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Hindsight - UFC 213: Romero vs. Whittaker in retrospect

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Take a top-to-bottom look at the fights of UFC 213, from the debuting prospects on Fight Pass to the five round battle between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker.

Hindsight

UFC 213 wasn’t quite the extravaganza we all hoped it would be. Given the main event of Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko was canceled hours before the event was scheduled to kick off, it was impossible not to be somewhat disappointed by the way things played out. The action in the cage was a mixed bag of results, but there were some seismic waves created from the in-cage results. We got an interim champion at middleweight. We didn’t get a new top contender at heavyweight. And a former lightweight champion made a success return to the land he once ruled. It may not have been as big of a night as we had hoped for, but it was still a big night.

Here’s my thoughts on UFC 213, with every fight and fighter involved broken down. The format is simple. The first bullet covers what was expected to happen and an attempt at a brief summary of what did happen. The next two bullets cover my thoughts on each fighter, how they did, and where they might be headed from here with the winner being covered first.

Trevin Giles defeated James Bochnovic via KO at 2:54 of RD2

  • Expectation/Results: Given his natural athletic ability, Giles was about as heavy of a favorite as you’ll find in a contest between two competitors making their UFC debut. Rightfully so. Aside from some early kicks, Bochnovic had nothing for the Texas native. Giles got Bochnovic to the ground and brutalized him with ground strikes for a round-and-a-half. Bochnovic’s energy levels gradually declined, allowing Giles to land cleaner shots before a pair of HARD punches from top position put Bochnovic out cold.
  • Giles: Giles is a prospect I’ve been aware of for a while now. I expected he’d be in the UFC soon, but I didn’t expect him to look as good as he did here. He got Bochnovic to the ground whenever he wanted and threw some very technical ground-and-pound, feinting with punches. Who does that with ground-and-pound? Giles is one to keep an eye on in the middleweight division moving forward.
  • Bochnovic: I wasn’t impressed with what I saw out of Bochnovic’s level of opposition going into this contest. That’s why I thought this would be a rude awakening for him. I had no idea just how rude it would be as Bochnovic was wheeled out on a stretcher with oxygen. I don’t think there are many opponents I’d expect Bochnovic to be competitive with. Nonetheless, he took the fight on short notice and will get another opportunity…provided he wants the opportunity. Seriously, that ending was brutal.

Cody Stamann defeated Terrion Ware via unanimous decision

  • Expectation/Results: This was a tough one to call as Ware had competed with more established competition on the regional scene while Stamann had the advantage in the physical gifts. Ware displayed a better stand up, landing some good combinations, but it was Stamann’s wrestling that made the difference. He took Ware down in every round, holding him down for long periods of time and delivering some good ground strikes. Though he never came close to finishing the contest, Stamann was in control the whole time to pick up an easy judges’ decision.
  • Stamann: I’m impressed with Stamann’s fight IQ. He saw the weaknesses in Ware’s takedown defense and attacked it early and often, securing multiple takedowns in every round. He had some success on the feet too, landing hard counters on Ware to make his fellow newcomer think twice about throwing so freely. Given his intelligence, I could see Stamann having a similar opening to his UFC career as that of Jimmie Rivera.
  • Ware: Despite the loss, I’m still optimistic about Ware’s potential to hang around as a low-level gatekeeper. He’s a lot of fun to watch as he loves to stand and trade. Who doesn’t love that? However, his lack of wrestling is well known and it could very well make his UFC run two-and-out. If matched up right though, he’s a hell of a potential action fighter. Anyone else like the idea of him and Albert Morales? Maybe Andre Soukhamthath?

Belal Muhammad defeated Jordan Mein via unanimous decision

  • Expectation/Results: Once thought to be a 50/50 contest, most were picking Muhammad to emerge victorious as Mein has been on a downward slide. I went the other way, thinking Mein would be able to rediscover his gas tank after returning from a brief retirement. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mein tried to pace himself which allowed Muhammad to take the early momentum. Mein did score a lot of leg kicks early to keep the contest close, but as his energy flagged, he had no answer for Muhammad’s combinations. Mixing things up, Muhammad executed a lot of takedowns in the third to limit Mein’s ability to land a big shot for the finish, securing the judges’ decision.
  • Muhammad: After coming in as a hyped prospect last year only to stumble in two of his first three appearances, Muhammad finally has put together a winning streak in the UFC. That indicates he has finally adjusted to the athletic levels of his opponents as he isn’t a very good athlete himself. Nonetheless, he’s made the proper adjustments to make himself a legit UFC welterweight. I liked how he mixed things up in the final round, going for the takedowns after picking apart Mein on the feet. He’ll never be a contender, but Muhammad is going to be a stiff test for those looking to break into the official UFC rankings for quite a while.
  • Mein: Mein never should have come out of retirement…unless he really needed the money. He doesn’t look like he wants to be out there anymore, not much of a surprise given he turned pro when he was 16. He’s lost his passion for the sport and couldn’t rediscover it during his retirement. Aside from a couple of desperation kimura attempts, Mein never made a serious attempt to end the fight after it was clear that Muhammad won the first two rounds. Personally, I don’t care to see Mein in the cage anymore, but I also understand if he’s simply looking to bring home a paycheck.

Thiago Santos defeated Gerald Meerschaert via TKO at 2:04 of RD2

  • Expectation/Results: While Santos was the more established competitor – as well as the superior athlete – his fight IQ has been called into question. Thus, many – including myself – picked the savvy submission specialist Meerschaert to pull off the upset. Reversing the narrative, Santos fought a smart fight and never let Meerschaert get going. Not able to let loose his outside kicks thanks to Meerschaert’s pressure, Santos punished the American for his takedown attempts with heavy punches and hammerfists. Meerschaert was exhausted by the time the second round rolled around and couldn’t handle the punishment Santos delivered after his final takedown attempt.
  • Santos: That was easily the most complete performance by Santos since his loss to Gegard Mousasi. He knew Meerschaert was going to attempt to take him to the ground and was ready for it. Knowing Meerschaert wouldn’t give him the room he needed to get his outside kicks flying, Santos was prepared to deliver punishment in the clinch and on the ground. Even more encouraging is that when Meerschaert did get him to the ground, he didn’t stay on his back for long. I have a feeling we’re about to see the best out of Santos moving forward.
  • Meerschaert: I knew Meerschaert had a hard ceiling, he just hit it one fight earlier than I expected him to. Meerschaert’s striking looked better than ever, he just didn’t trust it enough to engage for long periods of time against the likes of Santos. Not that I blame him. Now that he’s lost in the UFC, expect him to be a consistent test for younger prospects. Given all of his experience, he’ll be tough even for those with greater physical skills to dispose of.

Chad Laprise defeated Brian Camozzi via TKO at 1:27 of RD3

  • Expectation/Results: Given that Laprise is tiny for welterweight, I expected the massive Camozzi to overwhelm the smaller Canadian despite Camozzi’s inexperience. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Laprise used his speed to avoid Camozzi’s lumbering offense, all the while darting in and out with combinations of his own. A body shot early in the third hurt Camozzi and he couldn’t hide the effects. Laprise pursued the finish and got it in short order as Camozzi crumbled to the canvas.
  • Laprise: I completely underestimated Laprise’s speed. He was in and out of the pocket far quicker than the sluggish Camozzi could respond. Given he has always been a technical and accurate puncher, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he was able to piece up Camozzi while avoiding the heavier strikes coming back at him. Perhaps Laprise will be alright at welterweight. Then again, it’s not like Camozzi has a UFC victory on his resume either. I’ll be interested to see who the UFC matches him up with next.
  • Camozzi: I’ve had far too many expectations for Chris’ younger brother. He made poor use of angles and didn’t commit to using his size to his advantage. It allowed the smaller Laprise to do whatever he wished. At this point, Camozzi hasn’t developed the fight IQ to be fighting at the UFC level quite yet. Keep in mind he is only 26 years old. Send Camozzi down to the regional’s, pick up a few wins, and maybe make his way back via the new Tuesday Night Fights… if it’s still around by the time Camozzi is ready to make his way back.

Aleksei Oleinik defeated Travis Browne via submission at 3:44 of RD2

  • Expectation/Results: Though Browne hasn’t been fighting at the level he once did, he had also been fighting some very tough competition. As such, he was expected to take out the veteran Russian without much of an issue. Browne started out very strong, keeping Oleinik at bay with his kicks and dropping the veteran briefly. Oleinik recovered his equilibrium and began taking the fight right at the big Hawaiian. Picking up his own knockdown a bit later, Browne appeared mentally shaken at that point and never recovered. After Oleinik secured a takedown in the second, it wasn’t long before Oleinik got the back and sunk in a modified RNC on the big Hawaiian.
  • Oleinik: Did I really just see that? I know that Oleinik is tough, but that was ridiculous. He ate some heavy shots as he attempted to get into Browne’s range. Hell, he showed he still has enough power in his fists…something that has been absent from his game. Though I know that heavyweight is the weirdest division in the sport in that dinosaurs rule the top of the division, I still struggle to see Oleinik making a serious run up the division standings. He’s far too slow, making him very hittable. Plus, how many miles does a chin that has over 60 fights in its career? Wait…isn’t that what I was thinking going into this contest?
  • Browne: The fall of Browne may not have been as fast as that of his girlfriend, but it wasn’t a very slow decline either. What has happened to him? This was supposed to be a fight that got him back on the winning track. Instead, he has dug an even deeper hole for himself, putting him at 2-6 in his last eight and 1-5 in his last six. He lost confidence when Oleinik landed his knockdown. There was once a time when Browne would have persevered through that. Not anymore. Dana White has suggested he should retire, indicating he isn’t about to cut Ronda Rousey’s beau. Did you really think he would do that? Expect Browne to get another fight.

Rob Font defeated Douglas Silva da Andrade via submission at 4:36 of RD2

  • Expectation/Results: Though both are known for their slugging natures, Font was the favorite due to his experience against a higher level of competition. It shined through right from the beginning. Font pressured Andrade right from the beginning, alternating between leading the dance and countering his shorter opponent. Andrade was never able to get out of Font’s range, nor was he able to keep Font down for long when he scored a takedown. Font sunk in a standing guillotine which Andrade tried to escape by slamming him. It didn’t work and the Brazilian was forced to tap.
  • Font: That was nearly a flawless performance. He never let Andrade find a rhythm, threw beautiful punching combinations mixed with front kicks, and chewed up Andrade with knees in the clinch on the occasions the fight went there. Hell, I didn’t even mention the continued improvement to his wrestling, picking his spots wisely to get Andrade to the ground. In retrospect, he was given John Lineker too early. He may not be on that level yet – and may never get to that point – but he is making obvious strides. I’d like to see him in there with a savvy vet who has seen just about everything as there aren’t very many experienced veterans on his resume.
  • Andrade: This wasn’t a good night for Andrade. He never found his footing and looked lost the entire time as Font did whatever he wanted. That’s what happens when you regularly face less-than-stellar competition only to end up receiving a sizeable step up in competition. Even during his UFC run, Andrade’s opponents haven’t exactly been inspiring, his wins coming over Cody Gibson and Enrique Briones. When he faces someone with similar or better physical skills, he seems to lose confidence. At 32 and at an unknown camp, the future doesn’t seem bright for Andrade. There are still a few winnable fights for him in the UFC, but I don’t see him being a long-term fixture.

Anthony Pettis defeated Jim Miller via unanimous decision

  • Expectation/Results: Returning from his brief excursion to featherweight, the former lightweight champion Pettis was expected to find success against the hardened veteran Miller. Miller didn’t make it easy, jumping out to the early advantage with pressure on Pettis. Pettis scared away Miller with some hard kicks to the body, reversing the roles for the rest of the contest as Pettis turned into the aggressor. Miller had a few moments where he put a scare into Pettis, such as getting Pettis’ back in the midst of a scramble in the second round. Pettis escaped and achieved side control of his own to steal the round. Good performance by both with the former champion emerging victorious.
  • Pettis: Though I’m not ready to declare Pettis as back as a title contender, this was an encouraging performance. He faced some adversity, made a few adjustments, and picked up a clear decision over a sturdy veteran. The issues that have plagued him did pop up, but only briefly. Yes, Miller took him down, but only once as Pettis stuffed most of the takedown attempts. Miller did find some success in the clinch, but Pettis had his own success there. Pettis could still brush up his footwork, but there were subtle improvements. Pettis will have to continue working on these things if he thinks he’s going to be champion again, but he is on the right track.
  • Miller: There is no shame in this loss for Miller. He came out, gave Pettis a hard fight, and put a scare or two into the former champion. There were a few things I would have rather seen him do such as applying more pressure or going for more takedowns, but what’s done is done. Given the skid he was on just a year ago, he should be happy he has battled back to even put himself in position to take this fight. Expect him to return to the role that he had as his skid began: gatekeeper to the younger fighters making their way up the rankings. He’s perfect for someone like James Vick or the winner of Paul Felder and Stevie Ray.

Curtis Blaydes defeated Daniel Omielanczuk via unanimous decision

  • Expectation/Results: As one of the most talented heavyweight prospects the UFC has seen in a long time, expectations were sky high for Blaydes to put on an impressive performance. Though he walked out with a clear victory, it would be taking things too far to say that he lived up to expectations. The former NJCAA wrestling champion was unable to secure a single takedown despite an attempt almost every minute of the fight as Omielanczuk remained close to the fence to help him stay vertical. Blaydes began working the jab later in the fight when the takedowns didn’t come with Omielanczuk responding with a few body kicks. Overall, a very disappointing performance from both competitors.
  • Blaydes: The hype train hasn’t been derailed by any means. Blaydes had yet to face an experienced opponent who had seen it all and it showed as he went to the well with the same strategy over and over. Fans – myself included on this one – often forget that MMA wrestling is a different brand than competitive wrestling. Expect Blaydes to begin working on different ways to get the fight to the ground other than just brute strength. The takeaways from this fight weren’t all bad. Blaydes’ striking wasn’t great looking, but it was enough to overcome an established veteran striker. Blayedes is making progress, even if it isn’t as fast as the other uber-prospect of the division, Francis Ngannou.
  • Omielanczuk: I can’t get too mad at Omielanczuk. Yes, his defensive tactics made for an incredibly boring fight, but the guy couldn’t afford to walk out with a loss. Keeping himself against the fence was the best thing he could do to win and Blaydes made it easy for him to simply grab underhooks. The problem is that he couldn’t follow up with any significant offense as Blaydes continued to grind away at him until Omielanczuk had almost nothing left in the tank. Given the boring nature of this fight, the UFC could cut Omielanczuk loose as this was his third loss in a row. In fact, I’d expect this was his last appearance in the UFC.

Alistair Overeem defeated Fabricio Werdum via majority decision

  • Expectation/Results: Opinions were split on this one very evenly. The contest started out very tentatively with both reluctant to commit to anything. Werdum landed more volume in the opening round, but Overeem landed the harder shots, leaving the round up in the air. Overeem began to establish a rhythm in the second, nailing Werdum with a series of hard shots that had the Brazilian reeling at times. The third saw Werdum floor Overeem with a knee early. Rather than continue to pound away at him, Werdum went for a guillotine. Overeem escaped to his feet only for Werdum to follow with more strikes. As Overeem struggled to stay standing, Werdum unwisely went for a takedown, allowing Overeem to control him from the bottom to prevent Werdum from finishing him with either a submission or ground-and-pound. It ended up costing the former UFC champion the victory.
  • Overeem: Overeem is lucky and he damn well knows it. He may have won the contest, but Werdum won the fight. I was shocked all three judges gave him the first round and just about as shocked when only one judge gave Werdum a 10-8 in the third. Had one of those factors changed, we likely would have been singing a different tune. I know most of the media scored it for Overeem and I totally understand why. This wasn’t a robbery. It just involved a lot of luck for it to have played out that way for Overeem. The question now is whether that performance warrants another opportunity at Stipe Miocic. If Cain Velasquez can ever get healthy, I’m sure fans would rather see him go for the belt as it would be a fresh challenger for Miocic. Otherwise, I think Francis Ngannou would be a better choice provided the Frenchman gets past Junior dos Santos in Canada. Overeem may have got the win, but he didn’t get the boost he was looking to get with the victory.
  • Werdum: I really think Werdum could have finished Overeem had he kept the fight standing after Overeem climbed back to his feet. The Dutchman wasn’t throwing anything back in return, leaning back against the fence to maintain his verticality. Unfortunately for Werdum, his instincts to take the fight to the ground kicked in and Overeem was savvy enough to tie him up. Sad day for Werdum. While I know Werdum turns 40 next month, I don’t think he is completely out of the title picture. A victory over anyone in the top ten would probably put him a single win away from getting another opportunity at whoever is champion given the controversial manner of this contest. I’d imagine he’ll want to get back in the cage as soon as possible. The problem is… against who? Velasquez can’t get healthy. JDS and Ngannou are scheduled to square off. Mark Hunt seems content to wait for next card in Australia which is in November. Derrick Lewis is taking time off to get healthy. Alexander Volkov and Stefan Struve are meeting next month. There is nothing that makes sense for Werdum right now. Considering he had contests against Velasquez and Ben Rothwell canceled recently through no fault of his own, that’s a hell of a shame for Werdum.

Robert Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero via unanimous decision

  • Expectation/Results: Though I noticed the betting lines crept into favoring Whittaker, it still felt like most were picking Romero as he always seems to find some way to pull out the win. It appeared to be that way early as the very first strike Romero threw, a front kick to Whittaker’s left leg, did some major damage to Whittaker and limited his mobility. It made it easy for Romero to score a few takedowns and land some flashy strikes, including several flying knees that Whittaker brushed off. After two rounds, it seemed near-impossible for Whittaker to come back. Of course, that’s exactly what he did, gutting through the pain in his leg to stalk a tiring Romero. The former Olympian’s output disappeared in the third round and though he recognized he needed more urgency for the final two rounds, he still couldn’t compete with Whittaker’s constant front kicks and punching combinations. A slip to the ground from Romero with a few minutes left in the contest had Whittaker jumping on top of him and riding out top position until time expired, giving the Aussie a shiny new belt.
  • Whittaker: I had a gut feeling Whittaker would pull it off, but I couldn’t pick against Romero any more than I already had. Should have listened to my instincts. This will go down as one of the gutsiest performances in MMA history given Whittaker was essentially on one leg from the beginning, fell behind, and somehow found a way to pull ahead against one of the most dangerous opponents this sport has seen. I really liked the addition of the front kick to his repertoire as it attacked Romero’s body, sapping his gas tank while keeping the Cuban at bay. His defense hasn’t gotten enough attention either as Romero had several opportunities to land cleanly with some big shots only for Whittaker to deflect them, often only just deflecting them barely enough. The scariest part: Whittaker is only 26 years old and appears to still be improving. I don’t see very many people favoring Michael Bisping when they finally square off.
  • Romero: It isn’t a surprise that Romero finally lost once he was dragged into a five-round contest. His gas tank has never been very impressive, but he’s always seemed to have just enough in reserve to threaten with some sort of explosive attack. It was clear by the fifth round he didn’t have that in the tank, allowing Whittaker to capitalize once Romero made a mistake. However, I point to the third round as why Romero lost. What the hell was he doing? He wasn’t even trying to attack despite seeming to have enough energy to do so as he danced around the cage. That will forever be a mystery to me. At 40 years old, it’s easy to believe that he is out of the title picture, though he seems to disagree. If he can get scheduled for a contest with Luke Rockhold or a rematch with Jacare Souza and take a win from them, he won’t be wrong. Very interested to see what the UFC does with Romero at this point.

Well, those are my thoughts. Until next time...