UFC 213 didn't have its expected headliner, but that didn't keep the night from ending with a memorable fight as Robert Whittaker took a close unanimous decision over Yoel Romero to become the UFC middleweight interim champion.
The combatants each turned in strong performances. Romero held the advantage in the early rounds, slowing the fight to his pace and scoring takedowns early, such as the one the UFC posted in the second round:
However, Romero couldn't do much with those takedowns. While he was in control, he didn't inflict fight-changing damage outside of a leg kick. The Cuban landed a front kick that buckled Whittaker's knee but didn't follow through to continue the damage.
Ultimately, Whittaker found himself down 2-0 before he started finding his rhythm. But once he did, he gradually took over in Rounds 3 and 4. He poured it on, frustrating Romero with takedown defense and landing clean, effective combinations:
The fifth round saw a small burst of energy from Romero before The Reaper took advantage of a slip and pounced on Romero to finish the final round strong and claim the victory on the judges' scorecards.
After the bout, current middleweight champion Michael Bisping wasted no time in hyping a fight with Whittaker to unify the championship in the 185-pound division, per MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani:
UFC 213's main event was supposed to be a women's bantamweight title bout between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko, but Nunes pulled out of the fight hours before the card started for undisclosed medical reasons, per Brett Okamoto of ESPN.
Still, the night produced intriguing results as the lightweight division saw a familiar face return, a heavyweight prospect took another step toward legitimacy and old foes met in a trilogy that could have a major impact on the heavyweight title picture.
Here's a glance at the results and a closer look at the main card fights.
UFC 213 Quick Results
- Robert Whittaker def. Yoel Romero by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
- Alistair Overeem def. Fabricio Werdum by majority decision (28-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Curtis Blaydes def. Daniel Omielanczuk by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Anthony Pettis def. Jim Miller by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Rob Font def. Douglas Silva de Andrade via submission at 4:36 of the second round
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
- Aleksei Oleinik def. Travis Browne via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:44 of the second round
- Chad Laprise def. Brian Camozzi by TKO at 1:27 of the third round
- Thiago Santos def. Gerald Meerschaert by TKO at 2:04 of the second round
- Belal Muhammad def. Jordan Mein by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
- Cody Stamann def. Terrion Ware by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Trevin Giles def. James Bochnovic by KO at 2:54 of the second round
Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum are both great—and oftentimes exciting—heavyweights.
However, they might not be capable of putting on a good fight with one another. The two famously had a bizarre bout that went to a decision in Strikeforce in 2011.
Time has not changed the matchup.
Overeem and Werdum engaged in a glorified staring match at times, as neither was willing to engage. The result was a difficult fight to score that had one definitive round in which Werdum wobbled Overeem in the third but chose to take him down rather than pursue the finish on the feet.
Ultimately, that decision cost Vai Cavalo, as two judges thought The Reem did enough in Rounds 1 and 2 to take the decision.
It was the kind of result that had people questioning the 10-point must system used by athletic commissions to judge MMA. Ben Fowlkes of MMAjunkie openly criticized the system:
It's hard to say what this means for Overeem. He came into this bout ranked third in the UFC's heavyweight division and just defeated the No. 1 contender.
In most cases that might mean a title shot, but he's already lost to the champion in a first-round knockout. Rising heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou might be the biggest winner of all, as Helwani noted:
Curtis Blaydes vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
Curtis Blaydes came into UFC 213 with the best chance to win and the perfect opportunity to build buzz about his prospects as a heavyweight contender.
He might have won, but it wasn't the resounding statement he would have liked.
Blaydes subdued Omielanczuk, but it was the audience that he threatened to put asleep. The fight was light on action, and Dave Doyle of MMA Fighting had a theory on why neither fighter was all that effective with his striking:
Rather than work his reach advantage and showcase any new striking skills, Blaydes was content to try takedown after takedown. According to The MMA Report's Jason Floyd, Blaydes went 0-of-14 on takedown attempts:
A win over a Top 15 heavyweight is never a bad thing, but Blaydes will have to make extreme changes in the striking department to become a legitimate prospect in the heavweight division.
Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller
Anthony Pettis is back.
After losing his title shot at featherweight against Max Holloway, Showtime made his return to the lightweight division and netted a unanimous decision over Jim Miller.
It was the kind of performance that reminded fans of how good Pettis can be when he creates space. Miller made it a dogfight, but Pettis got the better of the exchanges.
The UFC tweeted a highlight from Round 1 that encapsulated the bout:
The holes are still there in Pettis' game. Miller was successful in getting Pettis to the ground multiple times, including this trip takedown from Round 2:
Ultimately, Pettis' underrated grappling game was huge in getting his hand raised as he threatened Miller with submissions and won the ground exchanges. That's an impressive feat against a submission artist of Miller's caliber.
Lightweight is still a stacked division, and this win doesn't erase the fact that Pettis left the division on a three-fight losing streak.
There's still work to be done in reclaiming his status as a contender, but this was an important first step.
Rob Font vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade
When UFC 213 lost its main event, Rob Font and Douglas Silva de Andrade moved their scrap up to the main card.
Font didn't let the opportunity in the spotlight go to waste.
The 30-year-old overwhelmed Silva de Andrade with volume and pressure that never let him take a break. Ultimately, that pressure led to the opportunity to take down his opponent and sink in the guillotine choke in the second round.
Connor Ruebusch of Bloody Elbow praised Font's pressure game while giving his opponent props for looking promising in the loss:
Font has now scored back-to-back finishes since losing to John Lineker at UFC 198. A win over D'Silva isn't necessarily something that will launch him into the division's top level, but it was a nice performance in front of a pay-per-view crowd that could be enough to get him a step up in competition.