Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to the hurt business last night (Sat., Feb. 10, 2018) for UFC 221: “Rockhold vs Romero” inside Perth, Arena in Perth, Australia, which featured an interim Middleweight title fight between Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold which saw “Soldier of God” annihilate Luke with a vicious third round knockout (see it).
In the co-main event, Curtis Blaydes picked up the biggest win of his career by outgunning Mark Hunt in Heavyweight action.
Winner: Yoel Romero
Who He Should Fight Next: Robert Whittaker
This one is a no-brainer, as both men knew the winner of the bout was guaranteed a title-unification fight against the current division champion. This will be a rematch of their UFC 213 encounter which saw Robert defeat Yoel to capture the interim division strap. Indeed, Dana White erased any and all doubt as to whether or not Romero would receive a shot at the strap after he failed to make weight, but confirmed his shot shortly after his impressive win.
“The Reaper” came down with a multitude of injures that forced him out of the Rockhold fight, including a severe staph infection that was considered to be “life threatening.” Now that he’s fighting back to health, Whittaker is out to defend what’s his, as his title defense against Yoel will be his first since being crowned the true division king following Georges St-Pierre’s abrupt leave. Now that they both know what each brings into the cage, it will be intersting to see what chagnes, if any, either makes for their pending rematch.
Winner: Curtis Blaydes
Who He Should Fight Next: Cain Velasquez
Why not? Cain won’t be in line for a shot at the division strap once he returns from an extended break, as Fabricio Werdum will likely get next dibs at the title should he get through Alexander Volkov, and once Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic do the dance at UFC 226. Plus, it’s a really fun and interesting fight. I originally had Hunt pegged as Cain’s next foe, but I counted my eggs a bit too early.
Curtis has a nice run going, winning five straight, and the rest of the top 10 is booked, minus Cain and Overeem, and fighting Alistair simply doesn’t make sense at the moment. Of course, Velasquez clearly has the advantage in the wrestling department, though Blaydes showed he’s no slouch. Then again, Hunt is nowhere near Cain’s level of wrestling. Don’t sleep on Blaydes, as he’s shown time and again what will happen if you do.
Winner: Tai Tuivasa
Who He Should Fight Next: Shamil Abdurakhimov
The only was for Tai is up, as he remained undefeated at 7-0 (2-0 UFC) following his impressive win over Cyril Asker. The Aussie has the potential to be great, but it will be a slow climb to the top or even the middle of the pack.
A fight against Shamil looks to be a good challenge. Shamil is coming off a first-round knockout of Chase Sherman, which was good enough to earn him the No. 15 spot on the official rankings list. Both man hit like trucks, so -- as any fight in the 265-pound division -- the contest could end early. But before it does, it should be entertaining. Tai wants to get into the mix, and if he can get a win over Shamil, it will be huge for him, and his prospective fights moving forward. It’s easy to push a guy too fast, but I hope UFC doesn’t do that with him, as it could be detrimental to his progression.
Winner: Tyson Pedro
Who He Should Fight Next: Gokhan Saki
Let’s face it, this fight is just fun. Both men like to bang it out on the feet, and I highly doubt Pedro would shy away from striking against the former K-1 star, though it wouldn’t be in his best interest. Still, Saki needs to start pecking away at the bottom of the top 15 before he starts getting the bigger fights, and Pedro is just the one. Currently ranked at No. 13, Tyson has gone 3-1 thus far in his Octagon career, while Saki made an explosive debut last year before he was sidelined with an injury. He was set to face Khalil Rountree before the injury, so I don’t see why a bout against Pedro is out of the question.
Winner: Jake Mathews
Who He Should Fight Next: Dong Hyun Kim
Sure, Dong is coming off a loss, but he still has more recognition, more clout, more experience and a ranking spot for all his work inside the Octagon. Kim was last seen getting worked by Colby Covington, so a step back in competition would be in order for him. Meanwhile, Mathews has yet to score a big win over a high-profile opponent inside the Octagon, While Kim isn’t the biggest, it will be his biggest, and he has to start somewhere, as a victory over Dong is nothing to scoff at.
For full UFC 221: Rockhold vs Romero” play-by-play updates and results click here.