Robert Whittaker gave Oceania its first Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder.
“The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner took the best Yoel Romero had to offer, surged in front over the final three rounds and walked away with a unanimous decision over the 2000 Olympic silver medalist in the UFC 213 headliner on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Whittaker (19-4) carried 48-47 scores across the board, the victory bringing with it the interim UFC middleweight championship. On an eight-fight winning streak, he now turns his attention to a unification bout with undisputed champion Michael Bisping later this year.
Romero (12-2) made him earn it. The American Top Team representative appeared to injure Whittaker’s left knee with a series of side kicks in the first round before incorporating takedowns and top control in the second. All his work came at a price. Romero’s pace slowed to a crawl over the third, fourth and fifth rounds, his muscle-bound frame starved for oxygen. Even wounded, Whittaker managed to capitalize. He ripped into Romero with a punishing jab, mean left hooks upstairs and front kicks to the body. More importantly, he shut down the 40-year-old’s bid for takedowns, Romero growing more desperate by the moment. Whittaker assumed top position late in the fifth round and carved up the exhausted Romero with punches and elbows from above to seal it.
Related » UFC 213 Round-by-Round Scoring
Overeem Tops Werdum in Trilogy
Former Strikeforce and Dream champion Alistair Overeem claimed a contentious majority decision over longtime rival Fabricio Werdum in the three-round heavyweight co-main event. Scores were 28-28, 29-28 and 29-28, as Overeem took a 2-1 lead in his head-to-head series with the two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist.
Neither man did much to separate himself in a tentative first round. Overeem (43-15) made the first significant move in the second, where he dazed “Vai Cavalo” with an overhand right and followed it with a wicked knee strike to the body. Werdum (21-7-1) weathered those shots and dragged the Dutchman into deeper water. It led to a dominant Round 3 for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, as he clipped Overeem with a knee, jumped in top position and spent the final two-plus minutes grinding away with ground-and-pound. Werdum’s efforts went unrewarded.
Overeem, 37, has rattled off six wins across his past seven appearances, a knockout loss to reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic his lone misstep.
Blaydes Smothers Omielanczuk to Decision
Elevation Fight Team prospect Curtis Blaydes pushed his winning streak to three fights with a unanimous decision over Daniel Omielanczuk in a featured heavyweight affair. Blaydes (8-1) swept the scorecards with identical 30-27 marks from the three judges.
Omielanczuk (19-8-1) was effective in space, connecting with power punches and knees at various points in the match. However, he spent the majority of his time trapped hopelessly against the fence, as Blaydes powered him into the clinch and pressed him into the cage, feeding him knees to the legs and body. Perhaps sensing the opportunity was slipping away from him, Omielanczuk shot for a last-ditch takedown in the third round, to no avail. Blaydes stuffed it, moved to a dominant position with the Pole on all fours and smashed him with elbows to the side of the head and body.
The 34-year-old Omielanczuk has lost three fights in a row.
Pettis Recaptures Magic, Bests Miller
Former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting champion Anthony Pettis made a triumphant return to 155 pounds, as he captured a unanimous decision from Jim Miller in a three-round lightweight feature. All three cageside judges arrived at the same verdict: 30-27 for Pettis (20-6).
Miller (28-10) enjoyed some success with probing left hands and inside leg kicks. He also delivered a second-round takedown and advanced briefly to Pettis’ back. However, “Showtime” had too many weapons at his disposal. Pettis zeroed in on the New Jersey native’s body in the first round and cut him near his left eye with a high kick in the second. The longtime Roufusport star put the finishing touches on the victory over the final five minutes, blasting Miller with a front kick to the face before denying his bid for a takedown and corralling him in the clinch.
Related » UFC 213 Prelims: Oleynik Squeezes Browne
Font Guillotine Submits Andrade
Team Sityodtong standout Rob Font submitted Douglas Silva de Andrade with a guillotine choke in the second round of their bantamweight showcase. Andrade (24-2) bowed out 4:36 into Round 2, his modest two-fight losing streak a thing of the past.
Font (14-2) was quicker on the draw, as he fed the Brazilian a stinging jab and multi-punch combinations while mixing in well-conceived takedowns. He twice threatened Andrade with guillotines in the first round, foreshadowing what was to come. Font staggered the Jungle Fight and Shooto Americas champion with an overhand right in the middle stanza, swarmed with punches and executed a takedown before settling in side control. He caught the guillotine when Andrade returned to his feet, tightened his grip while being taken down and closed the deal on the mat.
The 30-year-old Font has won 13 of his past 14 bouts, losing only to the hard-punching John Lineker. The former CES MMA champion now owns a 4-1 mark in the UFC.