The ‘Solider of God’ looked impeccable on Sunday morning in Australia
After missing weight the previous day, Yoel Romero entered UFC 221 on Saturday ineligible to win the interim middleweight championship. As it turned out, a shot at the full championship suited him better after all.
Romero (13-2) lived up to his billing as the most explosive striker at 185 pounds by delivering a violent third-round knockout of former champion Luke Rockhold (16-4) at Perth Arena in UFC’s first trip to Western Australia.
With the victory, Romero (13-2) secured a second chance at champion Robert Whittaker (19-4), which UFC president Dana White confirmed with ESPN after the fight. The 27-year-old Whittaker outpointed Romero over five hard rounds last July to win the UFC interim title before being upgraded to full champion after Georges St-Pierre gave up his title.
Romero, 40, took Saturday’s fight on one month’s notice after Whittaker pulled out with various injuries and illnesses. The lack of a full training camp saw Romero weigh in nearly three pounds over.
“I’m so sorry for Robert Whittaker; normally, he is the guy who stays here, but this is the plan for God,” Romero said. “I want to say sorry for why the weight was so bad for me. This is the first time in my career where I couldn’t put my body down.
“Thank you Dana White and thank you UFC!”
Exactly when a Whittaker-Romero rematch would could remains uncertain after Romero, who limped around the cage after his victory, shared in the aftermath of the fight that he believes he broke his leg.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) February 11, 2018
Not only did Romero shake off his negative reputation for questionable cardio by pacing himself over the first two rounds, he finished the fight against a refocused Rockhold in a dramatic and frightening manner.
Romero followed a jab in Round 3 with a lightning quick overhand left that caught Rockhold on the chin and floored him. But it was the follow up shot from the native of Cuba, who won a silver medal in wrestling at the 2000 Olympics that brought an end to the fight as he brutalized Rockhold with a flush uppercut as he sat up.
Referee Marc Goddard instantly waved off the fight at 1:48 as Romero set off a wild celebration.
“Rockhold is a very good athlete and an amazing fighter,” Romero said. “He’s a champion in Strikeforce, champion in UFC. He needed respect and I’m very happy because I fight with the best in my division.”
The body language of both fighters from the very beginning was telling. Rockhold was cautious and tentative as he controlled the opening round from the outside with jabs and leg kicks. Romero, meanwhile, was loose and talkative, yet he withheld from attacking in Round 1 to save his energy and get a read on his opponent.
In Round 2, Romero began to change the tenor of the fight when he rushed Rockhold early with a flurry of clean punches that backed him up to the cage wall. But after a combination to the body, Romero once again slowed down and stayed poised. Two minutes later, he charged forward again to land punches, which left Rockhold bleeding above his right eye.
UFC 221 results
|Yoel Romero||Luke Rockhold||3rd-round TKO (punches)|
|Curtis Blaydes||Mark Hunt||Unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)|
|Tai Tuivasa||Cyril Asker||1st-round TKO (punches)|
|Jake Matthews||Li Jingliang||Unanimous decision (29-28, 39-26, 30-26)|
1st-round submission (Kimura)
CBS Sports was with you for every punch, kick and submission attempt with live updates on the action below. If you are having trouble viewing the content, please click here.