After a tentative opening round, Romero, a Miami resident by way of Cuba, picked up the pace in the second, darting into range and landing punches in bunches on Rockhold (16-4), a former UFC and Strikeforce champ from Santa Cruz, Calif. Despite this, Romero was not eligible to claim the interim belt in the main event of UFC 221. First, the man named middleweight champion after Georges St-Pierre vacated the belt without defending it, Robert Whittaker, contracted a staph infection in his stomach and was forced to withdraw from his first title defense against Luke Rockhold. Although these weren't massive fights for the mainstream audience or perhaps even some hardcore fans, this is exactly why these three were on the main card.
"We trained very good for this fight", Romero, through his translator, told FS1 after the fight.
Rockhold was originally scheduled to challenge Whittaker for the undisputed title at UFC 221, but when the Aussie champion had to withdraw due to injury and illness, Romero agreed to face Rockhold for an interim version of the title on just four weeks notice.
Bloodied and with a lump on his right temple, the Santa Cruz native was TKO'd in the third round by Yoel Romero, a renowned wrestler out of Cuba.
Romero vs. Rockhold, presented by AirAsia, will air live, February 11 at 11AM (local time, GMT+8) with prelims starting at 9AM (local time, GMT+8) on Fox Sports 1. Second, I'm so sorry for the weight cut. "A great fight. Deserved triumph".
On the preliminary card, Jussier Formiga and Israel Adesanya made statements, with Formiga choking Ben Nguyen unconscious after dropping him with a spinning backfist. Rockhold is someone that tends to leave himself open to strikes. The clock is ticking on his career, and any given bout could be his last. Stunned, Rockhold looked to clinch up but Romero simply began obliterating his midsection with hooks. That's not a good mix.
After Rockhold had gathered some of his scattered bearings, Romero tried to console him, something that made for a hard watch. That could knock him out of the top contender spot if he is shelved for any length of time. Get $60 worth of FREE premium member picks.