Yoel Romero couldn’t quite make his late-round magic happen in Chicago.
In their middleweight championship tilt, Robert Whittaker (20-4) eked out a split decision over the “Soldier of God,” by 48-47 (twice) and 47-48 in the UFC 225 headliner Saturday. The fight featured huge momentum swings and tremendous offensive firepower on both sides.
After two competitive rounds, Romero (13-3), who already owns five third-round TKO wins in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, blistered Whittaker in the opening minute, dropping the champ. Whittaker recovered but spent much of the rest of the round on his heels -- or on roller skates. After a fourth round punctuated by a groin strike to Romero and a subsequent recovery break, the fifth round was another big one for the Cuban.
With both fighters obviously exhausted and Whittaker favoring a right hand that had apparently been broken in one of the middle rounds, Romero spent most of the round chasing a wobbly champion around the cage, and significant time pummeling a turtled foe. However, Whittaker survived to the final horn and ended up taking the contentious decision. Since Romero missed weight and was ineligible to win the title, an immediate rubber match seems likely.
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Covington Outpoints Dos Anjos
In the co-main event, Colby Covington (14-1) made a major statement in the UFC welterweight division and grabbed an interim title, as he won a grueling, hard-fought decision over former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos (28-10).
“Chaos” won the fight largely by outdoing dos Anjos at his own game: employing a relentless, hyper-aggressive wrestling attack against the fence in all five rounds, never appearing to allow “RDA” space or time to breathe. Even the unsuccessful takedown attempts kept dos Anjos constantly on the defensive. Despite Covington’s suffocating attack, dos Anjos had his moments, particularly in Round 4, where he turned the tables and took the American down, then took a variety of dominant positions while looking for a submission.
Ultimately, Covington’s pace, size and wrestling proved too much for do Anjos, and he carried the day by scorecards of 48-47 (twice) and 49-46. Covington ran his win streak to six straight fights while securing a presumptive unification bout with champion Tyron Woodley, while dos Anjos suffered his first defeat since going 3-0 to start his UFC welterweight run.
Holm Outclasses Anderson
Holly Holm (12-4) gave prized featherweight prospect Megan Anderson (8-3) a rude welcome to the UFC, as she dominated the Australian across three rounds. “The Preacher’s Daughter” won via 30-27 and two 30-26 scores.
The former UFC bantamweight champ and boxing star may have surprised some by her methodology: she took the six-foot-tall Anderson down with ease in all three rounds and kept her on the defensive almost constantly with bruising ground-and-pound. She was most dominant in the second round, where she spent several minutes in mount, punching Anderson’s face and body.
Anderson, who exited Invicta Fighting Championships on four straight wins, drops her Octagon debut, while Holm rebounded from her last bout, a decision loss to UFC featherweight champion Cristiane Justino.
Tuivasa Bests Arlovski
Tai Tuivasa (8-0) cleared a major hurdle, as one of the heavyweight division’s most promising young prospects defeated former champion Andrei Arlovski (27-16) via unanimous decision. All three judges scored the fight for Tuivasa via identical 29-28 scores.
The most dominant round for either fighter was the first, where a botched throw by Arlovski ended up with the Australian landing in full mount. Tuivasa then spent the bulk of the round on top of the “Pitbull,” landing short strikes. The second and third rounds were far more closely contested, with Arlovski landing more often with his slicker boxing, while Tuivasa struck the heavier blows. The 25-year-old’s UFC ledger reaches a perfect 3-0, while the veteran Arlovski sees the end of a modest two-fight winning streak.
Punk Couldn’t Handle ‘The Truth’
In the opening bout of the pay-per-view main card, the “CM Punk” MMA experience, at least at the sport’s highest level, may have met its end, as Phil Brooks dropped a lopsided unanimous decision to Mike Jackson.
All three judges scored the fight 30-26 for the Houstonian. The fight was marked by Jackson’s obvious skill advantage on the feet, though Brooks was repeatedly able to close the distance and force the clinch in spite of the more experienced striker’s wishes. After a first round in which both fighters were very tentative, Jackson brutalized “Punk” in the second. “The Truth” stung Brooks on the feet, then landed in his guard, where he punched him at will for two full minutes, leaving his face a swollen, bruised mess.
The third round offered more of the same, lessened primarily by Jackson’s apparent lack of urgency. The win moves Jackson to 1-1 as pro and as a UFC fighter. Brooks, meanwhile, goes to 0-2.
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