Yoel Romero’s unsettling wax-and-wane approach claimed yet another victim in the disheveled Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division.
The 2000 Olympic silver medalist blew away former 185-pound champion Luke Rockhold with punches in the third round of their UFC 221 main event on Saturday before an announced crowd of 12,437 at Perth Arena in Perth Australia. Romero drew the curtain 1:48 into Round 3, recording the seventh third-round finish of his career.
Rockhold appeared to have the upper hand when the fight-ending sequence occurred. The 33-year-old Santa Cruz, California, native had kept Romero at bay with kicks and grown increasingly effective with his jab. However, it all unraveled when the American Top Team brute split the air with a jarring left cross that sent Rockhold to the canvas in a dazed and defenseless state. Romero, 40, followed with a standing-to-ground uppercut that snapped back his counterpart’s head and forced referee Marc Goddard to act on his behalf.
In the aftermath of UFC 221 “Romero vs. Rockhold,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Related » UFC 221 By the Numbers
Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker: Romero owns a stellar 9-1 record in the UFC and has thus far managed to outwit Father Time. Just how long he can continue to do so remains anyone’s guess. His resume now includes wins over Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza, Lyoto Machida, Tim Kennedy and Derek Brunson. Whittaker was responsible for Romero’s lone defeat inside the Octagon, having taken a unanimous decision from him at UFC 213 on July 7. The undisputed middleweight champion has not competed since due to knee surgery and a subsequent staph infection.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Fabricio Werdum-Alexander Volkov winner: In a heavyweight division starved for new blood, Blaydes stands out in the crowd. The 26-year-old Elevation Fight Team export took the latest step in his development in the co-main event, as he walked away with a unanimous decision over 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt. Blaydes has pieced together a three-fight winning streak since a failed drug test resulted in his technical knockout victory over Adam Milstead being overturned to a no-contest a little more than a year ago. Werdum and Volkov will lock horns in the UFC Fight Night 127 headliner on March 17 in London.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alessio Di Chirico: Adesanya’s arrival was greeted by substantial hype, and he lived up to it. The undefeated Glory Kickboxing alum moved to 12-0 with a spectacular promotional debut, as he disposed of Rob Wilkinson with a volley of knees and punches in the second round of their middleweight encounter. Adesanya, 28, has stopped all 12 of his opponents inside two rounds and could be ticketed for stardom in the UFC’s middleweight division. Di Chirico last fought at UFC on Fox 26 in December, when he knocked out former Ring of Combat champion Oluwale Bamgbose with a second-round knee strike and pocketed a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Calvin Kattar: Forgive the featherweights if they do not line up to face Volkanovski. The 29-year-old Australian extended his winning streak to 14 fights on the undercard, as he dismissed the previously unbeaten Jeremy Kennedy with punches and elbows 4:57 into the second round of their lopsided encounter at 145 pounds. So thorough was Volkanovski’s dominance that he drew comparisons to Khabib Nurmagomedov. The former Pacific Xtreme Combat champion has gone 4-0 since joining the UFC roster in November 2016 and has not lost a fight in nearly five years. Kattar finds himself on a run of 10 straight wins following his third-round technical knockout of Shane Burgos at UFC 220 on Jan. 20.
Jussier da Silva vs. Sergio Pettis: One of the few top-10 flyweights who have yet to meet champion Demetrious Johnson, da Silva continues to push toward the goal of a showdown with “Mighty Mouse.” The former Shooto Americas titleholder struck down Ben Nguyen with a spinning backfist and then choked him unconscious 1:43 into the third round of their preliminary battle; it was the eighth rear-naked choke submission of his career. Da Silva has posted back-to-back victories since his unanimous decision loss to Ray Borg in March. Pettis last competed at UFC 218 on Dec. 2, when he dropped a three-round verdict to 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo.