Yoel Romero went from zero to hero, turning doubters into believers with a stunning third round knockout of Luke Rockhold in the middleweight main-event at UFC 221.
– review of UFC 221 at the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia
With the early withdrawal of local hero Robert Whittaker from the main event due to injury, No.1 contender Romero took the fight on short notice, but came in overweight for the 185-pound matchup meaning only his opponent – the No.2 ranked Rockhold – was eligible to win the interim middleweight title.
But after a Fight week full of trash talk, it was Romero who stood tall. A brutal overcut dropped the 33-year old in the third round, before a devastating uppercut spelled lights-out for the favored Rockhold.
Romero showed humility to the 12,437 fans packed inside the Perth Arena following the fight.
“I feel so sorry about the weight, that was the first time in my career so I just want to say thank you for everyone for coming tonight” he said.
But after the emphatic finish Australian fight fans had just witnessed – all was seemingly forgiven.
In the co-main event, rising No. 9 ranked heavyweight Curtis “Razor” Blaydes grinded out a hard-fought win against Mark Hunt.
Hunt started the strongest knocking down Blaydes in the first round with some heavy strikes. But it was Blaydes who would prevail, delivering a wrestling masterclass that saw Hunt taken down 10 times throughout the fight.
It was a dominant performance from Blaydes who since losing on debut to Francis Ngannou has now moved to a 3-0 win streak.
Despite the loss Hunt received great applause from the crowd, but with just two fights left on the heavyweights UFC contract, the loss rules out any real hope of another title shot in the organization.
The main card opened with Sydney-sider Tyson Pedro recording a spectacular first round Kimura submission against unranked Russian fighter Sapabek Safarov.
While the finish was show manlike, Pedro’s post-fight comments were even more so.
“I’m a simple man. I’m going to go home, make love to my wife, go real fast on my motor bike, drink a generous amount of beer, get that title, get a million followers, and get on the Joe Rogan podcast” he said.
Fight of the Night honors went to Australian welterweight Jake Matthews and Chinese fighter Li Jingliang who put it all on the line going three rounds.
Controversy ensued in the second round after Jingliang who was on a four-fight win streak eye gouged Matthews, opening a cut over the corner of his eye to escape a guillotine submission.
Despite no punishment Matthews battled on landing several big shots to get the win on the judges’ score cards.
Tai Tuivasa continued his highflying start to his UFC career with a first round flogging of Frenchman Cyril Asker.
The self-proclaimed ‘Bam Bam’ made it look all too easy with a barrage of hooks, body shots and pressure eventually forcing the referee to stop the fight after just 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
Earlier in the day the prelims served up plenty of excitement. Brazilian flyweight world No. 4 ranked Jussier Formiga earned Performance of the Night with a third-round rear-naked choke that saw Brisbane-based world No. 8 ranked Ben Nguyen’s lights go out.
Highly exciting middleweight contender Israel Adesanya lived up to the pre-fight hype with a Performance of the Night display on debut, stopping Australian Rob Wilkinson in the second round.
Adesanya was kept relatively quiet in the first round being pressed against the cage, however Adesanya displayed his complete stand up skill set in the second-round picking Wilkinson off at will before the referee finally stopped the fight.
Australian Alexander Volkanovski proved to be a human wrecking machine after he brutally ended previously undefeated Canadian contender Jeremy Kennedy via TKO in the second-round.
Volkanovski was far too strong, taking down Kennedy with ease and was dominant with his ground and pound before the referee put a stop to the fight at 4 minutes 55 seconds in the 2nd round.
UFC 221 MAIN CARD
Yoel Romero def. Luke Rockhold – via 3rd round KO
Curtis Blaydes def. Mark Hunt – via unanimous decision
Tai Tuivasa def. Cyril Asker – via 1st round KO
Jake Matthews def. Li Jingliang – via unanimous decision
Tyson Pedro def. Saparbek Safarov – via 1st round submission
Dong Hyun Kim def. Damien Brown – via split decision
Israel Adesanya def. Rob Wilkinson – via 2nd round TKO
Alex Volkanovski def. Jeremy Kennedy – via 2nd round TKO
Jussier Formiga def. Ben Nguyen – via 3rd round submission
Ross Pearson def. Mizuto Hirota – via unanimous decision
Jose Quinonez def. Teruto Ishihara – via unanimous decision
Luke Jumeau def. Daichi Abe – via unanimous decision