Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker to Clash for Interim Title at UFC 213
With middleweight champion Michael Bisping on the shelf, Yoel Romero and Robert Whitaker will fight for the interim middleweight title at UFC 213.
Updated: July 4, 2017 • 9:40 AM ET
Yoel Romero is one of the most feared fighters in the UFC.
The master plan to solidify a money fight this summer has failed. Michael Bisping and Georges St. Pierre were supposed to face off for the middleweight title later this year, but Bisping is injured and St-Pierre won’t be ready to fight until November.
To solve the issue, Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker will face off in the co-main event at UFC 213 for an interim middleweight title. The middleweight belt hasn’t been in play since October 2016 when Bisping defended the title against Dan Henderson, and the two men fighting for the interim belt are the most deserving in the division.
Romero is coming off the biggest win of his career, defeating former champion Chris Weidman by TKO at UFC 205. His flying knee knockout of Weidman was one of the biggest highlight reel KO’s of 2016.
Romero has also been the victim of heavy criticism after being suspended for six months by USADA in April 2016, and for being known to take shortcuts in the Octagon. After being badly hurt in a fight against Tim Kennedy, Romero sat on his stool for extra time, regaining his composure and legs, which is a clear violation of the rules. The “Soldier of God” wound up winning the fight over Kennedy via TKO. Romero has also been known to have his corner men spill water and ice in his corner, calling for more time to get the area cleaned, which was evident in his fight against Weidman.
Regardless of rule-bending and suspensions, the 40-year-old Romero is a physical freak with an Olympic wrestling background and unbelievable athletic abilities. He deserved a title shot even before his victory over Weidman.
Whittaker is also coming off a career-defining victory over Jacare Souza in April. He’s riding a seven-fight win streak and has looked unstoppable since moving to middleweight from welterweight. His last loss came to welterweight title contender Stephen Thompson in February 2014.
This fight is destined to be a barn-burner, due to Whittaker’s unorthodox striking style and Romero’s unpredictability. It would be a surprise to many if the fight went to a decision, as both men have tremendous finishing ability and neither is known for playing it safe.
Other than calling for Bisping in the Octagon after his last win, Romero has remained quiet in demanding a title shot. Other middleweights were quick to react to the announcement of the now cancelled Bisping and St. Pierre super-fight, while Romero has patiently waited for his time.
Whittaker has done nothing but fight any man the UFC puts in front of him and never fails to perform in the process. He represents the next generation of UFC fighters and even with a loss to Romero, he doesn’t have to worry about falling out of title contention.
It’s difficult to believe that Romero is 40 years old. Most fighters don’t keep fighting until 40, especially fighters that have been involved in the wars Romero has. One has to wonder which will quit on Romero first, his body or his chin? He has had eight fights in the UFC, winning all eight with six of those by KO. He’s the clear-cut No. 1 contender for the middleweight title and will finally get his shot at UFC royalty.
Whittaker and Romero are the hottest fighters in the division and have spent more time doing work in the Octagon than giving their opinions outside of it. Since Bisping shocked the world by defeating then champion Luke Rockhold, the division has been in a transitional period. Rockhold hasn’t fought since the loss and has been more focused on modeling and criticizing the UFC.
Weidman was supposed to get an immediate rematch with Rockhold, but was forced to withdraw from the fight due to injury. Bisping replaced Weidman on two weeks’ notice and flipped the script on the entire division. Now with Bisping hurt, it’s time to declare the next title challenger.
Either Romero or Whittaker is a great threat to Bisping, and they’ll surely put on a show at UFC 213. Here’s to hoping Bisping gets healthy soon so we don’t have to wait until 2018 for him to face the winner.