X

UFC 225: Whittaker vs. Romero 2 Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2018

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 08:  (L-R) Opponents UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker of New Zealand and Yoel Romero of Cuba face off during the UFC 225 weigh-in at the United Center on June 8, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Yoel Romero's failure to drop 0.2 pounds before his second attempt to weigh 185 pounds for his middleweight title fight against Robert Whittaker can't stop UFC 225 from being this summer's most hyped card.

The title is no longer on the line, but that doesn't mean it's not a championship-caliber fight. Their 2017 brawl showed these are two of the best in the weight class, and they will top off a card that has remarkable depth at United Center in Chicago.

Before Romero and Whittaker square off for a second time, Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington will vie for the interim welterweight title in the co-main event. The rest of the card features plenty of familiar faces and rising contenders, including major fights in the heavyweight division and an intriguing clash of women's featherweights.

Add in the reappearance of former WWE star CM Punk, and you have a card chock-full of intrigue and action.

           

Main Card (at 10 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View)

Robert Whittaker (19-4) vs. Yoel Romero (13-2) 
Rafael dos Anjos (28-9) vs. Colby Covington (13-1), UFC interim welterweight title
Holly Holm (11-4) vs. Megan Anderson (8-2) 
Andrei Arlovski (27-15, 1NC) vs. Tai Tuivasa (7-0) 
CM Punk (0-1) vs. Mike Jackson (0-1) 

                 

Prelims (at 8 p.m. ET on FS1)

Alistair Overeem (43-16, 1NC) vs. Curtis Blaydes (9-1, 1NC) 
Claudia Gadelha (15-3) vs. Carla Esparza (13-4) 
Ricardo Lamas (18-6) vs. Mirsad Bektic (12-1) 
Rashad Coulter (8-3) vs. Chris de la Rocha (4-2) 

         

Early Prelims (at 6:15 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass)

Rashad Evans (19-7-1) vs. Anthony Smith (28-13) 
Joseph Benavidez (25-4) vs. Sergio Pettis (16-3) 
Clay Guida (34-17) vs. Charles Oliveira (22-8, 1NC) 
Mike Santiago (20-11) vs. Dan Ige (8-2) 

         

Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 08:  (R-L) Robert Whittaker of New Zealand punches Yoel Romero of Cuba in their interim UFC middleweight championship bout during the UFC 213 event at the T-Mobile Arena on July 8, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuf
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

This is the main event that almost wasn't. 

After Romero missed on the scale, this bout appeared in jeopardy. As Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting noted, it was a tough weight cut for the Cuban wrestler:

Marc Raimondi @marc_raimondi

Yoel Romero just walked by us, assisted by two members of his team on each side. He was visibly and audibly in pain. Scary stuff.

That's not a good omen for the man who would have been a title challenger. He also missed weight against Luke Rockhold in his last fight before knocking him out in the first round, but Whittaker isn't Rockhold. 

Instead, this is one of the few men who can match Romero's powerful athleticism with his own. In their first fight, Whittaker was able to stuff 14 of Romero's 18 takedown attempts, per FightMetric

That's a ton of takedown attempts. Romero's strategy of spamming the takedown button can't be repeated, because it was ineffective as the fight went on. 

On the feet, Romero is a powerful striker who has a surprisingly versatile arsenal for a former wrestler. However, Whittaker is the smoother striker with better hands. 

The key to this fight is going to be how well Whittaker can avoid bombs early. Romero's propensity for wearing out as the fight goes on can only be exacerbated by the weight cut, and the champion has proved he's got the cardio to beat Romero down the stretch. 

Expect this to play out a lot like the first but on an accelerated timeline, which will see Whittaker take over earlier. 

Prediction: Whittaker via fourth-round TKO

      

Colby Covington vs. Rafael dos Anjos

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 08:  (L-R) Opponents Rafael Dos Anjos of Brazil and Colby Covington face off during the UFC 225 weigh-in at the United Center on June 8, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

It's time for Covington to put up or shut up. 

Of course, the "shut up" part won't actually be in play for the brash welterweight whether he wins or loses, but all of his talk has helped net him an opportunity for an interim belt and a shot at Tyron Woodley. 

Covington has done his best to rile up fans in a five-fight win streak that has him in this highlighted spot. Even he admits that he's developing a pro wrestling persona to sell pay-per-views down the line. 

"I don't care about fans; I'm looking to make people pissed off so people buy my pay-per-views to see me lose, like [Conor] McGregor," Covington said on the In This Corner Podcast (h/t Brandon Wise of CBS Sports). "There's a pro wrestling model out there. If anything, I'm more like Ric Flair. You know, I'm on the same diet: women, limousines and private jets on the regular."

It's a good thing for him that he's figured out how to market himself somehow, because his in-cage style is certainly not fan-friendly. Covington is an efficient grinder in the cage who applies lots of pressure without doing a ton of damage. 

But pressuring Dos Anjos will be another task altogether. Dos Anjos is a versatile fighter who likes to pressure when given the opportunity, and there's a good chance the bully is going to become the bullied here; the Brazilian will utilize leg kicks to ward off Covington's takedown attempts. 

Covington might be able to take a few rounds if he can force Dos Anjos against the fence, but over the course of five rounds, RDA is the more quality, skilled fighter, and that will show. 

Prediction: Dos Anjos via third-round TKO

        

Tai Tuivasa vs. Andrei Arlovski

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 08:  (L-R) Opponents Andrei Arlovski of Belarus and Tai Tuivasa of Australia face off during the UFC 225 weigh-in at the United Center on June 8, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Image
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

If you're a heavyweight prospect with any hype in the UFC, you fight Andrei Arlovski.

The Pitbull has seen Francis Ngannou, Junior Albini and Marcin Tybura recently, with only Albini failing to pass the Belarussian's test. Australian Tai Tuivasa will become the latest up-and-comer to see if he can topple the former UFC champion. 

Arlovski isn't the knockout threat he used to be. His last knockout came against Travis Browne in May 2015. But the crafty veteran is perfect to test the striking of young heavyweights on the way up. 

Tuivasa is among the most interesting in the division right now. He's a fun fighter both in and out of the cage, celebrating a win by drinking alcohol out of a shoe and ending all seven of his fights by first-round knockout. 

Two of those have come in the Octagon, and in a division that is always in desperate need of new blood, that's enough to make him a legit prospect. 

He can go a long way in cementing his spot as one of the top fighters in the class with a win over Arlovski. 

At 39 years old with 10 knockout losses on his resume, it shouldn't be the least bit shocking if Tuivasa's pure power is enough to extend his first-round knockout spree. 

Prediction: Tuivasa via first-round TKO

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.