With Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, on the sidelines recovering from a series of serious illnesses, top-ranked contenders Yoel Romero (No. 1) and Luke Rockhold (No. 2) looked to keep the 185-pound division moving tonight (Sat., Feb. 10, 2018) in the pay-per-view (PPV) main event of UFC 221, which took place inside Perth Arena in Perth, Australia. In fact, the interim Middleweight title was on the line, but only Rockhold had the opportunity to win it because Romero came in two pounds heavy for the title fight.
And that is truly unfortunate, considering that Romero scored perhaps the biggest — and most violent — knockout wins of his UFC career.
Romero got off to a typical slow start, standing in front of Rockhold and daring him to attack. Rockhold threw a few low kicks, which Romero check, and Rockhold’s shin took the brunt of the damage. The two played cat-and-mouse for basically the remainder of the round, with Romero landing a nice overhand left with 90 seconds remaining in the round. It was a cautious and calculated opening frame to say the least.
Romero was shot out of a cannon to start the second, blitzing Rockhold with a powerful barrage of shots. Several of them got through, but Rockhold did a fantastic job of weathering the storm and absorbing the shots without being visibly affected. Once the action settled, Rockhold used his legs and feet to touch up Romero from distance. Midway through the round Romero launched another brief attack, but once again Rockhold was able to remain composed and fight his fight. In the final minute the pair began to mix it up in the center of the cage, but nothing significant landed for either fighter.
To start the third, Rockhold flipped constant jabs and kicks, keeping the Cuban at a comfortable distance. Then as he is wont to do, he lined up Rockhold as he was backing up against the fence and drilled him with a devastating left hook. It dropped Rockhold immediately and as he went to regain his composure, Romero landed a clean uppercut as a dazed Rockhold tried to get back to his feet. It was an absolute brutal finish. Rockhold, somehow, was not knocked unconscious, but it’s safe to say he may not remember much of this fight. He fought a very careful fight, which is probably not the best strategy when going up against an energy-conserving monster like “Soldier of God.”
Even though he took the bout on relatively short notice, Romero missed out on a huge opportunity by not making weight. Nevertheless, he more than likely earned a rematch with Whittaker whenever he is fit to return to competition. It was yet again another explosive finish for Romero against one of the most talented 185-pound fighter in the world.
For complete UFC 221: “Romero vs. Rockhold” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.