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UFC 213 recap: Robert Whittaker beats Yoel Romero to capture interim title

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Check out’s recap of the UFC 213 main event between Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Souza vs Whittaker Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The interim UFC middleweight title was on the line in the main event of UFC 213 between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker. After a close but clear contest, slight favorite “The Reaper” walked away with a gold belt wrapped around his waist and the biggest win of his career in the books.

Whittaker defeated “The Soldier of God” by unanimous decision at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night in the event’s “Fight of the Night.” The New Zealander didn’t have the best start possible, having decisively gotten outpointed throughout the first two rounds, and suffering a leg injury in the opening minutes of the five-round, championship fight.

Romero was able to secure multiple takedowns by exploding and possibly catching his opponent off guard, but to the new interim champ’s credit, Whittaker excelled at getting back to his feet, where he had a significant advantage. That said, Whittaker was still down on the scorecards after 10 minutes and needed to turn things up if he wanted to leave the Octagon victorious.

And that he did.

Romero did very little in the third round — often the round he finishes fights — and for the rest of the fight. Whittaker began putting an onslaught of volume on the Cuban fighter, gaining momentum as Romero tired. And that was the story of the fight. By the end of the fight, Whittaker was lighting Romero up on the feet, and Romero was seemingly just looking for a way to survive and make it to the end of the fight, never mind to actually win.

What was the highlight of the fight?

How quickly the momentum shifted towards Whittaker was very impressive, but it was even more impressive that once Whittaker took over, he didn’t let any remaining rounds escape him. He picked up the pace in the third round, and then decisively won the last two rounds, as well. I’d like to give props to Whittaker for also fighting on one leg for the majority of the 25-minute fight. He masked the injury well, but it was clear something was up and he was perhaps in pain. He didn’t let the injury affect him much or dictate the rest of the fight, though, and I’d imagine that’s really tough to do. So both the third-round momentum shift and Whittaker’s will to win and heart were the highlights of Saturday’s main event.

Where do these two go from here?

UFC president Dana White said any talks of Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre happening are over. So it seems that Bisping vs. Whittaker will for sure be a go — but the UFC’s plans change often, so anything is possible until a fight is 100-percent official. Judging by what everyone, including White, is saying, though, I have to imagine Bisping vs. Whittaker is the next title fight at 185 pounds.

I don’t think Romero’s decline will be as rapid as Ronaldo Souza’s, but I won’t be shocked if it slowly begins with the Whittaker loss, considering he’s 40 years old. Assuming Romero will be ready to come back sooner than later, I dig a fight with Luke Rockhold. It would’ve happened last year had the whole USADA/Romero thing never happened, and the title would’ve been on the line. But the whole USADA/Romero thing did happen and everyone was hurt except for Bisping and then Bisping knocked Rockhold out and then fought Dan Henderson and then campaigned to fight St-Pierre and now we’re finally here, amidst the mess that is the 185-pound division. Anyway, Romero vs. Rockhold is the fight to make even though the stakes would not be nearly as high as they would have been in early 2016.

Watch now, later, or never?

Whittaker vs. Romero was overall a fun interim middleweight title fight. I’d say it’s worth checking out right away.