Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Tim Kennedy and Yoel Romero were attempting to inch closer to the title last night (Sat., Sept. 27, 2014) at UFC 178 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Kennedy has looked his best since entering the UFC. The grinding wrestler had yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon and looked to be closing in on the title.
Similarly, Romero has looked positively dynamic inside the cage. The muscular Cuban has blitzed the majority of his foes, rarely having to rely on his Olympic wrestling experience.
Something had to give.
Both men actively feinted to start the bout. During the feeling out process, Romero stuffed an early takedown. Romero was the quicker man and landed a two punch combo before evading the counter.
Romero continued to dictate the striking exchanges. Then, both men traded takedown attempts without anything sticking. Kennedy's nose bled openly.
Kennedy caught a kick and momentarily landed a takedown, but Romero was quickly back to his feet. Similarly, Romero shot in and took Kennedy down but was not able to control the American. Kennedy pressured "Soldier of God" to the bell, but was not able to land anything significant.
At the start of the second round, Kennedy missed with an overhand then landed a front kick. Kennedy continued to look for the kick and stuffed a takedown. Romero stuffed a takedown, but had restricted himself to throwing single punches.
Once more, Kennedy missed with his right hand. Neither man has landed much this round, but Kennedy has the volume edge. Kennedy next scored with a series of uppercuts within the clinch.
The two exchanged takedown attempts, and Kennedy dove on a guillotine. Romero escaped, but Kennedy was able to return to his feet. Kennedy whiffed on a spinning back fist and slipped a little. Romero then pushed him against the fence in the clinch.
Kennedy was the more active fighter with his dirty boxing but could not escape Romero's grasp. Romero released Kennedy and flurried. Back in the center of the Octagon, Kennedy attacked with a flurry of right hands that stunned Romero, but the horn sounded before he could look to finish.
In all likelihood, the cards were tied up going into the third.
Romero's corner pulled some delay tactics out of its hat, allowing Romero an extra 20 seconds to recover. Romero then surged into a flurry, badly rocking Kennedy. Romero continued to land haymakers from the top position until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight.
Kennedy was a bloody mess (pic).
Though this was a huge win for Romero, there has to be some type of asterisk next to it. Fans are unlikely to complain because Kennedy is not well liked, but he really got screwed. Romero was hurt and tired, but his corner bought him an opportunity to recover.
In all honestly, the fight likely should have been stopped before the third started, as Romero didn't answer the bell immediately.
Regardless, Romero earned a win. I'd like to see him face the winner of Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping. The winner would undoubtedly deserve a title shot.
Kennedy deservedly has more than a sour feeling in his mouth. He had finally turned the momentum around, then his opponent's team worked a dirty tactic and Kennedy got KTFO for the first time in his career.
With the bizarre circumstances of this finish, Kennedy should remain fairly close to title contention. A match with Constantinos Philippou would make sense, as both men are now near the edge of the top 10.
At UFC 178, Yoel Romero used his second wind to finish Kennedy in the final round. How far can the Cuban climb?
For complete UFC 178 "Johnson vs Cariaso" results, including blow-by-blow coverage of the entire pay-per-view event, click HERE.