UFC 213: Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker – Whose Title Run Will Come to a Halt?
Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker have done nothing but win in recent years, but barring an unlikely draw, that’s going to change for one of the middleweights, July 8th.
Romero and Whittaker are going to throw down in the co-headliner of UFC 213, which will be hosted by the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The bout will determine who is the promotion’s interim 185 champ, since the reigning champ Michael Bisping is sidelined with a knee injury. The latter hasn’t competed now since last October, when he earned a tightly contested decision over the legendary Dan Henderson.
If you asked someone at the beginning of 2016 if Whittaker was going to be fighting for a title in 2017, the odds are, you would have been told it wasn’t “likely”. Although the Australian fighter began the year having won four in a row, at the time, Luke Rockhold was the reigning champ, and there was no shortage of big name fighters ahead of Whittaker. After all, this is a division that includes the likes of Bisping, Romero, Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva, “Jacare” Souza and Vitor Belfort.
But, after earning a decision win over Rafael Natal in April, 2016, Whittaker was booked to fight Derek Brunson, who was also making waves at 185. Whittaker proceeded to take the powerful wrestler out in the opening round. Then, this past April, Whittaker was tapped to fight Souza, who at the time, had gone 9-1 in his last 10 fights and was widely considered to be the #1 or #2 contender. Whittaker shocked many throughout the MMA world by not only defeating the vaunted grappler, but by stopping him the second round.
As a result of the emphatic victory, the 26 year-old was booked to fight Romero on July 8th.
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Romero arrived in the UFC from Strikeforce in 2013 with some buzz, as a result of his decorated wrestling career, but the addition was somewhat overlooked. The reason being that the Cuban wrestler was coming off a knockout loss to Rafael Cavalcante, and the arrival of other Strikeforce stars overshadowed the addition.
It didn’t take Romero long, however, to start turning heads in the UFC. The powerful fighter proceeded to finish Clifford Starks, Ronny Markes and Derek Brunson. After earning a decision win over Brad Tavares, the 40 year-old earned a controversial stoppage win over Tim Kennedy, before knocking out Lyoto Machida. While Romero barely got by the aforementioned Souza with a split decision, his flying knee, stoppage win over Chris Weidman in December, left no doubts he should fight for a title next.
Keys to the Fight
Although both men are noted finishers, few would likely argue that Romero isn’t the more explosive and powerful of the two. But, against the likes of Souza and Kennedy, Romero ran into trouble in the later rounds.
As a result, Whittaker will need to keep his distance, use his footwork and keep Romero at bay with his punches. If Romero does go for takedowns, Whittaker will need to squash the attempts, or make the wrestler work grind hard to secure them.
If Whittaker can do the above, and take Romero into the fourth and fifth rounds, his chances of winning will dramatically increase. Barring, of course, he catches Romero in an exchange early on.
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