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UFC 213 results: Robert Whittaker overcomes leg injury, outpoints Yoel Romero to win interim Middleweight title

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Souza vs Whittaker Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to Amanda Nunes’ undisclosed illness, the interim Middleweight title fight between top-ranked 185-pound contenders Yoel Romero (No. 1) and Robert Whittaker (No. 3) was promoted to the pay-per-view (PPV) main event of UFC 213, which took place tonight (Sat., July 8, 2017) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. And the explosive 185-pound clash stepped up and delivered in spades, featuring a back-and-forth battle that went the distance, with Whittaker ultimately coming away with a very impressive unanimous decision victory.

Romero crawled out of his corner to start the match as both fighters touched gloves in a show of sportsmanship. Whittaker looked to get the action going early, chasing after Romero with a few wild punches that missed their marks. Romero scored with a leg kick that knocked Whittaker briefly off balance. Romero missed with a spinning kick, prompting Whittaker to overcommit on a counter attack, which Romero used to score a takedown. Whittaker, though, was able to quickly get back to his feet as Romero once again looked to get the fight to the floor. Whittaker defended a body lock takedown brilliantly and the two eventually made it back to the center of the cage. Whittaker landed a nice front kick that sent Romero into the fence. With 30 seconds to go the two looked to exchange and Romero used his momentum to try another takedown, but once again, Whittaker was prepared.

Between rounds, Whittaker revealed to his corner that his leg was “trashed,” meaning he was fighting injured for the remaining four rounds. Nevertheless, he unleashed a wicked high kick that Romero was able to block. Romero, perhaps sensing the injury, attacked the leg, but Whittaker was able to get it out of harm’s way. The two exchanged on the feet, with Romero landing a flying knee to Whittaker’s chest, before the fight went down to the mat. Romero worked for some ground-and-pound, but Whittaker defended well off his back and eventually made it to his feet. Romero wouldn’t let go, though, and mushed Whittaker up against the fence as they battled for position until the referee separated them. Romero landed a nice right hook on the restart and Whittaker fired back with a wild left that caught nothing but air. Romero secured another takedown as the round came to a close just to score a few more points with the judges.

Despite an admitted leg injury, Whittaker came out for the third winging kicks that backed up Romero. He was able to land a nice front kick that definitely got Romero’s attention, which he followed up with a flurry along the fence that put the Cuban on the run. Whittaker continued to dial up the pressure, but Romero remained calm throughout it all, perhaps waiting for the perfect opportunity to explode. It never came, though, as Romero was content to play defense and not offer much of anything offensively, perhaps conserving his energy for the championship rounds. Whittaker ended the round with a clean punch and a high kick as both fighters headed back to their corners.

Unsurprisingly, Whittaker was the far fresher fighter to begin the final two rounds, connecting with a clean head kick early in the fourth frame that knocked Romero off balance. He continued to be the aggressor for much of the round, tagging Romero with hooks, uppercuts and kicks, while “Soldier of God” whiffed on sloppy takedowns and for the second straight round mounted very little offense. In the fifth, Whittaker came out guns blazing, perhaps realizing that Romero was running on fumes. Romero, though, returned fire, perhaps realizing that it would be all or nothing. Whittaker nailed Romero with repeated front kicks to the body, looking to suck the last bit of wind out of Romero, who kept plodding forward like a zombie. Whittaker more or less sealed the deal late in the fifth with a takedown and some nasty elbows that split open Romero. He tried to get back to his feet, but Whittaker’s will and his fatigue kept his back glued to the canvas as the fight came to a close.

Wow ... what a year it has been for Whittaker, who is now an interim division champion after taking out the division’s top two contenders in Jacare Souza and Yoel Romero. In the process, he has strung together nine straight victories inside the Octagon and is posed to unify the title against one of the most popular fighters in the sport, Michael Bisping.

Take a bow, Robert. Well done.

For complete UFC 213: “Romero vs. Whittaker” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.

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