MMA Review: #607: UFC 213: Romero vs. Whittaker

-Initially this one was supposed to be main evented by Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw for the Bantamweight title, with a co-main event of Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko for the Women’s Bantamweight title – not the biggest two fights for International Fight Week but decent nonetheless. That went out of the window though when Garbrandt got injured and that fight was postponed, and finally Nunes pulled out the day before the event, weakening the card massively. We still had a cool main event in Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero for the Interim Middleweight title, but then should there really be an interim champ in that division? Who the fuck knows with UFC in 2017.

UFC 213: Romero vs. Whittaker

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Brian Stann.

Bantamweight Fight: Rob Font vs Douglas Silva de Andrade

This one was elevated onto the main card with the loss of Nunes/Shevchenko, and really I was surprised given it was initially pegged for Fight Pass and they had Travis Browne on the FS1 card. I guess they really don’t like to mess with the Fox bits though. Anyhow, I was taking Font on a coin flip really.

First round starts and Font circles around as you can see Andrade really loading up on his strikes looking for a knockout right away. Font seems super chilled though, like he doesn’t care what Andrade’s got. Takedown from Font puts Andrade on his back right by the fence, but he pops back up pretty instantly. Good job from Font to put him back down though and he moves into half-guard. Andrade moves back to full guard where he takes a couple of shots before kicking off and getting to his feet. Font looks for a standing guillotine, but he loses it and they separate out. Brief exchange follows with both men largely missing on shots. Nice uppercut into a knee land for Font, but Andrade claims an eye poke and Big Dan Miragliotta has to call time. Crowd are dead also which means you can hear Font’s cornerman with the thickest Brooklyn accent of all time. They restart and exchange more strikes with Font pushing the pace more. Decent left from Andrade but Font tags him with a combo in response. Font’s really getting the better of him now. Round ends with Font landing a knee and going for a guillotine as Andrade takes him down. 10-9 Font.

Second round and again Font pushes forward with some nice strikes as Andrade tries to fire back at him with little success. He looks like he might be busted up around his nose too. Font keeps on tagging him with strikes, even shrugging off a low blow. Big left hand stuns Andrade but he shows a good chin to come back from it. Font keeps on walking him down though and lands some more, almost taking an uppercut on the counter. Clean right hand lands for Andrade but Font eats it right up and swings back. Two minutes to go and Andrade is getting tagged a bunch now with Font lunging in with combinations. Big knees have Andrade hurt and he’s backpedalling. Big right hand drops him, but he pops back up only to take some serious abuse. Takedown for Font follows, not sure why he’d do that though as he looked like he had Andrade on the verge of a finish there. Reversal attempt from Andrade allows Font to get the neck though, and he synches up a high-angle guillotine and works it for the tap despite being slammed.

Font looked pretty awesome there, outclassing Andrade on the feet and on the ground and surely it’s time for a step up for the guy given he’s 4-1 in the UFC now? Maybe Renan Barao as he seems to be sliding down the ladder somewhat? This was a cool opener anyway even if the crowd didn’t seem to give a shit.

Lightweight Fight: Anthony Pettis vs Jim Miller

This would’ve been a bigger deal in like 2012 if I’m honest but hey – Pettis was coming back to 155lbs after his brief run at 145lbs had ended at the hands of Max Holloway, while Miller was hoping to get back onto the winning track after his February loss to Dustin Poirier. Tough one to pick too given both guys had looked both excellent and shot in recent fights meaning it was hard to tell how much either one had left in the tank.

First round begins and Miller opens with a low kick and a counter right hand. Jump knee lands for Pettis but Miller shrugs off a clinch. Low kick from Miller is countered by a blocked head kick but a solid body kick from Pettis. Combination glances for Miller in a rush. They exchange some more kicks, and then Pettis lands a couple of punches to the body too. Hard body kick into a jumping knee has Miller hurt, and Pettis opens up on him with punches as he covers up. Big shots get through for Pettis but Miller does a good job of hanging in there and surviving. Pettis’s striking looks really sharp. Beautiful spinning backfist lands cleanly for the former champ and Miller is looking busted up pretty badly. Switch kick follows for Pettis. Semi-takedown attempt is easily shrugged off by Pettis who continues to stalk Miller. Round ends with a body kick from Miller being answered by a head kick from Pettis. Well, that was pretty great. 10-9 Pettis.

Second round and Pettis looks unbelievably confident. Miller lands on him with a strong left hand, but he takes a combo from Pettis who then circles out and glances on a head kick. Kick is caught by Miller and he dumps Pettis down and lands a right, but Showtime immediately throws his legs up for a triangle. Miller pulls himself free and drops some punches, but he’s bleeding BADLY, really gushing all over Pettis’s chest. He gets some good punches off through the guard though, landing thudding shots onto Pettis that seem to have him opened up too. Pettis gives his back and Miller looks to slap his hooks in, which he does, taking full back control on the former champ. Slick move from Pettis allows him to slip free though and now he winds up on top in Miller’s guard. And there’s a DISGUSTING amount of blood now too with both guys absolutely caked in it. Into half-guard for Pettis and he begins to work from there, before standing over Miller and then dropping some more punches down. Looks like Miller might be struggling to see due to the blood. Pettis moves into side mount and it looks like he’s fishing for an Americana, before taking the back as Miller rolls. Both hooks are in for Pettis, but Miller stands and escapes. Crowd are MASSIVELY into this. Trip from Pettis puts Miller back down and that’s the round. Pettis stole it in the last couple of minutes methinks.

Third round and Pettis opens with a glancing head kick and a body kick too. Combo lands for Miller and he connects on the low leg kick too. Quick flurry from Jim is met with a stiff jab from Showtime. Head kick is narrowly blocked by Miller. Low leg kick lands a few more times for Miller and you can see Pettis favouring the calf now. Head kick glances again for him though. Miller somehow still manages to eat it right up. Exchange continues and Miller’s really pushing forward now. Big takedown attempt from Miller is stuffed by Pettis, who forces him into the fence and drops for a takedown of his own. Both men work inside the clinch but they’re clearly tired too as the pace has slowed down dramatically. Strong elbow connects for Miller from close range. Cartwheel kick attempt (!) breaks for Pettis and then Miller cracks the crowd up with an odd rolling move. Seconds to go and Miller tries a cartwheel kick, but Pettis shoves him off and lands a flying kick right before the buzzer. That was an awesome fight. I’d give Miller the last round but Pettis the 29-28 win overall.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Anthony Pettis. This was a big return to form for him as he looked confident in the cage for basically the first time since prior to the Dos Anjos fight, and he also overcame some adversity as Miller busted him open, landed some great shots of his own and never backed down throughout. Basically I don’t think the fight would’ve been much better had it taken place in 2012 which is pretty high praise. This was tremendous.

Heavyweight Fight: Curtis Blaydes vs Daniel Omielanczuk

Another step up here for top prospect Blaydes then, after he’d had trashed Adam Milstead in February before seeing the win overturned due to WEED, even though his levels were lower than USADA permit anyway! The less said about the Texas AC the better though. Omielanczuk meanwhile had last been seen in a loss to Timothy Johnson and probably needed a win here – unlikely in my eyes – to save his UFC career.

Round One and Omielanczuk lands with a left, but Blaydes closes him down and forces him into the fence, landing some short punches from the clinch. Ref calls a break apparently due to a low knee, and they restart after that but not in the clinch. Blaydes keeps on pushing forward, landing a jab before looking for the takedown. Instead he forces Omielanczuk into the fence, where he really works hard for a takedown but can’t quite get it. Quick combo breaks for Blaydes and they circle out. Couple of glancing blows land for Omielanczuk including a body kick, but Blaydes drives back into him for another takedown attempt. Nice knee to the body lands for Blaydes in the clinch and they break just after. Another double leg attempt follows but again Omielanczuk stops it. Crowd don’t like this at all, and to be fair it’s been a dull round. Elbow breaks for Blaydes and then he takes a body kick. Blaydes tries the takedown again, but he can’t get it and the round ends just after. 10-9 Blaydes I guess? Omielanczuk defended the takedowns but didn’t really do anything else.

Round Two and they exchange with Blaydes landing a knee to the body and a right hand. Takedown attempt follows but again Omielanczuk defends and this time he goes for a high-elbow guillotine that Blaydes escapes pretty easily. They break off and Blaydes pops him with a jab as Omielanczuk looks really tired. Good low kick lands for Blaydes too. Right hand glances for Omielanczuk as both men continue to swing. Takedown is avoided well by Omielanczuk again before Blaydes takes a knee en route to the clinch. They break off and it’s more of the same, really angering the crowd as it’s so slow. Another takedown is stopped by Omielanczuk too. Decent left lands for Blaydes on his way out. Both men largely miss with punches and Blaydes manages to back the Polish fighter up again, but another low blow gains him a further warning. Really telegraphed takedown attempt is blocked by Omielanczuk off the restart, and the round ends as they exit the clinch. Yawn.

Round Three and Omielanczuk tags Blaydes early with a left hand, but he recovers quickly. Takedown is stuffed and Omielanczuk glances on a left high kick, but Blaydes just walks through it pretty much and goes for the takedown again. Pretty blatant fence grab allows Omielanczuk to block the takedown this time but it goes unseen by the ref. Big right hand breaks off for Blaydes. Both of these guys look tired now as Omielanczuk is just winging haymakers that largely miss. Few decent punches do get through for Blaydes and man is Omielanczuk gassed out bad. He lands a kick to the body but he’s constantly dropping his hands now. Nice uppercut connects for Blaydes. Takedown attempt from Omielanczuk, almost an ankle pick, but Blaydes defends it and lands some heavy elbows to the body. Omielanczuk clings onto the leg, and it doesn’t look like he can get Blaydes properly down. Blaydes almost spins to take the back, but he can’t get it and they stand back up. Seconds to go now and the action slows, with Omielanczuk missing on a wheel kick. Right hand connects for him and that’s it. Dull fight, probably 30-27 Blaydes.

It’s a unanimous decision for Curtis Blaydes, 30-27 all round, but that was a pretty bad fight in the end as Omielanczuk had enough about him to defend the takedown, but ran out of steam so much in doing it that he couldn’t put any offense together himself. Blaydes is still a top prospect but it’s clear from this that he’s a work in progress rather than the finished article, and this was definitely one for him to forget in the future.

Heavyweight Fight: Alistair Overeem vs Fabricio Werdum

Despite the fact that they were both knocked out by champ Stipe Miocic in 2016, the hope for both of these men with a win here was a title shot given the thin nature of Heavyweight in the UFC and the fact that they’d already won a post-Miocic match each too. It was also the trilogy match between them, although the second fight in StrikeForce (a decision for Overeem) was massively forgettable. I was picking the Reem of course because I don’t pick against him!

Fight begins and Werdum misses a flying kick coming out of his corner. Overeem’s stance is pretty weird here, low hands with a super-wide stance. Head kick glances for Overeem as both men seem content to posture more than attack. Clinch from Werdum but Overeem muscles him into the fence and then breaks off. Flurry misses for Werdum as Overeem gets on his bike. Both men are looking weirdly inactive thus far. Head kick misses for Werdum and he slips to his back, but Overeem allows him back up. Nice counter one-two lands for Overeem off a missed body kick from Werdum. Decent kick to the body does land for Werdum but he’s still coming up short a lot. Takedown attempt is easily stuffed by Overeem, but he takes a glancing kick to the body. Nice right hand lands cleanly for Overeem and the round ends after Werdum misses a rolling kick. Really tricky round to score as so little happened; call it 10-10 but if I had to pick a winner I’d probably go 10-9 Overeem I guess for the cleaner shots.

Into the 2nd and another flying kick misses for Werdum. He glances on a couple of low kicks before shrugging off a brief clinch. Left hand glances for Overeem and he lands with a solid body kick before Werdum goes for the takedown. Overeem stuffs it and so Werdum pulls guard, but after a few moments Alistair decides to stand. Crowd are not happy with this inactivity at all as both men glance on a handful of strikes. Big left hand lands for Overeem and he follows with a HUGE KNEE to the body that practically takes Werdum off his feet! The Brazilian decides to pull guard, evidently hurt, and he quickly locks Overeem up to recover. A few seconds later though and Overeem stands. Couple of swings miss for Werdum and Overeem clips him with an overhand left and then a beautifully timed body kick. That was awesome. Bit of weird taunting follows for Overeem and Werdum looks slightly rattled. Decent right hand lands for the Brazilian but Overeem dodges the follow-ups and pops him with a jab. Stiff jab answers for Werdum. Nice overhand left connects clean for Overeem and stuns Werdum again, but he recovers quickly and misses a wheel kick. Big rush into the clinch ends the round for Werdum. Clear round for Overeem there as he landed some really nasty stuff amongst all that inactivity. 10-9 Overeem; 20-19 overall.

Third and final round and ANOTHER weird flying kick misses for Werdum. Big left hand misses for Overeem and he seems to be moving with a little more speed than Werdum now. Big right glances for Overeem. He clinches, but Werdum breaks it and throws a flurry that doesn’t land cleanly. Nice jab from Overeem. Knee answers back for Werdum and he flurries Overeem into the fence, only for Alistair to immediately escape free. Big combo suddenly lands for Werdum and he follows with a knee and DOWN GOES THE REEM! He tries to get up as Werdum looks to grab him, but the Brazilian then makes the mistake of going for a guillotine, which allows Overeem to slip his head free and get on top. They come back to their feet moments later and Overeem still looks foggy. An exchange sees both men landing and Werdum backs Overeem up and has him in trouble, but he surprisingly goes for the takedown and puts the Reem on his back in guard. Overeem manages to lock him up from there though, giving him time to recover as Werdum seems unable to put any meaningful offense together. The clock is ticking now as there’s less than 45 seconds to go, too. Werdum stands up in an attempt to pass, but Overeem still looks calm despite almost being mounted at one point. Round ends with Werdum in control but I wouldn’t say enough for a 10-8, meaning I’d call the fight a draw overall, 29-29.

Judges officially have it 28-28, 29-28 and 29-28….majority decision for Alistair Overeem. Werdum looks totally crushed by that one and the crowd seem pretty split, but to be fair, if the judges are so averse to giving 10-10 rounds (the 28-28 one would’ve given Werdum a 10-8 third) then you’d probably have to give the fight to Overeem as he scored the slightly better shots in that first round. It wasn’t a great fight by any means, although I have to admit I enjoyed it purely because I’m such a big fan of Overeem’s – it actually likely goes down as the worst trilogy in MMA history I guess, but whatever. I still love Overeem and I can’t quite believe he’s accepted the Ngannou fight in December. Really ballsy move but if he wins that he probably gets the title shot. This fight was better than Blaydes/Omielanczuk at least.

UFC Interim Middleweight Title: Yoel Romero vs Robert Whittaker

Well, realistically this fight shouldn’t have been happening as Romero’s shot at Michael Bisping’s full MW title should’ve happened way before this point, but Bisping was apparently sidelined with a knee injury (and trying to wait for the upcoming GSP fight sadly) and so with WME loving Interim titles, this one was put together after Whittaker dealt impressively with Jacare in April. As far as a pick I wasn’t sure as both guys had looked so good in their most recent fights, but if you’d held a gun to my head I probably would’ve picked Romero.

Round One and they circle with Whittaker throwing a couple of early kicks. Romero has this really weird, wide stance here. Short right hand glances for Whittaker. Low kick from Romero lands and sends Whittaker off his feet for a second, but he pops right back up. Nice counter left hand lands for Whittaker to counter a body kick. Hook kick misses for Romero but Whittaker can’t capitalise. Big takedown follows for the Cuban but Whittaker right away explodes to his feet. That was impressive. Romero can’t even keep him against the fence. Flying knee glances for Romero and he tries to drag Whittaker down, but the Aussie somehow manages to stay vertical. Couple of knees land inside for Romero before Whittaker escapes. Joe Rogan mentions Whittaker’s left leg could be hurt. Both men glance on some strikes with Whittaker landing a decent front kick to the chest. Glancing right hand from Whittaker allows Romero to get inside and tackle him again, but once more he pops back up. Whittaker might have the best takedown defense in MMA right now. Sharp leg kick lands for Romero and the round ends just after. 10-9 Romero by a hair I’d say as he was the aggressor and got those takedowns even if he couldn’t do a lot with them.

Round Two and despite telling his corner that his left leg is trashed, Whittaker’s still moving around decently. Jumping left hand glances early for Romero and he follows with another left soon after. Big knee to the body connects for Romero as Whittaker lunges forward. Takedown follows for the Cuban and he plants Whittaker cleanly on his back in guard this time. Looks like Whittaker’s stalling for a stand-up, holding on as Romero can’t do a lot from the top. Reversal attempt from Whittaker but it allows Romero to take the back. Whittaker stands anyway and manages to move to the fence, where Romero attempts to kick his leg out from under him. Good defense from Whittaker, and he manages to turn into Romero before the Cuban hits another takedown. Whittaker bounces back up and remains in the clinch, and they exchange knees to the body and legs before Big John McCarthy calls a clean break. Front kick into a left hand lands for Whittaker and he expertly sprawls to avoid a takedown, but eats a right hand that lands flush on his way out. Clinch follows and the round ends with another sweet Romero takedown. 10-9 Romero again.

Round Three and Whittaker throws a right front kick at Romero who just about dodges. Left jab glances for Whittaker. Brief break follows as Romero has some tape trimmed from his glove, and they continue with Whittaker landing a kick and avoiding a takedown. Right kick into a right hand seems to have Romero hurt slightly and he backs up. Big left follows and Romero’s definitely in a bit of trouble as he backpedals out of range. Big head kick misses for Romero. Whittaker comes back with a big front kick that knocks Romero backwards, and follows with a head kick that lands too. Romero’s definitely struggling in this round. Exchange continues with both men missing, before Whittaker lands a left and hits a tremendous sprawl to avoid a takedown. Another one is stuffed and he shoves Romero off this time. Beautiful right hand into a knee from the Aussie. He’s totally taking over this fight. Right hand glances for Whittaker. Romero looks either tired or hurt, or he might be taking the round off. Right head kick glances for the Aussie now. Seconds to go and Whittaker continues to push forward. Round ends with another Whittaker combo. 10-9 Whittaker and the tide seems to be turning.

Round Four and Whittaker is hiding that knee injury really well. Big body kick lands early for him but Romero manages to get a rear waistlock. He looks for the takedown, but a slick scramble allows Whittaker to remain on his feet somehow. Incredible takedown defense from the Aussie, especially when you consider he wasn’t initially a wrestler or anything. Romero remains clinging onto him though, but he just can’t drag Whittaker down. Knee separates for Whittaker to a big crowd pop. Another takedown is defended well by Whittaker. Jumping knee to the body lands for Romero. Whittaker comes back with a long right hand that backs the Cuban up. Head kick into a left hook lands for Whittaker and Romero looks stunned. Front kick to the body follows, forcing the Cuban back to the fence. Low kick misses for Romero and Whittaker catches him with a left hand before hitting another insane sprawl to avoid a takedown. The Aussie closes in with a front kick and then lands a right-left that has Romero hurt, and he drops for the takedown desperately! Whittaker avoids it and lands a couple of shots while he’s on his knees. Clean left hand from Whittaker and Romero is in trouble. Desperation takedown is avoided and now Romero looks exhausted from the crazy attempt. Combination has him backing up again. Round ends just after. Clearly 10-9 Whittaker and he’s got a big advantage going into the fifth.

Round Five and this round probably decides the fight. Both men glance on left hands early on. Stiff jab connects for Whittaker. Big head kick just misses for the Aussie but a knee lands flush off a faked right hand. Combo follows and Romero looks off balance, but he catches Whittaker coming in and now the Aussie has to backpedal slightly. Big overhand left lands for Romero but Whittaker takes it well and wobbles him with another right hand. Both guys look tired now too and they’re winging heavy shots. Front kick to the body lands for Whittaker and Romero is moving so slowly compared to earlier on. Whittaker’s just sniping at him to the body from the outside. Flying knee misses though and almost sends him down. More front kicks to the body land for Whittaker and he’s landing in every exchange. Romero pushes forward and keeps swinging, and suddenly it’s becoming a bit of a brawl. Romero is bleeding badly. Two minutes to go and it’s still Whittaker who’s landing more from the outside. Slip from Romero sees him stumble to the ground and now Whittaker gets on top in the guard and begins to land from there. Clock is ticking away as Whittaker remains in control from the top, and he even takes full mount for a second before Romero escapes. BIG ELBOWS get through for Whittaker though and this is probably winning him the fight. Round ends with Whittaker continuing to drop elbows on an exhausted Romero. I’ve got this 48-47 for Robert Whittaker.

Official scores are 48-47, 48-47 and 48-47 for Robert Whittaker. No weird judging there thank God, although to be fair it would’ve been hard to screw it up anyway. Fight started slowly but once Whittaker adjusted to Romero’s style and started sniping on him it got pretty awesome, as Romero was clearly a bit confused as to what to do and got more and more desperate until the wild fifth round. Whittaker is just a phenomenal talent, though – reminds me of Chuck Liddell not so much in fighting style but in that he’s got ridiculous instincts on what to do in there and he’s just a straight-up born fighter more than anything else. I said this after his TUF showing but never imagined how good he’d actually turn out to be.

In terms of where we go next, it’s a pity he hurt his leg in the fight really as it’s led to Bisping vs. GSP, but hopefully that fight can be over and done and Whittaker can fight the winner early next year. As for Romero he fought well but just got out-hustled, I don’t think it takes a ton away from him because he didn’t really gas until late in the fourth which was understandable anyway. He’s still a top five contender and could easily get a title shot in the future once this whole nonsense with GSP is done.

-Show ends with plugs for the upcoming UFC cards and then a highlight reel.

Final Thoughts….

Tough show to rate in the end – Miller/Pettis was clearly the best fight closely followed by the main event, and Font/Andrade was fine action too, but Blaydes/Omielanczuk was awful and while I enjoyed Overeem/Werdum to an extent, I think most people would’ve hated it almost as much as the Blaydes fight. Can’t really go full thumbs up then, but Whittaker/Romero and Miller/Pettis are definitely worth checking out.

Best Fight: Pettis vs. Miller
Worst Fight: Blaydes vs. Omielanczuk

Overall Rating: **1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: