Yoel Romero won’t leave Australia with the interim UFC middleweight title, but he does exit with a thunderous knockout to finish former champion Luke Rockhold in the UFC 221 main event.
It was a tumultuous 24 hours for Romero, who failed to make weight just a day ago, which cost him the opportunity to win the title should he defeat Rockhold on Saturday night. It also cost him 30-percent of his fight purse.
Romero didn’t allow that to distract him, however, as he put together another outstanding performance to absolutely demolish Rockhold in the third round with a pair of left hands to earn the victory.
It was a very tactical opening round from Rockhold, as he looked to kick at Romero’s legs while attempting to establish his straight punches with a long reach advantage in the fight.
Romero sat back and didn’t do much through the first few minutes, although he did check a couple of those leg kicks that opened a small gash on Rockhold’s shin.
In the latter half of the round, Romero started to explode forward, landing a big overhand left followed by several stinging leg kicks of his own.
Romero came out like a man possessed in the second round as he immediately came after Rockhold, throwing a devastating series of punches that backed the former champion up against the cage.
— UFC (@ufc) February 11, 2018
Romero continued to blast away at Rockhold to the head and body as he looked for the knockout. Rockhold did a good job surviving the barrage but it was clear he didn’t like getting trapped while eating those punishing shots.
Rockhold maintained his distance for the majority of the round after that opening barrage but any time Romero pressed forward, he forced his opponent to retreat in a hurry.
There might not be anyone better in the sport than Romero when it comes to baiting an opponent into an exchange before exploding forward with a series of nuclear bombs and that’s exactly what he did at UFC 221.
As soon as Romero saw an opening in Rockhold’s defense, he leapt forward with a monstrous left hand that floored the former champion against the cage. Romero quickly followed up with another left uppercut that detonated on Rockhold’s chin as he was laid out flat on the canvas — and with that, the former Olympic silver medalist earned his sixth third-round finish in the UFC.
The end came at 1:48 into the third round.
— UFC (@ufc) February 11, 2018
Following the fight, Romero apologized for not making weight while also paying tribute to Rockhold for giving him a tough fight on Saturday night.
While Romero missing weight certainly created a mess going into UFC 221, the Cuban born middleweight still managed to earn a devastating knockout to finish Rockhold and put himself back into position for another shot at UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
Romero fell to Whittaker last year in a back-and-forth battle in another interim title fight and he’s obviously anxious to avenge that defeat. Following the end of the contest, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Romero would still get the next shot at the title despite not making weight for UFC 221.