The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Las Vegas for “International Fight Week” capped off by UFC 213 headlined by Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko for the women’s bantamweight championship on Saturday night.
The UFC usually brings their big guns for their early July fight card, but this year their marquee fighters such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Georges St. Pierre, and Jon Jones were unable to fight on this card for a variety of reasons.
Nonetheless, the UFC has managed to produce a strong card with two titles on the line. Along with the aforementioned women’s bantamweight title fight, the interim middleweight championship will also be on the line as the fierce Yoel Romero takes on rising star Robert Whittaker.
As the Michael Bisping vs. GSP situation remains confusing as ever, (will they ever fight?) the UFC had to move forward with an interim title fight with two clear cut contenders in Romero and Whittaker. Romero has been tearing through the middleweight division since 2013, and Whittaker separated himself from the rest of the middleweight pack when he finished Ronaldo “Jacre” Souza in April.
The most interesting aspect of this fight is the age difference. Romero is 40 years old with Whittaker being only 26. The problem is, Romero does not show his age in the slightest. He is an absolute freak of nature, as he showed spectators at his open workout earlier this week.
If you want to show your child an MMA fight, DO NOT show them Romero’s fight against former champion Chris Weidman at UFC 205. Weidman seemed to be holding his own until Romero came in with a flying knee that opened a huge cut on Weidman’s forehead with plenty of blood to follow. The man is unpredictable and incredibly dangerous.
When Romero defeated Jacre by a narrow split decision in 2015, many assumed they would meet again. Even after Bisping came out of nowhere to defeat then champion Luke Rockhold, Souza and Romero looked to be the clear contenders who were up next.
Meanwhile, Whittaker was silently doing damage of his own in the division, defeating the likes of Uriah Hall, Rafael Natal, and Derek Brunson. When he got the chance to fight Souza, he came in as the underdog and shocked many when he rocked Jacre with a headkick and finished him with punches when he hit the ground. A new contender had revealed himself to the world.
As young as Whittaker is, some may consider him a veteran of the sport. He has fought as a professional since 2009 and been with the organization since 2012. His current seven fight win streak is really what put him on the map.
When it comes to styles, Whittaker has a slight advantage standing up because of his boxing skills. He knows to fight with range and should be able to do so against the stalky Romero. The problem is that Romero likely knows this, and will try to combat it using his greatest advantage: his superhuman strength.
Romero’s skillset is almost unexplainable. He is impossible to take down, he punches and kicks like a truck, but at the same time he can lull you to sleep just to pounce on you in the blink of an eye like he did against Weidman. His unpredictability makes him a handful to fight against.
But with Whittaker some things just feel like destiny. He is a young stud who finishes his fights and has the whole continent of Australia behind him. The UFC needs some young stars right now, and if Whittaker could push his way towards the middleweight title, he could become one sooner rather than later.
I see this fight going much like the way Whittaker’s last two fights have gone, rocking his opponent on the feet with his boxing and punishing him with ground and pound until the referee stops the fight. But I could be dead wrong because Romero defies the laws of nature.
Prediction: Whittaker by second round TKO.