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UFC 221 start time, TV schedule, who is fighting tonight at ‘Rockhold vs Romero’

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UFC 221 Weigh-ins Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the hurt business tonight (Sat., Feb. 10, 2018) for UFC 221 from inside Perth Arena in Perth, Australia featuring an interim Middleweight title fight between former champion Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero*. In the co-main event, Mark Hunt will face off against fellow hard-hitting Heavyweight, Curtis Blaydes.

What’s Hot:

It’s been a long road back to a title fight for Luke Rockhold, though he’s only competed once since getting knocked out by Michael Bisping at UFC 199 back in 2016. After taking out David Branch in his comeback fight, Luke was pegged to face off against division champion Robert Whittaker, but “The Reaper” was bounced from the card as a result of a staph infection. Now, Rockhold will face off against Yoel Romero for the interim strap. But, convincing Romero he won’t be the “real” champion with a win will be difficult. Nevertheless, should Rocky get through “Soldier of God,” he can expect a showdown against Whittaker later this year. As for Romero, he might be able to earn his much-desired do-over against “Bobby Knuckles” with a “W,” but he will be unable to collect his first piece of UFC hardware because he missed weight for the 185-pound showdown. Rockhold is confident he has Romero figured out in all aspects of the fight game, and while you can respect his confidence, let’s just hope he isn’t going into the fight over-confident as Romero is as tough as they come.

Just ask this guy.

What’s Not:

Why is that pay-per-view (PPV) events taking place in other countries simply don’t feel like PPV-worthy cards? I get it, the event was tailored around Whittaker, the hometown hero, but this card isn’t PPV-worthy at all. And this isn’t the first (or last) time UFC will try to sell you on an event with a price tag of $65 that simply isn’t worth it.

Original Card vs Actual Card:

The event was supposed to be Whittaker’s card, as the Aussie was set to defend the Middleweight strap against Luke Rockhold in front of his countrymen. But, after he came down with a severe case of staph infection, “The Reaper” was forced to the sidelines to recuperate.

Injuries:

Whittaker’s setback was the only obstacle the promotion ran into for this event.

New Blood:

Israel Adesanya is the only newcomer, as he will bring his undefeated mixed martial arts (MMA) mark (11-0) into the Octagon for the first time when he faces off against Rob Wilkinson, who suffered his first-ever loss in his first UFC fight back in Sept. 2017. I’m excited for his debut, as he did plenty of good work in GLORY, so the striking pedigree is there.

How The ‘Prelims’ Look:

They are not too impressive, but one fight I really like is Jussier Formiga facing off against Ben Nguyen. Both men are coming off impressive wins, finishing Ulka Sasaki and Tim Elliott, respectively, in the very first round via rear-naked choke. I had high hopes for Nguyen when he first signed with the promotion, but hit a speed bump against Louis Smolka. Other than that, Nguyen has won four of five bouts inside the Octagon and is on a two-fight win streak. Had he not lost to Smolka, we could very well be talking about him being a legit title contender. If he can get a win over Formiga, he can up his stock and speed his way closer to a title shot.

Also, long-time veteran Ross Pearson looks to get back into the win column when he faces off against Mizuto Hirota on the Fight Pass portion of the event. Pearson hasn’t looked good as of late, so he needs a win in the worst way. We’ll get to that in the following section.

Who Needs A Win Badly:

Pearson has not tasted victory since March 2016. That’s two long years for the British banger. During that span, he has dropped four straight fights, albeit to some legit conception such as Will Brooks and Jorge Masvidal. Nevertheless, despite his skid, Pearson has managed to keep his spot on the roster. Should he lose his fifth in a row, though, I don’t foresee the promotion giving him another chance.

Interest Level: 6/10

I am really digging the main event, as it’s a fight I feel should’ve happened long before Rockhold got another crack at the title. But, now that it’s official the interim strap will be on the line for Rockhold it sweetens the spot. Either way, the winner will secure a shot against Whittaker once he’s at full health. Romero can grapple with the best of them, but Rockhold has a world-class camp of wrestlers at his disposal who have helped polish his overall game such as Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez. That said, Rockhols isn’t a slouch in that area, though he does prefer to stand and bang. As for Romero, he, too, can tag opponents on the feet, but he will be outmatched in that area against Rockhold, so his best bet is to take it to the mat. Can Rockhold return to championship glory? Can Romero earn a rematch against Whittaker? All that and more will be answered come later this evening.

Curtis Blaydes has quietly been climbing the 265-pound ladder, scoring four straight victories (though one was overturned as a result of a failed drug test). He will face the biggest test of his career in Mark Hunt, who has the experience, power and overall skill advantage. But, in the land of the big man, one punch can change the trajectory of the fight (and one’s career), so if Blaydes can pull it off it will be huge for his overall stock and future prospective match ups.

Full UFC 221 Fight Card:

UFC 221 PPV Main Event:

185 lbs.: Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero for interim middleweight title

UFC 221 PPV Co-Main Event:

265 lbs.: Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes

UFC 221 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET):

265 lbs.: Cyril Asker vs. Tai Tuivasa
170 lbs.: Li Jingliang vs. Jake Matthews
205 lbs.: Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov

UFC 221 Prelims on FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):

155 lbs.: Damien Brown vs. Dong Hyun Kim
185 lbs.: Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson
145 lbs.: Jeremy Kennedy vs. Alex Volkanovski
125 lbs.: Jussier Formiga vs. Ben Nguyen

UFC 221 Prelims on Fight Pass (6:30 p.m. ET):

155 lbs.: Mizuto Hirota vs. Ross Pearson
135 lbs.: Teruto Ishihara vs. Jose Quinonez
170 lbs.: Daichi Abe vs. Luke Jumeau

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