As Nunes falls ill, Whittaker and Romero save the night
Hours before UFC 213 was slated to take place, news broke that bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes fell ill and her title fight against Valentina Shevchenko was off. The interim title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker moved into the headlining spot.
The incident marked the third consecutive summer a change to the main event occurred in what is becoming an increasingly haunted tent pole event.
It wasn’t the banner fight the UFC would’ve picked to anchor International Fight Week, but a pair of international fighters put on a show for the fans who tuned in.
“Both main events were really good, which makes me happy, especially after all the fights that fell off this card,” UFC president Dan White said on the Fox Sports 1 post-fight show.
A kick to the knee injured Whittaker early on in the fight, and Romero won the first two-rounds. Then Whittaker came alive, putting Romero on the ropes and winning the final three to wrest away the interim middleweight title.
“This is unbelievable. It’s a moment I’ve always dreamed of,” Whittaker said after the fight. “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.”
Whittaker’s takedown defense forced an exhausted Romero to stay on his feet, and allowed Whittaker to back him down and pick him apart.
“I knew he tried to control the pace with his wrestling,” Whittaker said. “I was surprised on the pace of the wrestling early, but it tired him out more than me.”
Now he earns a shot at middleweight champion Michael Bisping, who was present on stage.
“We were supposed to fight once,” Whittaker said on the post-fight show. “We had a game plan then and it’s tucked away. We’ll bring it back out when it’s time. It’s Australia vs. England, which is always massive.”
Bisping wasn’t slated to fight, in fact his injury is what allowed the UFC to create an interim middleweight title in the first place, but his presence was looming over the main event.
Romero stood facing Bisping from the cage during the fight, as the 38-year-old Englishman continued to play mental games. One of the key moments was Bisping ripping a Cuban flag in half and throwing it at him in the cage, a moment that clearly upset Romero.
During the post-fight interview with Robert Whittaker, Bisping took hold of the microphone as they stood face-to-face to promote the future title unification bout, and cut a promo worthy of the best WWE heels.
“First of all Robert, that was an awesome fight. Romero, well done. I wanted to come here and talk a lot of sh-t but it was an awesome fight,” Bisping started.
“But the fact that you’re standing there with that f—king belt on like you’re a champion makes me sick. You should be ashamed or yourself. Here take that,” Bisping added as he threw his own belt to the ground. “Fight me for it. I’ll see you soon mother—ker.”
Given the fact that this wasn’t the Georges St-Pierre battle that Bisping wanted, he knows he needs to do the heavy lifting to promote this event, and Whittaker, as talented as he is, doesn’t trash talk his opponents.
“I’m ready to fight Bisping next,” Whittaker said during his post-fight interview. “I believe it was destiny for us to meet and I am looking forward to it!”
Stars of the Night
1.Robert Whittaker – After injuring his knee and losing the first two rounds, Whittaker won the last three to win the interim belt in a dazzling performance.
2.Anthony Pettis – Came into the fight needing a win after a rough stretch following losing the title and got one against a tough Jim Miller. Pettis wasn’t 100 percent his old self, but we saw flashes of the Showtime Pettis we used to knew.
3.Trevin Giles – Made his UFC debut in impressive fashion, a second round KO, to remain undefeated.
Gate – $2.4 million
Attendance – 12,834
Fight of the Night – Romero vs. Whittaker
Performances of the Night – Chad Laprise, Rob Font
1. There is more work to do on weight cutting, adding divisions is an easy fix
The UFC has made a lot of progress trying to help, or force, fighters to cut weight safely. IVs were banned to prevent extreme weight-cutting due to the fact that they were the quick fix, so they instituted an early morning weigh-in to give fighters more time to rehydrate properly.
It hasn’t necessarily prevented more fighters from missing weight though, as this weekend, two fighters were forced off cards as a result of weight-cutting issues.
One of the easiest ways to do that is by offering more weight classes. A flyweight division is sorely needed for women, who are forced to either cut down to 115 pounds or fight at 135 pounds, 10 pounds heavier from where they should be fighting.
In the men’s division the discrepancy between divisions is 15-20 pounds in some areas. There is a 15 pound gap between lightweight (155), welterweight (170) and middleweight (185). After middleweight comes light heavyweight at 205 pounds, a 20 pound jump.
The talent pool at welterweight and lightweight is deepest, and a 165-pound division and moving welterweight to 175 pounds could be a significant improvement.
2. Don’t put it in the judges’ hands
A familiar adage in mixed martial arts, but it rings true all the time. Last night, Alistair Overeem got the win over Fabricio Werdum in a majority decision but it was evident the crowd disagreed with the weigh boos rained down. It was clear Overeem and Werdum split that final two rounds, but a boring first-round could’ve gone either way. All three judges gave it to Overeem, giving him the win.
In fights where it isn’t clear who won each round, corners need to implore their fighters to go for the win. Sure it’s risky, but the win isn’t guaranteed if you’re counting on a tight round.
With Overeem on the ropes, Werdum took him to the mat looking to ride out the round safely believing he had won two of three rounds. Instead he missed an opportunity to decisively win the fight.
“I bet Werdum is kicking himself for taking him down at the end of the fight. He had him out on the feet,” White said on the UFC 213 post-fight show on Fox Sports 1.
3. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a smart self-promoter
With news flooding the internet that champion Amanda Nunes was out of her fight against Valentina Shevchenko, strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk took to social media to offer her services to step in on hours notice. UFC president Dana White said Jedrzejczyk was hounding her about making the fight happen.
First, it was unrealistic from it ever happening for a myriad of reasons. She hadn’t weighed in, for starters, but secondly, it was an incredibly savvy move from the champion. Jedrzeczyk needed to hound White to make her offer legitimate, in doing so she earned the praise and respect of White, who is known to love fighters with the any-time, anywhere mindset. It’s one of the things he loves about Conor McGregor, and one of the reasons he allows the Irishman to dictate what he wants to do more so than other fighters.
Consequently, her public offer brought fans into the mix, and thanks to a couple of tweets and a brief video of some light sparring, Jedrzeczyk boosted her popularity.
She came backstage to address a swarm of reporters about the days events on a night she didn’t have much else to talk about without a fight booked.
It was a win-win situation, and she played it perfectly.
4. The UFC promo department has stepped their game up.
During the event, the UFC released a promotional video for Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier’s highly anticipated rematch at UFC 214. It was an honest portrayal of Jones' struggles in recent years and his relationship with Cormier. Along with the promotional trailer for Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm’s fight at UFC 193, it was one of the best the company had produced.
Fabricio Werdum drops Alistair Overeem in the third, couldn’t get the finish though.
Alexey Oleinik chokes out Travis Browne
Chad Laprise with a big finish of Brian Camozzi
Thiago Santos stops Gerald Meerschaert
Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
Alistair Overeem def. Fabricio Werdum via majority decision (28-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Curtis Blaydes def. Daniel Omielanczuk via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Anthony Pettis def. Jim Miller via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Rob Font def. Douglas Silva de Andrade via sub (guillotine) (R2, 4:36)
Fox Sports Prelims
Oleksiy Oliynyk def. Travis Browne via submission (RNC) (R2, 3:44)
Chad Laprise def. Brian Camozzi via third-round TKO (1:27)
Thiago Santos def. Gerald Meerschaert via second-round TKO (2:04)
Belal Muhammad def. Jordan Mein via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Fight Pass Prelims
Cody Stamann def. Terrion Ware via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Trevin Giles def. James Bochnovic via second-round TKO (2:54)
The next event for the UFC is a Fight Night event in Scotland. The week after the UFC returns to the United States for a Fox card.
But all eyes immediately turn towards UFC 214 at the end of July. It’s a card that is stacked for any year, and arguably the best of 2017 so far; a light heavyweight title fight between champion Daniel Cormier and disgraced former champion Jon Jones, who was stripped of the title.
The card also features a welterweight title fight between champion Tyron Woodley and challenger Demian Maia. Cris Cyborg gets a shot at the UFC featherweight title against Tonya Evinger, after Germaine de Randamie vacated the belt