I know I wasn't the only one hoping the UFC 221 pay-per-view (PPV) main event, which took place last Sat. night (Feb. 10, 2018) in Perth, Australia, was going to be the first big step in straightening out the messy middleweight division.
Instead, it made things worse.
Not just worse for Luke Rockhold, who had his brains scrambled by Yoel Romero in the third-round of their 185-pound affair, but for the division in general, as “Soldier of God” missed weight this week and lost his chance to compete for the interim title.
Not that I’m sad we don't have another substitute strap clogging up the divisional arteries, but the whole point of booking this fight was to have a contender in the queue for reigning champion Robert Whittaker, just as soon as “The Reaper” got out of his Staph meeting.
So how can the promotion, in good conscience, reward Romero for his biggest win to date when he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain coming into the fight?
It may not have much choice.
Take a look at the current top 10 of the division to see what we’re working with:
- Yoel Romero
- Luke Rockhold
- Jacare Souza
- Chris Weidman
- Kelvin Gastelum
- Michael Bisping
- Derek Brunson
- David Branch
- Uriah Hall
- Vitor Belfort
There’s no reason to even discuss seven through 10, but I’ve included them to illustrate the lack of depth in this division.
Whittaker captured the interim crown by defeating Romero at UFC 213 last July. Regrettably, he hasn’t competed since, thanks to Michael Bisping’s decision to cash in his career money-fight against Georges St-Pierre.
“Rush” won the title, laughed at the gullibility of all involved, then set sail much richer than when he arrived back in November, leaving Whittaker as the one and only king.
To his credit, Bisping tried to quickly rebound against former welterweight Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai, only to get turned inside out and booted from the top five. Not that it matters, as “The Count” is only one fight away from retirement anyway.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza? Beaten by both Romero and Whittaker.
Chris Weidman? Sidelined with a bum thumb.
Luke ... oh wait.
Gastelum could have changed the entire trajectory of the division at UFC Belem, but reportedly turned down a fight against Romero. Not that he’s the first or only contender to avoid a fight with the crazy Cuban, but that decision will keep him from the middleweight title.
Rockhold is an ex-champion and a very formidable opponent. Destroying him the way Romero did was no small feat and under normal circumstances, it would be perfectly fine to make Whittaker rematch the last man he beat.
Their first fight wasn’t exactly a blowout and Romero proved — yet again — that he can end a bout rather violently any time he swings. It just sucks that we have to give him a free pass for missing weight (among many other things) simply because the division is too weak to offer up a Plan B.
Unless this offer is still on the table? (LOL)