Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker will battle it out on Saturday night with the winner walking away as the new interim middleweight champion, but there’s still no guarantee that the next fight will come against 185-pound king Michael Bisping.
Bisping has long been attached to a fight with former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and despite UFC president Dana White saying that matchup is no longer on the table, both competitors are still pushing for it to happen as early as November.
Former title contender and current UFC analyst Kenny Florian sees both sides of the argument, especially at a time when St-Pierre’s return will undoubtedly be one of the biggest events of 2017.
That being said, Florian feels that the hype surrounding Romero versus Whittaker this weekend could then parlay into a very big fight with Bisping later this year and that ultimately should be the fight to happen.
“We had a big crowd for “UFC Tonight” and I did a little polling and what fans wanted to see. I actually got more of a response for the Whittaker vs. Romero [winner],” Florian explained. “It seemed like more fans were excited about that. I think that is maybe the more intriguing fight in a lot of ways.
“There’s no doubt more eyes will come in if Michael Bisping fights Georges St-Pierre but for me, what’s more intriguing for me, what makes more sense, it’s Michael Bisping fighting the winner of Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker.”
Romero and Whittaker have combined to win their last 15 fights in a row with 10 total finishes by knockout or TKO during that stretch. In one of the deepest divisions in the sport, Romero and Whittaker have solidified themselves as the top two contenders and one of them will be holding a title by the end of Saturday.
“No one has been able to figure out a way to beat Romero in the UFC,” Florian said. “With his amazing wrestling skills and the fact that this guy has been able to develop into a very potent striker with knockout power. He’s coming off a knockout win over the former champion Chris Weidman in impressive fashion. It’s got a lot of people thinking, how the hell do you beat Yoel Romero? It makes people think he’s a very difficult matchup for the current champion, Michael Bisping.
“Then you have Robert Whittaker, a guy who has looked phenomenal, he’s on a crazy win streak right now. No one wanted to fight [Ronaldo] “Jacare” Souza and Whittaker went out there and took him out, knocked him out in impression fashion as well. This definitely has a lot of people talking and it feels like a real title fight.”
In the main event, Amanda Nunes will face off with Valentina Shevchenko in a rematch from their first fight in early 2016. On that night, Nunes earned a unanimous decision win but not before Shevchenko put a lot of damage on her during the third round.
Since then, Nunes has run roughshod over Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey with back-to-back first round finishes to become champion and then defend the belt this past December.
With a win over Shevchenko at UFC 213, Nunes will have already faced and beaten two legitimate Hall of Fame candidates and without argue the top contender in the women’s bantamweight division.
A Nunes victory could also finally solidify the changing of the guard as the UFC looks to move past the Rousey era as all signs are pointing towards the face that she will never return to the Octagon again.
“I think that the sport has evolved and the women’s divisions were something new to the UFC. In a relatively short amount of time, we’ve seen the women’s fighters become more and more dangerous, more experienced and more well rounded,” Florian said. “I think we’re seeing in that in the evolution of the current champ Amanda Nunes.
“I think she’s a different champion than Ronda Rousey was. Perhaps she doesn’t that ‘X’ factor like Rousey did but she’s developing it. I think her dominance as a champion, I think it’s hard not to.”