.
Romero is now 6-0 in the Octagon, including five knockouts.
Lorenz Larkin pummels Santiago Ponzinibbio
It was a near-perfect performance by Larkin (16-4), a former light heavyweight who dropped to middleweight in 2012 and eventually to welterweight this year.
As a middleweight, Larkin started 1-4 in the UFC and was in danger of being cut. He saved his roster spot in January, knocking out John Howard in the first round of his welterweight debut.
"I didn't have a good run at [185 pounds]," Larkin said. "My back was against the wall in John Howard -- I never want to be in that position again. I was a cat in a corner and I had to come back."
Larkin went to work on the lead left leg of Ponzinibbio (19-3) from the start of the fight, completely twisting him around at several points with vicious outside leg kicks. Ponzinibbio showcased a lot of grit, however, stalking forward with the jab and straight right, forcing Larkin's back to the fence.
The 28-year-old Larkin didn't seem to mind the position, however. He effectively parried the bulk of Ponzinibbio's punches and fired back with counters and more leg kicks. Ponzinibbio shot hard on one takedown in the first round, but Larkin used the wall to stay upright and eventually circled out.
Ponzinibbio continued to come forward in the second round and appeared close to turning the tide at one point, landing a solid right hand and left hook during one sequence. Larkin hung tough, though, and moments later dropped Ponzinibbio with a left hook/right hand combination of his own. Ponzinibbio managed to work back to his feet but took a ton of unanswered punches in the process, prompting referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
Immediate cageside stats had Larkin outlanding Ponzinibbio in total strikes, 71-36.
Carlos Jr. cruises past Gordon
Competing in his third weight class in as many fights, Antonio Carlos Jr. looked pretty comfortable at 185 pounds.
Carlos (5-1), who won "The Ultimate Fighter: Brasil" reality series as a heavyweight last year, earned his second win in the Octagon by submitting Eddie Gordon at 4:37 of the third round via rear-naked choke.
The Brazilian elected to drop to light heavyweight after winning the TUF tournament. After suffering a loss to Patrick Cummins in December, he opted to drop another 20 pounds to the middleweight division. So far, the move has paid off.
"I was never a real heavyweight," Carlos said. "I'm light. I'm 211, 212 [pounds]. No more than this. I was light for light heavyweight. I've found my right weight and I'm feeling really good about that."
In addition to changing weight classes, Carlos moved to Florida ahead of this fight and switched camps to American Top Team.
Despite being the much larger man in the cage, his conditioning was on point, as he was visibly more fresh than Gordon (7-4) in the second and third rounds. He took Gordon down twice in the first round, roughing him up with elbows and punches to the face, one of which opened a cut on the bridge of Gordon's nose.
In the second round, Gordon looked a little unsure of what to throw on the feet. He also looked tired, laboring through his punches and failing to get out of the way of Carlos' jab. Carlos took full advantage, eventually taking him down in the final minute and landing unanswered left hands.
Gordon went for broke to start the final frame, throwing wild shots that Carlos calmly sidestepped. He took Gordon down with a single leg with three minutes left in the fight and ultimately moved to his back for the submission.
Carlos has now finished four of his five career wins via submission. Gordon suffers his third loss in a row.
Santos makes short work of Bosse
The road to Steve Bosse's UFC debut was a long one. The fight itself -- that was over pretty quick.
A former semi-professional hockey player, Bosse (10-2) suffered a first-round knockout loss to Thiago Santos via one spectacular head kick. Referee James Warring stopped the middleweight fight at 29 seconds.
Santos (11-3) went up the ladder on Bosse with left kicks. He squared one up to the inside lead leg of Bosse, then threw a hard shot to the body that was partially blocked. With Bosse still thinking about the body kick, Santos elevated one to the head and Bosse never saw it coming. He was knocked out cold.
"I tried to kick him in the liver and saw that he dropped his guard a bit," Santos said. "I knew if I tried it again, he'd leave [the head] open. So, I kicked him in the head and it worked."
It marks the third win of Santos' UFC career -- all which have come inside the first round. He is now 3-2 overall inside the Octagon.
Bosse, 33, originally signed with the UFC in early 2014, but announced his retirement before his Octagon debut, citing health concerns. In April, he was tagged as a late replacement for Quinton Jackson at UFC 186 in Montreal, when a court order pulled Jackson from a fight against Fabio Maldonado. Jackson eventually won an appeal and Bosse was removed from the card.
Saturday was his first appearance since May 2013. He had been on an eight-fight winning streak prior to the loss.
Dias edges past Makashvili
Making his first appearance of 2015, Dias (23-3-1) relied heavily on his grappling to control the flow of the fight. While Makashvili (7-2) did land more overall strikes in the 145-pound bout, two judges awarded Dias the win, presumably due to his work on the floor. Judges Hector Gomez and Richard Bertrand had the fight 29-28 for Dias, while Eliseo Rodriguez saw it for Makashvili, 29-28.
Immediately after the result was read, Dias apologized for the relative lack of action.
"I'd like to apologize to my fans," Dias said, through an interpreter. "It was a tough fight. It was more of a grappling fight. I needed this win. Next time, I'll come in and look a lot better."
Dias, 31, took the center of the Octagon at the beginning of the fight, but didn't really open up on his feet. Each fighter landed a handful of leg kicks, before Dias scored his first takedown with just under a minute left in the opening round.
The middle frame featured several fun grappling exchanges. Dias, looking to let his hands go more, rushed into a double-leg takedown by Makashvili. The Brazilian quickly attacked Makashvili's left arm with a kimura, though, before transitioning to an armbar attempt and then to Makashvili's back. Later in the round, he threatened Makashvili with a triangle from off his back.
The final round was fought at a snail's pace that even forced referee John McCarthy to break up a stalemate near the fence. Makashvili landed several short combinations, but it wasn't enough to win him the fight.