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Yoel Romero next in line for Robert Whittaker; suffered shin bruise at UFC 221

Despite missing weight ahead of his win over Luke Rockhold at UFC 221, Yoel Romero will face middleweight champ Robert Whittaker next, per UFC president Dana White.

MMA: UFC 221-Rockhold vs Romero Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports

Yoel Romero couldn’t win the UFC interim middleweight title in the UFC 221 main event Saturday night, but it appears that he’ll challenge the division’s undisputed titleholder in the near future.

Ahead of his pivotal clash against Luke Rockhold in Perth, Australia, Romero missed weight, making him ineligible to take home the interim championship; Rockhold, though, could still win it had he won. But Romero knocked out the former champion with a brutal left hand and uppercut early in the third round, solidifying his spot as the No. 1 contender.

Despite the weight miss, the plan is to have Romero face middleweight champ Robert Whittaker — in a rematch — next, per UFC president Dana White.

“Yes,” White said when asked by ESPN if Whittaker vs. Romero 2 would happen.

UFC executive David Shaw also offered a few comments about the tricky situation at the UFC 221 post-fight press conference Saturday night.

“The weight situation, I don’t think that’s going to play into [Romero’s chances at a title shot],” David Shaw said (transcript via “I think we’ve got a few factors that are going to allow us for some time, and first and foremost, it’s that Rob can’t really fight for a few months, so there’s a bit of time to figure out what happens in the middleweight division.”

Whittaker and Romero have met once before. They fought at UFC 213 last July for the interim middleweight title. At the time, champ Michael Bisping was sidelined until later that year. Whittaker beat Romero by decision. Meanwhile, Bisping defended his title against Georges St-Pierre, losing by third-round submission, in November. St-Pierre vacated the title one month after winning it, and Whittaker was subsequently promoted to undisputed-champion status.

Even though he was heavy going into Saturday’s contest, Romero appears to be the best option for Whittaker’s first title defense. The rest of the top five — Ronaldo Souza, Chris Weidman, and Kelvin Gastelum — have all only won one fight in a row. Romero has beaten “Jacare” and Weidman, too.

As of now, it’s unclear when Whittaker vs. Romero 2 will happen. Whittaker was supposed to defend his title against Rockhold at UFC 221, but he pulled out with an illness. His exact timetable for return is unknown.

And on the other side, Romero might not be ready to come back for a while himself. He was seen limping after his knockout of Rockhold.

Initially, Romero said after the fight that he thought his leg was broken from a few Rockhold kicks early in the fight. But his manager, Abraham Kawa, said the injury wasn’t as serious as first thought. Ariel Helwani of reported that Romero suffered a deep bruise in his right shin.

UFC 221 took place at Perth Arena and also featured a Curtis Blaydes win over longtime heavyweight Mark Hunt.

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