Whittaker grabs interim title belt at UFC 213
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.