At UFC 221, Yoel Romero earned himself a rematch with middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, knocking out former title-holder Luke Rockhold in the third round.
The bout was meant to serve as an interim title fight, after Whittaker was sidelined due to injuries and medical issues. However, the 40-year old Romero missed weight, rendering him ineligible of winning the title.
But as we know, the UFC seems to give out interim titles like restaurants give out after-dinner mints these days. They serve as a place-holder for the number one contender. With one punch, Romero established himself as the next challenger in a division that has undergone drastic changes in recent months.
First, Whittaker and Romero squared off for an interim title, waiting for champion Michael Bisping to fight Georges St-Pierre, who ultimately returned from a near four-year retirement, and choked Bisping out cold to claim the title. Of course, he vacated the title soon after. Whittaker was then promoted to undisputed champion, with his first title defence set for UFC 221 against Rockhold.
We know that didn’t happen.
The interim title fight was set, and here we are.
Waiting in the wings were Jacare Souza, who finished Derek Brunson in his most recent outing, and former champ Chris Weidman, who snapped a three-fight skid against Kelvin Gastelum his last time out, each campaigning for a shot.
No disrespect to Brunson and Gastelum, but they are not Luke Rockhold.
With one devastating punch, Romero ended the discussion. He has to be the next in line.
Sure, he missed weight, but it doesn’t really seem to bother UFC President Dana White too much.
Let’s face it, even though Michael Bisping held the undisputed title the last time Whittaker and Romero fought, many were of the opinion that the winner of their fight was the “real” champion.
Next time, there’s no doubt about it.