Robert Whittaker’s five-round epic with Yoel Romero saves UFC 213 from catastrophe – Yahoo Sports
LAS VEGAS – Shortly after the co-main event, when Alistair Overeem was announced as the winner over Fabricio Werdum in a heavyweight match that Werdum seemed to have won, T-Mobile Arena was filled with angry boos.
The crowd, many of whom bought tickets which had “Cody Garbrandt versus T.J. Dillashaw for the bantamweight title,” on the front, didn’t get what they came to see.
UFC put together a sensational, potentially incredible, card for UFC 213. Systematically, as happens in combat sports, it fell apart. Garbrandt was out with a back injury, and the fight with Dillashaw was scrapped. Donald Cerrone was out with a variety of ailments, and his bout with ex-welterweight champion Robbie Lawler was moved pushed three weeks later.
And on Saturday morning, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes was sick and didn’t feel she could fight. Her title bout with No. 1 contender Valentina Shevchenko was scrapped. Women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk offered to fill in, but the Nevada Athletic Commission said no, primarily because Jedrzejczyk hadn’t taken a pregnancy test and they take three days to complete.
The biggest cheer of the night came in between the main and co-main events, when the UFC played a promo in the arena that featured former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and chronicled all of his troubles. It was a chilling three minutes, a remarkable cut that might have been the best the company has ever done.
But then the interim middleweight title fight between took some of the edge off their anger. Robert Whittaker, overcoming an early knee injury, won a five-round decision, capping an improbable journey to the top of the sport.
All three judges scored it 48-47 for Whittaker. Yahoo Sports had it 48-47 for Whittaker, giving him the final three rounds.
Whittaker injured his knee in the first after a kick and fell behind early as Romero, a 2000 silver medalist for Cuba in the Sydney Olympics, took him down several times and worked him over from the top.
Whittaker, though, used a combination of solid kicks, particularly a front kick that kept backing Romero up, and strikes that seemed to land more consistently as the fight moved on.
It was a back-and-forth bout in which each man had his moments, but Whittaker gutted it out and did what he had to do to win.
“Fabulous,” Whittaker said not long after UFC president Dana White wrapped the belt around his waist.
He didn’t have long to celebrate before the injured champion, Michael Bisping, entered the cage and turned full heel once again.
Looking at Whittaker’s belt, Bisping sneered and said, “That makes me sick. You should be ashamed of yourself.” He then slammed his own belt to the canvas, encouraged Whittaker to try to take it and then stormed out of the cage.
Whittaker was more bemused than angry. For a guy who after winning “TUF: Smashes” in 2012 went on a two-fight losing streak that made him re-evaluate everything about his game, it was a stunning and inspirational reversal.
And so when Bisping pulled his stunt, Whittaker didn’t get upset. He’d done too much and come a long way in too short of a time.
“He’s the champion for a reason,” Whittaker said. “He’s been in the sport for a hell of a long time.”
Whittaker proved in besting Romero that he can deal with any style. He routed Jacare Souza his last time out, overcoming Souza’s dominant jiu jitsu. He handled an Olympic medal-winning wrestler on Saturday, and though he was taken down a few times, he basically neutralized Romero’s greatest skill.
He’s beaten strikers like Uriah Hall and soon will get a chance at Bisping.
His win Saturday was the culmination of a lifetime of work.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s a moment I’ve always dreamed of. My knee was definitely hurt. I injured it in camp and Romero’s kick set it back weeks. I know that Romero will capitalize on any weakness he sees, so I had to play it off. That’s just what champions are made of. I’m ready to fight Bisping next. I believe it was destiny for us to meet and I am looking forward to it.”