Saturday night, the UFC made its first foray into Western Australia for UFC 221: Romero vs. Rockhold, headlined by an elite middleweight scrap between Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero and former champ Luke Rockhold.
It remains unclear what the UFC has planned for the middleweight division after champion Whittaker was forced off the card with illness and Romero missed weight.
Romero won Sunday's bout in the third round with a powerful but he was ruled ineligible for the interim middleweight belt after failing to make weight on Saturday.
In front of fans in Perth, Australia, Romero (13-2) was patient, looking for his opening. and it came in the third round when he dropped Rockhold with a big left hand. Looking to avoid more damage Rockhold circled away as Romero chased him down against the fence. "The Reaper" was elevated to undisputed champion when Georges St. Pierre recently vacated the title after defeating Michael Bisping at UFC 217. Stunned, Rockhold looked to clinch up but Romero simply began obliterating his midsection with hooks. He connected with a double jab and then fired an overhand left that dropped Rockhold onto the seat of his trousers near the cage. It was a bout for the UFC Interim Middleweight Championship, or at least it was for Rockhold.
A bout Whittaker was the real prize, and courtesy of another highlight finish, Romero will be granted that chance.
Three main-card fighters: Curtis Blaydes, Tyson Pedro and Tai Tuivasa spoke to media following their performance inside the Octagon.
Both men seemed to be pacing themselves early in the fight - Rockhold careful to avoid Romero's clubbing power and Romero keen on conserving energy after flagging late in his first five-round fight. Then came another left, an uppercut, to Rockhold, who was on his side, supporting himself on the canvas on his left elbow. He also did the UFC a solid by taking the fight with Rockhold on a month's notice, which has to be considered. Rockhold was reportedly awarded 30% of Romero's purse which is said to have totalled about $100,000. "He wants to stand and bang, He's the better striker, he's a veteran, but I didn't want to play his game".
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