Whittaker stuns foe
ROBERT Whittaker won the UFC interim middleweight title yesterday, surging in the late rounds to earn a unanimous decision over Yoel Romero at UFC 213.
Whittaker ( 20- 4) recovered from a hyperextended knee in the first round with a strong striking performance, peppering Romero ( 12- 2) with punches and kicks over the final three rounds.
The Australian won his eighth consecutive fight, earning the victory 48- 47 on all three judges’ scorecards at TMobile Arena.
“It’s a moment I’ve always dreamed of,” Whittaker said.
“My knee was definitely hurt. I injured it in camp, and Romero’s kick set it back weeks. I know that Romero will capitalise on any weakness he sees, so I had to play it off.”
The main event of the UFC’s traditional July showcase was cancelled earlier in the day when bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes was hospitalised.
She was scratched from her second title defence against Valentina Shevchenko, who criticised the champion’s preparation for the bout.
Alistair Overeem beat Fabricio Werdum by narrow ma- jority decision in the third career meeting of two veteran heavyweights.
Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis also returned to the division with a unanimous decision victory over Jim Miller in the final show of International Fight Week, the annual mixed martial arts celebration in the UFC’s hometown.
Whittaker’s win earned him the chance to fight for the full 185- pound title held for the past year by Michael Bisping, who is injured.
The 40- year- old Romero was gracious after his eightfight winning streak ended, praising his opponent.
Romero’s aggression kept Whittaker on the defensive for the first two rounds, but Whittaker landed several impressive strikes. Whittaker increased his striking while Romero sat back in the third and fourth, with Whittaker also defending Romero’s take- downs adroitly.
Romero was cut on his left eyebrow and the right side of his scalp, while Whittaker had a bloody nose and mouth in the final round.
Romero slipped onto his back with 90 seconds left and Whittaker jumped on top to rain down blows.