When fights are so closely contested, there’s a moment before Bruce Buffer announces the decision when you realise that at least some people are going to be disgruntled.
Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker edged a split decision win over Yoel Romero in another thrilling five-round contest. The re-match, which took place at UFC 225 in Chicago, Illinois, was much closer than the pair’s first fight and somehow even more entertaining.
While the decision fell in Whittaker’s favour, there was fair argument for a draw or even a win for Romero. The three judges scored the bout 48-47 Romero, 48-47 Whittaker x 2. Most criticism stemmed from their failure to award Romero a 10-8 for round five, including the judge who scored it for Romero.
Just like their previous bout, the Aussie suffered an early injury which limited his offense for the fight’s duration. Whittaker’s BJJ school Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Smeaton Grange posted an x-ray of his hand on Facebook which revealed a badly broken thumb.
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Whittaker said he injured the hand in the first round.
“Yoel must be bad luck mate, ‘cause first round I busted my hand. I cannot feel it up to here,” he said indicating his elbow. “It is absolutely brutal.”
Despite the injury, “The Reaper” fought on, opting for high kicks and elbows instead of throwing his right hand. Romero, who was conservative with his offense early, landed his most significant attacks in rounds three and five, dropping the champion in each.
The outcome had many calling for an immediate trilogy bout, but others were more eager to see Romero make championship weight against another opponent before getting another shot at the title.
The decision was the final sting in a disappointing weekend for Romero. After failing to make weight on the second attempt by just 90 grams, the number one contender was ineligible to win the middleweight strap or his $50,000 performance bonus. The re-match won fight of the night, however Dana White confirmed in the post-fight press conference that Whittaker would take home the full $100,000 bonus.
Fellow Australians Megan Anderson and Tai Tuivasa also fought on the card. Anderson was unsuccessful in her UFC debut against former bantamweight champion Holly Holm, losing a unanimous decision. After dropping Andrei Arlovski in the first, Tuivasa, who had never previously been to the second round, fought on through unchartered territory to earn a unanimous decision.