Yoel Romero was victorious in Perth, Australia on February 10 picking up a third round stoppage win over Luke Rockhold. Romero should now be the UFC’s Interim middleweight champion, however he became just the latest fighter in what is becoming a long list to fail weight.
The belt was on the line for Rockhold only, however that was the least of his worries, as Romero put on an excellent display before violently dispatching him with two monstrous left hands to separate the former UFC champion from his senses.
The winner was expected to unify the belts with Robert Whittaker, who was due to headline this card against Rockhold in his home country but withdrew through injury. The Australian has also recently been upgraded to full UFC champion after Georges St Pierre vacated the belt, also due to injury.
However now the Interim belt is out of play, much to the delight of many who follow the sport. Whittaker is aiming for a return midway through 2018, once he is clear of the staph infection that ruled him out in Perth, and a rematch with Romero, who he beat last year, could be high on the agenda.
Romero may well get another chance to get the better of Whittaker after his engine failed him in their first fight, allowing Whittaker the chance to come from behind and claim the title. However, there are plenty of others clamouring for a title shot in the middleweight division.
Jacare Souza recently obliterated Derek Brunson inside a round, whilst Kelvin Gastelum did the same to former champion Michael Bisping last November and was vocal about being passed over for this fight. There is also the looming shadow of another former champion in Chris Weidman, who is on the comeback trail from injury and beat Gastelum last July.
Whittaker has no shortage of potential fights and has impressed since his move up from welterweight, winning seven on the bounce. Australia looks to be a favourite spot for the UFC and having missed out on a big headlining spot on a PPV card in his home country, Whittaker will be desperate for the chance to do it next time.
The Romero rematch looks to be the most realistic possibility, considering this is the first time that the Cuban hasn’t made the weight. Romero appears to have learned from his mistakes against “Bobby Knuckles” and providing he recovers from the leg injury he suffered in the Rockhold fight, we could well see the rematch. As for Rockhold, a move up to light-heavyweight could well be next for him.
Curtis Blaydes picked up the biggest win of his career with over Mark Hunt and it couldn’t have come at a better time for him, as he has only one fight left on his current UFC deal. “Razor” Blaydes has now gatecrashed the top five of the heavyweight rankings and hasn’t ruled out a potential move to Bellator if he doesn’t receive the offer he believes he deserves.
With Bellator placing a lot of their recent promotional efforts behind the heavyweight division and the Grand Prix currently in progress, Blaydes could see himself in an immediate title fight, similar to Benson Henderson and Lorenz Larkin, if the UFC don’t give him a decent bump.
Bellator have handed out very enticing deals to the likes of Ryan Bader, their current light-heavyweight champion, so it will be interesting to see how the UFC respond to Blaydes’ recent interviews. With fresh blood needed in an ageing heavyweight division, they would do worse than keeping hold of Blaydes.
Jake Matthews was a winner on the card and left with a $50k bonus for his win over Li Jingliang, however for Matthews all the talking post-fight has surrounded the loser. Jingliang has been vilified for the eye gouge he used to escape a submission attempt from the Aussie.
Both men were still awarded the $50k for “Fight of the Night”, a move that has seen the UFC heavily criticised for rewarding the Chinese star, who blatantly cheated. Jingliang will be closely watched the next time he steps into the Octagon, whilst Matthews takes home the official and moral victory.
Israel Adesanya was one of two men to receive “Performance of the Night” bonuses and the Nigerian, who is based in New Zealand, has been touted for a big future within the organisation. There are calls from many to rush “The Last Stylebender”, a tactic that has come back to bite them in the past.
Adesanya stole the show not only in the Octagon but with his post-fight interview after, declaring to the rest of the middleweight division, “I’m the new dog in the yard, and I just pissed all over the place”. Might be worth keeping an eye on this man.
Also picking up a bonus was flyweight Jussier Formiga, who put Ben Nguyen to sleep via rear naked choke in the third round and has thrown his hat right into the middle of the circle for a fight with current champion and pound-for-pound number one star Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
Johnson is still rumoured to be taking a big fight with current bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw in the Summer, but Formiga is ready to be the next one up for Johnson, providing he comes through that test. You can’t say he doesn’t deserve it.
Other winners on the card included Aussie heavyweight Tai Tuivasa and light-heavy Tyson Pedro, who both destroyed their opponents inside the first round, much to the joy of those in attendance. Dong Hyun Kim stopped the rot for the away fighters and won a tight split decision over Damien Brown in the lightweight division.
Featherweight Alexander Volkanovski brutalised Jeremy Kennedy to keep the wins coming for the home crowd, whilst Aussie based Brit Ross Pearson earned a good win and snapped his losing streak in the lightweight division against Mizuto Hirota by unanimous decision.
Rounding out the card were two more unanimous decision victories for Jose Alberto Quinonez over Teruto Ishihara in the bantamweight division and New Zealander Luke “The Jedi” Jumeau over Daichi Abe in the welterweight division.