The bout was originally scheduled to be a title defense for Whittaker, but Romero failed to make the championship weight limit of 185 pounds and he will not be competing for a belt.
Whittaker defeated Romero by unanimous decision at UFC 213 last July to win an interim title, which was later promoted to undisputed status. The two will face each other in a rematch in the main event.
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Round 1: Dan Miragliotta on hand to oversee the main event. Whittaker going after Romero’s leg with straight kicks right away. Unsurprisingly, it’s Whittaker probing with jabs and low kicks as Romero looks to bide his time. Left hook gets through Romero’s defenses. Romero lands a glancing left hook of his own. Whittaker with a steady stream of low kicks and he’s whipping out combinations whenever Romero gets too close. His jab is also keeping Romero at bay. Romero just turtling up as Whittaker is keeping a steady pace. Romero explodes off the fence and lands a good inside leg kick, but otherwise his output in first round has been low.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9, Whittaker.
Round 2: Low kicks to the leg and body from Whittaker. Left hand over the top glances Romero, but he hits Whittaker with a body kick. Teep to the body by Whittaker. He’s mixing his punches and body kicks well. Romero only finding success with outside leg kicks. Whittaker with right hook, then a left, and another kick to the body. Romero’s right eye is starting to swell up from the steady stream of jabs he’s been taking. 1-2-kick combo by Whittaker backs Romero up. Whittaker just beating Romero to the punch on every occasion. Takedown attempt in the final 30 seconds is easily avoided. Whittaker has Romero retreating as he jabs at him.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9, Whittaker. Overall 20-18, Whittaker.
Round 3: Romero coming out with a lot more energy in round three, he scores with a few short punches inside. A huge right hand by Romero rocks Whittaker! He’s stumbling around and needs a desperation shot to keep Romero from finishing. It’s enough, though Romero secures a body lock and has completely turned the fight around. Uppercut by Romero. He’s swarming. Whittaker hurts Romero with a couple of elows. They’re scrapping right in front of each other’s faces. Romero throwing little punches to the body as he leans on Whittaker against the cage, both fighters sill looking hurt. Spinning back fist lands for Whittaker, Romero answers with a 1-2. Whittaker somehow able to avoid getting taken down. Romero looking for a homerun swing as they separate. Stiff jab by Romero. He has Whittaker against the fence and he is looking for the finish with some heavy hands, though Whittaker is in survival mode and he manages to avoid the worst shots before cracking Romero with a head kick. Romero walks through it. Whittaker gives up a takedown, but is soon back up with Romero hanging off of him. Whittaker reverses positions and they end clinched up against the fence. Intense round.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9, Romero. Overall 29-28, Whittaker.
Round 4: Whittaker strikes first with a straight punch, but he looks tentative given the hits he took in round two. High kick is partially blocked by Romero. Whittaker throws another that scores. Jab down the middle by Whittaker. The straight kick to the leg is hurting Romero, but a low shot puts a temporary stop to the action. Romero takes most of the break to recover. When the action resumes, Whittaker quadruples up on his jab to strike Romero. He’s still utilizing the low kick effectively too, both to the knee and Romero’s mid-section. Commentators suggesting something may be wrong with Whittaker’s right hand as he’s hardly throwing it. His jab has been enough to hold Romero off this round. There simply hasn’t been much to score on Romero’s end. They trade jabs, but it’s Whittaker who follows up with punches and then a kick to the body. Romero lands a straight right. Whittaker ramps up the aggression only to eat a stiff counter punch from Romero and the champ might be stunned again. The round ends before we can see the extent of the damage done.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9, Whittaker. Overall 39-37, Whittaker.
Round 5: Like in round three, Romero comes out hot. A 1-2 sends Whittaker stumbling back. Moments later, Romero scores with a spinning back kick to the body. Whittaker settles in and starts to find his jab again. Whittaker lands a solid kick to the leg, but Romero makes him pay with punches over the top. He’s remaining just out of reach until Romero lands a huge left hook! Down goes Whittaker with Romero on top of him, trying to finish with ground-and-pound, though he’s pacing himself. Whittaker grabs a leg and hangs on. Romero landing punches to the body. Somehow, Whittaker is able to power up and drive forward for a takedown attempt. Romero stuffs him. Knee by Romero. He’s on Whittaker’s back, landing big punches from behind. Romero just leaning on Whittaker now. Whittaker struggles back to his feet and Romero tries to trip him down, but Whittaker resists. Romero hanging onto his back with a minute to go. Miragliotta orders a break with about 45 seconds remaining and they reset. Neither man can land a finishing blow and this is going to be a close one on the scorecards.
MMA Fighting scores the round 10-8, Romero. Overall 47-47.
Official result: Robert Whittaker def. Yoel Romero via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) to remain the UFC middleweight champion