The UFC 221 main event was a clash between top middleweight contenders Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold. But Yoel Romero’s third-round win over Luke Rockhold did not earn him an interim title, it was still the biggest win of his career.
Originally, the event was supposed to feature undisputed middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, defending his title against Rockhold. Whittaker, however, was forced off the card because of an injury, and the UFC replaced him with Romero. The new fight between Rockhold and Romero was supposed to be for the interim middleweight title.
But on Friday, Romero missed the 185-pound weight limit by 2.7 pounds, which means he was ineligible to claim a title, even with a victory Saturday.
Speaking at the pre-fight press conference, Rockhold said that the change in opponents wasn’t a big deal because he expected to fight Romero after beating Whittaker and that if he vanquished the Cuban more convincingly than Whittaker did, he will be “the real champion” anyway.
“Slight difference but this was bound to happen one way or the other. Whittaker would have been first, Yoel would’ve been second. Yoel’s first, so Whittaker will be second. I’m up for the task. I’m not lacking in any way. I’m prepared to fight the best guys in the world. It’s a shame it’s not gonna be for the undisputed title but Whittaker beat Yoel to be the interim champion. I’m gonna beat Yoel to be the interim champion. It’s a matter of who did it better is gonna be the real champion at the end of this thing. So that’s the way I see it.”
Yoel Romero said after his win:
“I’m so sorry for Robert Whittaker, he is the guy, but this is the plan of God. Second, I’m so sorry for the weight cut. This was the first time in my career I could not get my body down. Rockhold is a very good athlete and an amazing fighter. … I’m very happy because I fight this time with the best.”
UFC president Dana White told ESPN that Romero will be Whittaker’s next title challenger. That fight will be a rematch of a closely contested five-round bout last July.
Asked Dana White if plan is to have Yoel Romero fight Robert Whittaker next, despite the fact he didn't win an interim title tonight.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 11, 2018
Both fighters showed patience during the first round, as they looked to work each other out. It was an uneventful round but probably went to Luke Rockhold.
During the second round, Rockhold looked vulnerable on a few occasions, with Yoel launched forward with a burst and a flurry of punches. On more than one occasion, Rockhold’s chin looked to be a bit vulnerable.
Yoel then landed a fist flush on Rockhold’s temple which instantly dropped him and appeared to have knocked him out. He then followed up with a punch that many feel marks one of the most brutal KO’s in recent time.
Check out the action below:
— UFC (@ufc) February 11, 2018
— Jacobi Wilson (@JacobiRayWilson) February 11, 2018
— UFC (@ufc) February 11, 2018
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