Romero books rematch with Australian champ
ROBERT Whittaker will once again have to climb a Cuban mountain after Yoel Romero demolished Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC 221 to set up a rematch with the world middleweight champion.
After two cerebral, evenly contested rounds, Romero exploded to life in the third, dropping Romero with an overhand left and following up with a fight-ending punch that all but removed Rockhold's head from his shoulders.
Whittaker was able to stuff Romero's takedowns and outpoint him on the feet in their first meeting despite sustaining a serious knee injury and will be favored in the rematch.
But this win shows that Romero can never be counted out so long as he remains standing.
There are few fighters more athletic, powerful and dynamic.
Once again, he finished the fight in the third round, the seventh time he's ended things in the third frame, a tendency "the Soldier of God" puts down to the influence of the Holy Trinity.
Both fighters were transported to hospital immediately after the event - Romero suffered a shin injury so severe he had to be assisted out of the cage by his team.
In his post-fight speech Romero paid tribute to Whittaker, who was originally scheduled to face Rockhold but withdrew due to illness.
The win sets up a bumper rematch between the two, who won his title by downing Romero via unanimous decision last year.
It was the finest performance of Whittaker's career and now he'll have to do it all over again.
Romero turns 41 in April but shows no signs of slowing down and still has the ability to end any fight in a heartbeat with his brutal, fight-ending power.
After missing weight, Romero was ineligible to take home the interim middleweight belt, but it seems unlikely he'll care.
A bout Whittaker was the real prize, and courtesy of another highlight finish, Romero will be granted that chance.
The fight began in somewhat tentative fashion, with both fighters taking their time to ease into the contest.
Romero took the second with a number of clubbing flurries that wobbled Rockhold, but the American was right in the fight until Romero detonated his thunderous left.