LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – UFC 213 lost its main event just hours before fight time, but the card still delivered with Robert Whittaker becoming the Interim Middleweight Champion. Here are our takeaways from Saturday night’s fights.
First of all, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. Just hours before the event was due to start, UFC 213 lost its headline bout. Amanda Nunes was unfortunately pulled from her fight with Valentina Shevchenko with illness, and instead of the usual uproar when the main event falls through, there was a collective sigh of “again?”.
Of course, this is not the first high profile fight to fall through at the last second. Khabib Nurmagomedov withdrew from his fight with Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 for similar reasons to Nunes, robbing the MMA world of arguably the most anticipated fight of the year to that date. It Is becoming a bigger problem as it makes people less enthusiastic for the fights as they do not know until they step into the cage that the fight will actually happen. It is a pessimistic attitude, but a justified one given how many fights are falling through.
Credit must go the fighters who offered to step up and fight Shevchenko on extremely short notice, including Strawweight Champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk who pleaded for the fight. Of course, the athletic commission would not allow someone to take a fight on such short notice, hence why we were not graced with seeing the talent of Shevchenko on display Saturday night.
Luckily UFC 213 had another title fight on the card to make it salvageable, but there may end up being a case where there is not a strong undercard for a fight to step up and take the mantle of a pay-per-view main event.
Robert Whittaker Might Just Be The Best Middleweight In The World
In the main event of UFC 213, Robert Whittaker edged Yoel Romero via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) to become the Interim Middleweight Champion and earn a shot at Michael Bisping.
Romero appeared to have won the first two rounds, with the first being a very close one. However, despite suffering a knee injury due to a leg kick in the early portion, Whittaker was able to turn the momentum in his favour and out-strike ‘The Soldier of God’ in the last three rounds en-route to a decision victory.
After taking out arguably the two most dangerous men at 185lbs, there is a case to be argued that Whittaker is the best Middleweight in the world. The Aussie started out as an average Welterweight coming from the Ultimate Fighter, but he has improved and found his game extensively over the past few years and has become one of the best fighters in the world. He also carries himself like a champion. Not only has he been through a great journey as a fighter, he also carries himself with class as shown in his post fight interview with Joe Rogan.
It looks like Bisping is next for ‘The Reaper’ and it promises to be an excellent fight. At the moment, it seems like Whittaker is the favourite as he is a younger and more advanced version of Bisping in many ways, but the Brit has shocked the world before, can he do it again?
As for Romero, at 40 years of age this may have been his only chance at becoming a UFC champion. He did show that he is extremely dangerous in the opening two rounds, but the ever lingering cardio issue became a problem as the fight wore on. It will be interesting to see where the Cuban goes from here.
Alistair Overeem overcame Fabrício Werdum via majority decision (28-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a call that left a lot of fans in the T-Mobile Arena angry. The decision was met with boos from the fans in attendance that clearly felt Werdum did enough to at least earn a draw. The problem is, judging is very subjective.
Consider this. There are three judges who score the fight, all have different biases, perspectives and comprehension of the criteria. They are not aided by technology, they have little time to think and can only go by what they see right there and then, there is no replay. At the end of the day, they are humans and everyone sees things in different ways to others.
From my perspective, Overeem just about won the first two rounds and Werdum clearly won the third, but by the scoring criteria he did not do enough to make it a 10-8 round. Yes, he knocked Overeem down, but he did little once he had him hurt and the round felt more like a clear 10-9 than a 10-8. But that is just my opinion, just like the judges score on their own opinion.
It is hard to find a solution that satisfies everyone. Maybe have five judges instead of three will make things more decisive in peoples minds. Judges should definitely have technological aids to help them make the decision because there might be things they can not see form their perspective that cameras can pick up. Or perhaps wait until later to score the fight, but that would leave people waiting. It is certainly difficult and something the authorities should look at to try improve.
As for Overeem, he is right back into title contendership. It is difficult to say whether he should get the next title shot with Francis Ngannou fighting soon and the status of Cain Velasquez still unknown, but the Dutchman is right back in that discussion.
It was not the Anthony Pettis that tore through the Lightweight division on the way to becoming champion a few years ago, but ‘Showtime’ put in a good performance against Jim Miller to earn a unanimous decision victory.
Pettis peppered Miller with jabs, kicks, knees, showing the diversity in his striking that made him the best Lightweight in the world once upon a time. Miller is game though and his legendary toughness came into play in the second round. A bloody Miller got Pettis to the ground and worked for a submission, but ‘Showtime’ was able to stave off any attempts as the fight wore on into the third round. The pace of the fight slowed down in the final round, but Pettis did just enough to win the stanza and earn a unanimous decision win.
It was a much needed win for the former champion, and one that signals that he still has some good fights left in him. It has been a rocky road since losing the title, a path that included an ill-advised drop to Featherweight. But he is back at Lightweight where he belongs and has some exciting fights ahead of him.
Full UFC 213 Results
Robert Whittaker def. Yoel Romero via unanimous decision (48-47 x3)
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