New Zealand-born Robert Whittaker became the first Australian to win a UFC championship when he defeated Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title on Saturday night at UFC 213.
Whittaker (19-4) defeated Romero (13-2) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas via a unanimous decision after the judges scored the fight (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) in the Aussie’s favour.
It was strong gutsy performance from Whittaker, who overcome an early injury to his knee to outlast the Cuban over five rounds.
Romero, the veteran wrestler, was a big favourite heading into the bout but was guilty of taking his foot off the pedal after taking the first two rounds.
The win means Whittaker is now in line to challenge injured champion Michael Bisping for the full belt when he is recovered.
— UFC (@ufc) July 9, 2017
The fight became the evening’s main event after bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, pulled out of her title defence against Valentina Shevchenko after being hospitalised on Saturday.
The UFC said “illness” was to blame — without elaborating — in its statement but Shevchenko said she believed Nunes’ condition resulted from a last minute weight cut.
“She wanted to cut weight and recover rapidly to have the advantage. The end result, everything went wrong,” Shevchenko said.
“Even though she was medically cleared to fight, she backed out. … I did my part and am very upset that I can’t fight for the title today on this great event.”
Earlier on the card, it proved third time lucky for Alistair Overeem in his rivalry with Fabricio Werdum.
Overeem claimed a (28-28, 29-28 and 29-28) majority decision win over a shocked Werdum.
The first round was a close one to judge, while Overeem claimed the second and Werdum dominated the third.
While the heavyweight clash was met with controversy, the lightweights put on a show.
Anthony Pettis beat Jim Miller (30-27 rom all three judges) in an exciting clash.
Robert Whittaker d Yoel Romero (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) via unanimous decision for middleweight interim title
Alistair Overeem d Fabricio Werdum via majority decision (28-28, 29-28 and 29-28)
Anthony Pettis d Jim Miller via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)