Whit­taker grabs in­terim ti­tle belt at UFC 213

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - GREG BEACHAM

Robert Whit­taker won the UFC in­terim mid­dleweight ti­tle Satur­day night, 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 T-Mo­bile 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 cap­i­tal­ize on any weak­ness he sees, so I had to play it off. That’s just what cham­pi­ons are made of.”

The main event of the UFC’s tra­di­tional July show­case was can­celled ear­lier in the day when ban­tamweight cham­pion Amanda Nunes was hos­pi­tal­ized. She was scratched from her sec­ond ti­tle de­fence against Valentina Shevchenko, who crit­i­cized the cham­pion’s prepa­ra­tion for the bout.

Alis­tair Overeem also beat Fabri­cio Wer­dum by nar­row ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion in the third ca­reer meet­ing of two vet­eran heavy­weights, and for­mer light­weight cham­pion An­thony Pet­tis also re­turned to the di­vi­sion with a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion vic­tory over Jim Miller.

Whit­taker took ad­van­tage of his bout’s pro­mo­tion to the main event by claim­ing the belt in front of a payper-view au­di­ence. He earned the chance to fight for the full 185pound ti­tle held for the past year by Michael Bisp­ing, who is in­jured.

Whit­taker will get the chance to re­move the in­terim des­ig­na­tion from his belt when Bisp­ing re­turns from in­jury, although it might not hap­pen this year. Shevchenko still showed up at T-Mo­bile Arena af­ter be­ing de­nied her long-awaited ti­tle shot when Nunes fell ill in the hours be­fore their re­match.

Shevchenko was fu­ri­ous with Nunes, claim­ing the cham­pion’s dras­tic weight cut was re­spon­si­ble for her ill­ness.

She also echoed UFC Pres­i­dent Dana White’s state­ment that Nunes was med­i­cally cleared to fight, but de­clined to go from the hos­pi­tal to the cage.

“You can’t just say, ‘I don’t want to fight,’” Shevchenko said.

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