Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight elites Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero clashed last night (Feb. 10, 2018) at UFC 221 inside Perth Arena in Perth, Australia.
Last night was about redemption for Rockhold. It’s been nearly two years since he was upset by Michael Bisping, a loss that both Bisping and MMA fans have frequently reminded him of. He worked back into the title picture, but Rockhold was further irritated by the opponent switch and his new foe’s inability to make the weight.
Romero lost out on the interim title shot by missing weight, but realistically, the interim title is merely a guarantee of an undisputed title shot. If Romero scored the knockout, he would still undoubtedly earn his rematch with Robert Whittaker, so did it really matter that Romero would not receive a “sort of” belt to symbolize his title shot?
Rockhold opened the fight by jabbing at his fellow Southpaw and attacking the lead calf. Romero did his best to check the kicks, but his opponent was not deterred and continued targeting the leg. Romero, as usual, was patient, doing his best to get a read on his opponent.
Romero eventually returned the favor by kicking at Rockhold’s lead leg. Those kicks landed to good effect, and Romero tried to use them to feint into combinations. His volume was limited though, which allowed Rockhold to gain an edge in the opening frame.
Additionally, Romero’s lead leg seemed to be a bit unstable after the first five minutes.
Romero opened the second round with a heavy flurry. Rockhold didn’t lose his footing, but he definitely ate some hard shots before he was able to latch onto a clinch and keep his chin safe. After his flurry, Romero continued to stalk his foe, although his pace dropped back down.
Rockhold probed with jabs and body shots, but it was Romero who was now confident. He flurried again later in the round, nearly connecting on a massive left hand. Rockhold began to find more success with the jab near the end of the round, but it was not enough to earn back the round.
Things were very much up in the air with 15 minutes remaining.
Rockhold immediately went back to the jab to start the third round. Romero continued to advance forward behind odd feints and timing, and it all worked out. “Soldier of God” hid a left overhand behind a couple jabs, and the strike landed clean. Rockhold slumped to the mat and was barely conscious, but a second left hand sent him cleanly to sleep.
Romero did what he always does. His timing is straight up bizarre, and it doesn’t work until it suddenly does. When Romero flurries, it is genuinely terrifying, and there’s no easy answer to defending yourself from his attack. In addition, Romero waits until he has a read on his opponent before exploding, which ensures he doesn’t waste energy.
Each of those power left hands is calculated.
Rockhold escaped a few by the skin of his teeth a few times, but Romero connected perfectly in the third. It only takes one with the Olympian, and he managed to find his shot last night.
He’ll have a second chance to time Whittaker next time around.
As for Rockhold, this is a devastating end to his current title run. Instead of a match up with the real champion, Rockhold wound up getting violently knocked out in a stupid interim title match by an opponent who did not make weight.
Rockhold is going to be bitter, and it’s a bit understandable this time.
From a technical point of view, Rockhold was smart to work behind the jab and low kick, which clearly was having an effect considering Romero’s post-fight limp. However, the second he allowed Romero to walk him down, things went South. Being the aggressor allows Romero an easier time to fight at his pace, and he’s more comfortable on the lead than countering.
To win this bout, Rockhold had to keep his foe on the defensive, and that didn’t happen.
Last night, Yoel Romero scored another brutal knockout of a top Middleweight. Can Romero win the rematch opposite Robert Whittaker?
For complete UFC 221: “Rockhold vs. Romero” results and play-by-play, click HERE!