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UFC 225 card: Robert Whittaker vs Yoel Romero 2 full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight rivals Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero will rematch for the title TONIGHT (June 9, 2018) at UFC 225 inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

It’s hard to give separate recaps for both men when their recent histories are so intertwined. While Michael Bisping held the title and did his best to defend against anyone other than top Middleweight contenders, Whittaker and Romero were busy destroying the rest of the contenders. The result was an interim title fight that featured a combined 15-fight win streak between the two, resulting in an amazing five-round battle that saw Whittaker capture the title. Whittaker was soon promoted to undisputed champion and spent the better part of a year recovering from injuries. Romero, meanwhile, jumped back into action a few months ago to brutalize Luke Rockhold and guarantee himself another battle with the Aussie. Unfortunately, Romero messed everything up by missing weight by 2 ounces, shifting this into a non-title fight.

Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Robert Whittaker
Record: 19-4
Key Wins: Yoel Romero (UFC 213), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 24), Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 101), Uriah Hall (UFC 193), Rafael Natal (UFC 197)
Key Losses: Stephen Thompson (UFC 170), Court McGee (UFC Fight Night 27)
Keys to Victory: Undefeated as a Middleweight, Whittaker has quickly made a claim to being one of the best fighters on the roster. A lightning-quick Karateka with the hands of a boxer, Whittaker also somehow developed into one of the sport’s best defensive wrestlers.

I mentioned this in my breakdown of “Bobby Knuckles,” but he was able to defeat Romero by doing what no one else could: forcing Romero to work without getting knocked out in the process. He did so without much help from his lead leg, forcing him to make use of the rear front kick to close distance and fire, as well as keep Romero on his back foot.

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Romero will definitely be looking to stomp Whittaker’s lead leg again, and the Aussie does not want another early injury. He should continue to use the jab sparingly and work behind his kicks, at least for the initial engagement. Once he has Romero moving backward and out of position to kick, he should feel more confident this time around in pursuing the wrestler with punches.

By the end of the fight, Whittaker seemed to have Romero figured out even while fighting injured. Given two strong legs underneath him and his excellent ability to adjust, Whittaker should be able to find the same success and build further from it.

Yoel Romero
Record: 14-2
Key Wins: Luke Rockhold (UFC 221), Chris Weidman (UFC 205), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 194), Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 70), Tim Kennedy (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC 213).Rafael Cavalcante (Strikeforce: “Barnett vs Kharitonov”)
Keys to Victory: It may be true that Romero has yet to officially hold a title, but he did defeat the three best Middleweights of his generation violently. An Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, Romero wins most of his fights by overwhelming opponents with athleticism and power.

Last time out, Romero spent a ton of time attempting to drag Whittaker to the mat. Though he officially scored four takedowns, just one resulted in actual top control time. The fact of the matter is that Romero is not great at maintaining top control, and Whittaker is great at scrambling. Over time, Whittaker’s youth and conditioning allowed him to deny takedowns consistently and make Romero pay for the attempts.

In a five-round fight, winning via wrestling doesn’t seem likely.

Instead, Romero needs to trust in what got him this far: the knockout. Aim to destroy Whittaker’s legs and limit his lead hand, sure, but Romero’s end goal should be planting the left hand or a flying knee on Whittaker’s chin. He was able to time the takedown well numerous times in the first fight, which shows Romero did have a good understanding of Whittaker’s timing and range.

If his focus is on scoring big punches rather than landing a double, Romero gives himself a better chance.

Bottom Line: It’s an excellent fight between the division’s clear No. 1 and 2.

For Whittaker, this should have been an opportunity for his first title defense. Uninjured and younger than Romero, Whittaker was in good position to start his title reign off right. Moving forward, Whittaker has all the skills necessary to dominate the division, but unfortunately it won’t officially count as a title defense tonight if Whittaker is victorious.

Title defense or no, Romero frequently does crazy things to win fights in ways normal humans cannot replicate. If Romero does catch Whittaker, it would be understandable and set up a trilogy match.

Whittaker would remain champion though, making the whole thing a mess.

For Romero, this was likely his last shot at Middleweight gold. Instead, he messed up his weight cut and will now have to defeat Whittaker twice in a row to actually attain the belt. Over the last few years, Romero has proven himself a truly special talent. For all the controversy around the Cuban, no one can say he is not worthy of going down in history as a champion, which makes it especially frustrating that he’s failed to make weight in two title fights.

If Romero does come up short, the silver lining is that Light Heavyweight is a half-dead division, and Romero could quickly find himself in title contention at 205 pounds.

At UFC 225, Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero will compete once more. Which man will see his hand raised in the rematch?

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