Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, was expected to make his first title defense in a five-round rematch against top contender Yoel Romero in last night’s (Sat., June 9, 2018) UFC 225 pay-per-view (PPV) main event, held inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Unfortunately for all parties involved, including thirsty mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, “Soldier of God” missed weight on Friday, changing his “Reaper” do-over to a non-title affair, the second straight fight the Cuban slugger has sabotaged by coming in heavy, the first being his Luke Rockhold interim title bout at UFC 221 last February.
But unlike his Rockhold fight, Romero did not win by violent knockout, instead falling by way of razor-thin, split-decision loss.
Whittaker opened the fight with his trademark boxing attack, but also paid careful attention to the lead leg of Romero, landing the teep kick seemingly at will. The Cuban appeared content to just play defense for most of the round, but when he did unload, he landed and landed hard. He just didn’t do enough to score many points, but also held onto his cardio to last him later in the fight.
Round two came and Whittaker started to find his rhythm, landing on Romero and shutting his opponent’s left eye closed with some gnarly swelling. Once that happened, “Soldier of God” quickly picked up his tempo and tried to punch back, but never made a single takedown attempt until he end of the round, only to come up short.
Just when it seemed Whittaker was in complete control, Romero crushed “The Reaper” with a huge punch and sent him ass over tea cups in round three. The Aussie survived but was fighting on queer street. An aggressive Romero then got clipped himself with an elbow along with a head kick, and the rest of the round resembled a bloody bar fight that was one solid punch away from being over. How the hell either man survived until the bell is beyond me.
The pace slowed considerably for the fourth frame and Whittaker appeared to get his legs back. Shortly into the action the bout was halted after Romero got a foot to the yam-bag. The Cuban took lots of time to recover regardless of not being that hurt, which of course made me think of Stool-Gate with Tim Kennedy. The action restarted and Whittaker wasn’t throwing any right hands, leading to speculation by UFC color commentator Joe Rogan that it might be broken. Nothing but leg kicks and left jabs from the champion and Romero still refused to shoot for takedowns, but managed to buckle Whittaker with a big punch just shy of the bell.
“Big Cheers” to both @RobWhitakerMMA & @YoelRomeroMMA for their awesome 5 round Octagon War tonight Plus congratulations to all the @UFC fighters on the card tonight as #UFC 225 delivered!!! #ITSTIME #BUFFLIFE pic.twitter.com/78S1WZAPLd— Bruce Buffer (@brucebuffer) June 10, 2018
The fifth and final round produced fireworks, as Romero dropped Whittaker early and nearly pounded him out. The Aussie grabbed onto a leg for dear life and avoided the finishing blows — some of which landed on the back of the head — until he could clear the cobwebs. After some struggling on the ground, Whittaker made it back to his feet and kicked his way to the scorecards, barely winning the contest but also preventing the promotion from having a champion lose and keep the belt.
Once the dust settled and the smoke cleared, the first thing Rogan asked during his post-fight interview was if and when Whittaker would be open to a potential trilogy fight, but the champion, broken and bruised, was non-commital.
After that bloody war, I don’t blame him.
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