UFC 213: Romero vs. Whittaker: Ending the Streak

UFC 213 Yoel Romero Robert Whittaker
Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

In the first title fight of UFC 213, Cuban powerhouse Yoel Romero squares off against Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker to decide who leaves with interim middleweight gold.

The road to Yoel Romero’s long-awaited title shot was, and wasn’t, a pretty one. Dispatching some of his weight classes best in flabbergasting fashion, the ‘Soldier of God’ found himself caught up in the mess that is the middleweight division. Long overdue, Romero will finally compete for “interim” middleweight gold at UFC 213 after going 9-0 in the UFC.

Although not facing the plethora of talent that Romero has, Whittaker found himself in pole position for a potential title shot a few months back, when he became the first man to finish Jacare Souza in almost ten years. Going 6-0 since his move to middleweight in late 2014, ‘Bobby Knuckles’ has transformed into one of his division’s finest fighters.

Watergate, Stoolgate, What’s Next?

If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. The archaic criticism of Romero and his dodgy cardio has been proven wrong by his last couple of fights, but his mid-round antics continue to go on. Whether he’s being covered in water by his trainers, or taking an extra little break on the stool, it would be sad to see if a scenario such as this affects the outcome of this fight.

It’s rare to see an athlete so skilled in a specific field, make the transition over to MMA and become a complete martial artist. Romero has done just that. He hasn’t been grinding his opponents out in a fashion that we saw with the likes of Daniel Cormier and Randy Couture. He’s been knocking the best competitors in his division out, in a myriad of devastating ways.

Whilst also having his fundamentals in place, the elite Olympic wrestling he has allows him to unleash highlight reel strikes, from flying knees to spinning back fists. Never solely relying on it, but because his ground game is leaps and bounds above his opponents, there’s not the slightest bit of a worry if the ‘Soldier of God’ finds himself on his back.

Bobby Knuckles Isn’t A Brawler

The most important stat about Whittaker, that was recently pointed out on the latest ‘Inside the Octagon‘, is his remarkable takedown defense during his time in the UFC, sitting at almost 92%. Along with the highest striking rate in middleweight history, there will be no surprises in the Australian’s game plan for this fight, keep it on the feet.
But it’s not the typical ‘sprawl and brawl’ style popularized by the MMA legend Chuck Liddell. Whittaker’s striking is far too advanced to refer to it as ‘brawling.’
There is a lot of variety within his strikes. Just as much as his left hook is his go-to punch, his front kicks and low kicks all work together to produce some of the sharpest striking you will see at the moment in the middleweight division.

What it All Means

The UFC 213 co-main event is feeling like a mirror image of the scheduled lightweight bout between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both Romero and Whittaker have the longest active winning streaks in their division, but unfortunately, come Saturday, one of those will have to end.