Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC 225 Robert Whittaker defends his middleweight against Yoel Romero in a rematch of their bout from UFC 213.
Yoel Romero (Record: 13-2, +195 Underdog, Power Ranking: A)
The 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist is one of the best athletes to ever compete in martial arts. He was trained from an early age in wrestling having an excellent amateur career prior to fighting professionally in MMA. Romero is coming off one of the best wins of his career when he knocked out former champion Luke Rockhold.
Yoel Romero is certainly one of the more unique fighters in the sport. For a high level fighter, he has very low output at just 3.06 significant strikes per minute. Romero tends to throw strikes in bursts. When he does attack, he does so with tremendous acceleration and force. He tends to relax for significant portions of a round to save energy for those bursts. There are similarities to future Hall of Famer Vitor Belfort in that regard. While Romero has a tremendous wrestling game, he doesn’t look to secure takedowns as much as one would think he would. He only secures 1.87 takedowns per 15 minutes, so less than two per 15 minute fight. Romero is better than anybody in the sport at lulling opponents and then countering with a quick burst to earn a knockout. He’s proven to be exceptionally dangerous in the third round. His last six finishes have all occurred in the third round; a UFC record. Opponents need to be mindful of Romero’s third round prowess in order to beat him.
Robert Whittaker (Record: 19-4, -245 Favorite, Power Ranking: A+)
The best MMA fighter to ever come out of New Zealand, Robert Whittaker has won eight fights in a row including a second round stoppage victory over Jacare and most importantly a decision win over Yoel Romero to win the middleweight championship. Whittaker is one of the younger fighters in the division and has the potential for a long reign.
Robert Whittaker has become one of the most exciting fighters in the weight class. Whittaker’s approach is striking focused. He uses a variety of leg kicks from distance and then combines that with excellent hand speed to land well timed jabs from distance. Even though he’s one of the smaller fighters in the weight class, he does a good job at getting inside and striking with opponents. Hand speed is key for him as is his volume heavy approach (4.77 significant strikes per minute). His striking defense has improved in recent fights as his strikes absorbed per minute has dropped from over four to 3.50 significant strikes per minute. He holds his hands very low and relies on head movement to get out of range. While he does that fairly well, he is open to being hit and taking damage. He does have a very good chin; knocked out only once in his career. Whittaker is able to focus on striking as he has excellent takedown defense (84%) and when he has been taken down he has the ability to scramble quickly back to his feet. Despite having a knee injury, Whittaker was able to stuff Romero’s takedown attempts in the final three rounds in their last meeting.
In a key rematch, Robert Whittaker returns from an 11 month absence to take on Yoel Romero for the middleweight championship. Whittaker hurt his knee in the opening fight, which limited his mobility to some extent. Despite Romero winning the first two rounds, he slowed down significantly in the third round and Whittaker started to separate himself from a volume perspective winning the final three rounds and ultimately the championship. Both fighters have real speed and are capable of landing with real power. However, I see this fight coming down to conditioning. Just like in their first round, the fighter who can fight at a more consistent pace will be able to secure rounds and ultimately the fight. I’d expect both fighters to be a bit cautious in this bout with a bit of a feeling out process. Whittaker knows if he’s able to wait out Romero, he should take over in the later rounds with perhaps even a chance at a late finish. The odds on Over 4.5 Rounds (+117) just aren’t high enough to bet at this point given the power propensity of these two men. Perhaps a live betting opportunity after Round 3 will present itself should Romero be down two rounds to one. Given current odds, that’s the best angle for Whittaker in this fight. If Romero is to win, doing so by knockout is the only way I see possible. At +300, Romero by knockout is the most intriguing prop bet on the board. That’s a nice payout for what is truly the only way I can see him win this bout.