No interim belt, no problem: Romero KOs Rockhold at UFC 221

Lynette Rowe
February 12, 2018

Romero has received criticism for his cardio - fading in the later rounds against Robert Whittaker a year ago - but he remained powerful and explosive enough to land a brutal knockout blow with 1min 28 seconds left in the round. "The Soldier of God" was therefore ineligible to win the interim belt.

Romero, who lost to Whittaker at UFC 213 in July in an interim middleweight title fight, had the look of a champion on Saturday, even though he didn't feel well before the fight as a result of his weight-cutting issues. Whittaker won and was then elevated to official champion late a year ago after St-Pierre beat Bisping and immediately dropped the belt. The American Top Team product accepted the bout on short notice when reigning champion Robert Whittaker was forced to withdraw from UFC 221.

After beating Michael Bisping to claim UFC gold in the 185lbs division, the Canadian superstar shortly vacated the title with UFC promoting Whittaker to undisputed status, scheduling him against Luke Rockhold. Round one started with Rockhold throwing a leg kick that Yoel Romero checked, which caused a cut on Luke's leg.

"It seems to make intuitive sense - the No.1 and No.2 competing", UFC senior vice president David Shaw said.

The bad news, however, is that it's unclear whether Romero will be healthy enough to get into the Octagon anytime soon.

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UFC 221 takes place at the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Romero is an incredible fighter and his 9-2 record with eight finishes in the UFC is remarkable.

Matthews, 23, produced arguably the best performance of his career to defeat Jingliang, but the bout was marred by an ugly incident when the Chinese fighter blatantly gouged Matthews' right eye to escape a tight triangle choke. We trained very good for this fight. However, with the Cuban missing weight, now.

"The weight situation, I don't think that's going to play into it (when it comes to a title shot)", Shaw said after the event. But this is a sport, and part of the sport is making weight. The problem is no one else stands out as the next contender in line.

But fans hoping to see a match-up against Whittaker in the near future will take comfort from a tweet sent by Romero's rep shortly after the fight.

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