ROBERT WHITTAKER and Yoel Romero once again clashed in an absolute thriller in Chicago, in a fight that will be played for a long time to come. Whittaker, picked up the victory by the tightest of margins, with two judges awarding it 48-47 in his favour and the third by the same score to Romero, but he had to bounce back from some rocky moments during the five-round classic.
Whittaker, who remains the UFC’s middleweight champion after Romero’s issues with hitting the 185lbs weight limit continued, was dropped heavily in both the third and fifth, summoning up incredible powers of recovery to survive the storm, as Romero aimed to gain revenge for his defeat in their first meeting last summer.
After two rounds, it looked as if it was going to be an easy night for Whittaker, as he cruised through them with Romero, who was sporting a right eye almost sealed shut, appearing to feeling the effects of a difficult weight cut, that saw his title ambitions in tatters on Friday.
However in the third, the fight went from pedestrian to an all-out white knuckle, thrill ride. Romero dropped Whittaker with a monstrous right hand and flew at the Aussie like a shark that had smelled blood. But, it seems Whittaker isn’t a normal fighter and he recuperated, before responding with his own volley, that put Romero back on his heels.
Whittaker certainly came off the worse after the brutal third, as the action slowed back to a normal pace in the fourth, revealing after the fight he had broken his hand during the frantic exchanges. Whittaker took the round and was five minutes away from another win over “Soldier of God”.
But you can’t rule the Cuban out at anytime. Romero, after already emptying the tank in the third, found an extra reserve and went after the finish he needed. And he nearly got it. It was another right hand that sent Whittaker sprawling and Romero once again jumped on him, unloading everything in his arsenal. Unfortunately for Romero, Whittaker’s powers of recovery served him well once again and he survived to hear the final bell.
It’s not very often that calls for a third fight between two men where the score currently sits at 2-0 happen, but in this case, there won’t be many within MMA circles, who wouldn’t want to see it again. Whittaker will move on to his next defence $100k richer as well, as he took home both his and Romero’s bonus for Fight of the Night. It’s safe to say he probably earned it.
In the co-main event, Colby Covington defied the odds and continued to upset the masses once again, as he earned a unanimous decision over former UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, to win the UFC Interim welterweight championship.
Covington was given it 49-46 and a pair of 48-47 cards and the brash American then declared after his win that “I’m going to do what real champs should and take the belt to the White House and put it on President Donald Trump’s desk”.
It was a close fight, but it was Covington who forced the pace and was relentless as he pressed forward against Dos Anjos, who still managed to get through with some good shots of his own. However, the volume was coming from Covington, who was ahead after three and living up to his own personal pre-fight billing.
It nearly fell apart in the fourth, as Dos Anjos landed a left hand that stopped Covington briefly in his tracks, but “Chaos” shook it off and outworked Dos Anjos to earn the win. He wasted no time in calling out Tyron Woodley, who responded in equally quick fashion on social media.
Covington may not be a popular fighter, his mouth and act is wearing thin. But he can really fight.
Megan Anderson was thrown in the deep end on her UFC debut and ended up sinking without a trace, as she slumped to a dominant unanimous decision loss to former UFC bantamweight champion Holly Holm. Holm, known for her superb striking stills, demonstrated that her ground game was on point as well, as she was excellent throughout the three rounds.
Anderson, who had been billed as a future opponent to featherweight ruler Cris Cyborg, found out she has a long way to go, as Holm exposed her shortcomings over the 15 minutes. “The Preacher’s Daughter” could well be next in line for a title fight with either Cyborg, who beat her back in December, or Amanda Nunes, who holds Holm’s old title. Anderson needs to learn to swim in the choppy waters before she can think about competing at that level.
Tai Tuivasa entered the United Center to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and he left the United Center, safe in the knowledge that his unbeaten record will also go on, as he earned a win over veteran and MMA legend Andrei Arlovski, winning via unanimous decision over “The Pit Bull”.
The young Aussie did just about enough, but he was tested more by the Arlovski than all his previous fights combined. He is being touted as a future star in the heavyweight division and with the win he passed his first notable test.
CM Punk’s second pro fight ended the same as the first, as he succumbed to defeat, although he went the distance against Mike Jackson. Both men entered the fight 0-1, but Punk, despite fleeting moments of success was completely out of his depth and took a pasting on his way to the unanimous decision defeat in front of his home crowd.
The former WWE superstar’s experiment in the UFC is well and truly over, although it appears that Jackson’s tenure in the MMA leader is also at an end, as he failed to ingratiate himself to the crowd and more importantly Dana White, who didn’t hold back in his opinion of “The Truth” after the event.
On the undercard, Curtis Blaydes proved he could also be a potential force in the heavyweight division, picking up a huge win over Alistair Overeem in front of his home crowd, stopping the Dutch legend in the third round, slicing him open with some nasty elbows which saw the fight stopped with 2-56 gone in the round.
Claudia Gadelha and Carla Esparza have long been targeted to meet each other and when they finally did, it didn’t fail to disappoint with Gadelha edging a tight battle by split decision. A shot at the women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas could be next for the Brazilian.
Mirsad Bektic was also a split decision winner and continued to put his hopes of securing featherweight glory back on track as he got past Ricardo Lamas. Chris De La Rocha picked up an exciting win as he stopped Rashad Coulter in the second round of their heavyweight clash.
On the Fight Pass portion of the card, Rashad Evans did nothing to dispel calls for his immediate retirement as he was starched inside a minute by a sickening knee by Anthony Smith. Sergio Pettis upset the odds, as he got past Joseph Benavidez in the battle of top five flyweights.
Pettis could well see himself in a title fight with the winner of long time champion Demetrious Johnson’s rematch with Henry Cejudo on August 4th at UFC 227 in Los Angeles, which was announced during the broadcast.
Finally, the card was opened up by two quick first round wins, as Charles Oliveira submitted Clay Guida via a guillotine choke, to tie Royce Gracie’s UFC submission record at 10, whilst Dan Ige battered Mike Santiago inside a minute in a meeting between two former Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series featherweight’s.