But the victory didn’t earn him a title belt.
Romero was supposed to fight Rockhold for the interim UFCmiddleweight championship in Perth, Australia. But he missed the 185-pound championship weight limit, coming in at 187.7, and as such was not eligible to win the gold.
Still, Romero’s win was nonetheless impressive, as he used a giant overhand left followed by an uppercut to the downed Rockhold to finish the former Strikeforce and UFC champion at the 1:48 mark of the third round.
“I want to say I am so sorry for cutting weight is so bad for me,” Romero said. “That is the first time in my career it shut my body down.”
The bout was fought at a deliberate pace by both competitors. Rockhold cut his left shin as Romero checked his kicks. Romero also slowed Rockhold’s kicking game by peppering his lead leg with kicks. Still, Rockhold was patient and landed the better shots in the first round.
In the second, though, Romero started to pick up the pace, as he landed big punches in bunches during fast flurries. That set the tone for the finish sequence in the third, as Romero landed the wicked overhand right and finished the job.
“You know Rockhold is a very good athlete and great fighter,” Romero said. “He is a champion in Strikeforce in UFC. I am very happy, I fight for the best in my division.”
The Miami resident by way of Cuba, who turns 41 in two months, is now 13-2 after his 11th career finish. Rockhold (16-4) has lost two of his past three.
Romero was a substitute for UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, who withdrew from a planned title defense against Rockhold due to illness. While this would seem to set up a Whittaker-Romero fight, Romero was limping heavily after the bout was over. No word yet on the severity of the injury.