UFC 213: Whittaker outduels Romero to become interim Middleweight Champion

by Jason Howard Kelly

Rob Font vs. Douglas Silva De Andrade

Tonight’s main card slate kicked off with a match-up in the bantamweight division between Rob Font and Douglas Silva De Andrade. Silva De Andrade is a well established veteran who comes in with a very impressive 24-1 record. He has a lot of power in his hands and would likely be looking for a knockout in this fight. Rob Font is one of the more exciting bantamweights steadily moving his way up through the rankings. He has a pension for finishing his opponents early and can do it by both knockout and submissions.

Rob Font showed good movement and fluidity in the first round, using feints and leg kicks to keep Silva De Andrade off balance. Silva De Andrade did manage to break Font’s guard a few times and slip in some hard left hands. Font had the busier round, but Silva De Andrade was still able to deal some damage.

Font continued his technical striking display in the second round, mixing up his offense and attacking the head and body of Silva De Andrade. Towards the end of the round Font tagged Silva De Andrade with a big right hook to the temple and then took him down against the fence. Font couldn’t mount much offense right up against the fence, but Silva De Andrade gave him an opening by trying to get back to his feet and giving up his neck. Font locked in a front choke, and although Silva De Andrade managed to pick him up and slam him from this position Font held on and sunk in the guillotine choke. Silva De Andrade quickly tapped to give Font the submission victory. Another impressive performance from the ever-improving Rob Font.

Winner: Rob Font by submission (guillotine choke)

 

Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller

This match-up holds a lot of intrigue for a loaded lightweight division. Jim Miller is a well-respected, long-time veteran of the UFC who has a fighting style that can make a lot of fighters miserable. Anthony Pettis is a former superstar looking to get back on the right track after an unsuccessful trial run at featherweight. Pettis is back at 155 pounds where he feels like he will find success once again.

Pettis used the first round to diversify his offense and started throwing some unique combos at Jim Miller. Miller, ever the poised veteran, hung in there and struck back at Pettis with some strong leg and body kicks of his own. Pettis managed to tag Miller several times with quick right hands, and even a strong spinning back fist at one point which opened up Jim Miller.

Miller started round two aggressively, landing a kick to the body of Pettis right off the bad. Pettis attempted a kick of his own but Miller caught in and took Pettis to the ground. Pettis nicely transitioned Miller right into his triangle guard and looked for an armbar from there. This round was really all about Pettis’ grappling ability, which is a really underrated part of his game. He landed a beautiful leg sweep takedown later in the round and maintained control of Miller until the bell.

Miller attempted to close in on Pettis in round three, throwing some decent leg kicks and even attempting to shoot on Pettis and take him down. Pettis showed off some good footwork and kept the fight to the outside, exactly where he wanted it. Pettis continued to chip away at Miller with sharp leg kicks and diverse offense. Pettis ended the round with a flashy jump kick to the head that was mostly blocked by Miller, but it showed how much Pettis had left in his arsenal.

This was an enormous victory for Anthony Pettis because he looked like vintage Anthony Pettis. No conditioning problems, no stupid mistakes, just classic, “Showtime” Pettis. Pettis credited moving back to his natural weight class at 155 pounds and how much healthier he felt because of it. If this fight was a sign of things to come then the lightweight division had better watch out for Anthony Pettis.

“Showtime” is back.

Winner: Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision

 

Curtis Blaydes vs. Daniel Omielanczuk

This fight if a fun match-up of power vs. wrestling. Omielanczuk leans more towards wrestling and controlling his opponents on the ground, but he can swing with the best of them. Curtis Blaydes is a young, powerful heavyweight prospect in the UFC who can knock your head into Death Valley with one swing, but compliments that with a competent wrestling game.

Round one got off to an odd start. Blaydes pressured Omielanczuk against the cage and started to throw knees to the inside leg. Omielanczuk motioned to referee Marc Goddard that he was hit below the belt, but Goddard said it hit the inner thigh and to fight on. Blaydes then hit Omielanczuk with another knee that did hit below the belt, and Marc Goddard separated the two and put them back in the center of the octagon. Blaydes struggled to get any real offense going, despite the fact that he was pushing forward throughout the whole round.

Round two consisted of more of the same from Blaydes. Constant pressure and several attempted takedowns, along with yet another knee below the belt of Omielanczuk, which prompted a stiff warning from the referee. Omielanczuk defended the takedowns perfectly, and managed to counter with a few body shots of his own. Blaydes became so desperate for takedowns that he was reaching for Omielanczuk from a long distance out, which made his attempts far too easy to defend.

Omielanczuk came out swinging in round three, tagging Blaydes with a decent right hand, but he was unable to follow up on it. Blaydes then resumed his game plan of shooting for a takedown and pressuring Omielanczuk against the fence. Despite all the stuffed takedown attempts Blaydes loomed remarkably fresh in the third round. Both fighters eventually separated and finally started to engage in a stand-up battle. Omielanczuk looked absolutely gassed and really had nothing behind his punches. He even attempted a takedown that had almost no energy behind it, which resulted in Blaydes gaining top position and hammering Omielanczuk with elbows to the rib cage.

The persistent pace that Blaydes was able to maintain carried him in this fight, but he still ended the fight with an underwhelming 0-14 takedown record. That being said, Omielanczuk did next to nothing except defend the takedowns in this fight, which led to a lopsided 30-27 victory for Blaydes.

Winner: Curtis Blaydes by unanimous decision.

 

Fabricio Werdum vs. Alastair Overeem

This fight featured two of the greatest heavyweights in UFC history squaring off yet again. Alastair Overeem, a superior striker, against Fabricio Werdum, one of the best grapplers in the business.

Round one got off to a fun start with Werdum attempting a flying knee right out of the shoot, but Overeem smartly side-stepped him. From there on it was a lot of feeling out between the two fighters. Overeem came out flat-footed with his hands down by his hips, waiting for Werdum to move in so he could counter him with strikes. Overeem did manage to do just that, catching Werdum with a few solid shots on the counter attack. However, Werdum was producing more volume throughout the round because Overeem was just waiting the whole time.

Round two started much the same way with Overeem waiting on Werdum to move in so that he could counter. Overeem stung him with a sharp body kick which Werdum attempted to catch, but Overeem overpowered him and forced Werdum to drop down into his guard. Overeem stayed on the ground with Werdum for a few seconds, but eventually got back to his feet where he’s more comfortable. Werdum attempted to land a flurry of shots on Overeem but nothing landed, and he paid for it by eating a crushing knee to the body from Overeem. He then landed a strong left hook to the forehead of Werdum towards the end of the round.

Werdum turned the tide in a big way in round three. He started moving and striking quicker to avoid getting caught in one of Overeem’s counter attacks. Werdum eventually hit Overeem with a big knee to the jaw and had Overeem wobbled. Werdum landed a couple more heavy shots against the fence and then took Overeem down with a double-leg takedown. Werdum landed a few more shots in Overeem’s guard, but ultimately could not do a whole lot more damage as the round ended.

That last flurry by Werdum made this an incredibly hard fight to score. Overeem had a great second round, but was nearly knocked out in round three. This fight really came down to how the judges scored round one, which looked damn near close to even. Ultimately, Overeem was given the victory by majority decision, but it should be noted that one judge scored the fight as a draw (28-28), which might have been the right call in the end.

Winner: Alastair Overeem by majority decision

 

Main Event: Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero – Interim Middleweight Championship

Many fight fans were disappointed to hear that the schedule main event between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko for the Women’s Bantamweight Championship was cancelled due to a late, but sudden illness befalling Nunes. However, Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero is a match-up that is absolutely worthy of being the main event for this pay-per view. Two of the most exciting and dangerous middleweights finally getting a chance to go head-to-head for the interim Middleweight Championship.

Whittaker did a nice job controlling the pace in round one, darting in towards Romero with crisp jabs and avoiding any significant counter attacks. Romero did shoot on Whittaker twice, taking him to the mat both times, but Whittaker quickly bounced back up and did not allow Romero to hold him there. Whittaker went back to his corner at the end of the round and told his coaches that his left leg was hurt.

The leg injury appeared to significantly hamper Robert Whittaker, as Romero was able to bully him around much more in the second round. Romero managed to take Whittker’s back and push him up against the fence for the majority of the round. While Romero failed to do any real damage he definitely had an advantage on the scorecards because of the control he had throughout the round.

Whittaker bounced back in a big way in round three, tagging Romero multiple times with good combinations, despite the fact that he was still clearly bothered by his left knee. Romero had a completely uneventful round, as he didn’t even manage to land a punch for the entire five minutes. Romero essentially took the entire round off, perhaps to conserve energy, but he looked tired when the horn sounded at the end of the round.

Yoel Romero attempted once again to take Whittaker down to start the fourth round, but Whittaker defended well. Romero held him against the fence for a bit, but yet again could not mount any significant offense. Whittaker then used the rest of the round to pepper Romero with rights and lefts while Romero attempted more sloppy takedowns. Romero was clearly running out of gas and it was showing with the lack of conviction in his takedown attempts.

The fifth round looked like a drunk pillow fight. Both men were utterly exhausted and had to dig incredibly deep for every shot they were throwing. Whittaker did a nice job pushing through and landing more volume to start the round. He secured the round after a 50-50 exchange left Romero on his back. Whittaker pounced right on him and managed to land some hard elbows from the top position.

Whittaker may have lost the first two rounds, but he bounced back impressively in the championship rounds to outduel Yoel Romero. This win is made even more impressive by the fact that he did it with an injured knee the whole time.

Robert Whittaker will now face Michael Bisping in a Middleweight Championship Unification bout, and that will be one hell of a fight to watch.

Winner: Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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