UFC 213: Robert Whittaker outlasts Yoel Romero for interim middleweight title

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Valentina Shevchenko spoke with MMAjunkie backstage at UFC 213 in Las Vegas.
USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — Robert Whittaker produced an inspired comeback to outlast Yoel Romero and win the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s interim middleweight belt at UFC 213 on Saturday night.

Whittaker struggled in the first two rounds against Romero, the 2000 Olympic freestyle wrestling silver medalist, and complained to his corner that his left knee was “trashed” early on.

However, he was repeatedly able to prevent Romero from taking him to the ground towards the latter part of the contest and managed to land punishing strikes on his opponent. After all three judges scored the bout in Whittaker’s favor, the Australian will now get the chance to take on reigning champion Michael Bisping for the full version of the title.

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Bisping entered the octagon at the end and tried to get an early head-start on promoting his clash with Whittaker.

“The fact that you are stood there with a belt, like you are a champion, makes me sick,” Bisping said, referring to the interim strap, while Whittaker just laughed off his taunts.

Despite the rugged tussle between Whittaker and Romero, UFC 213 will go down as one of the organization’s most disappointing recent major events. The night was plagued by the late withdrawal of women’s bantamweight titleholder Amanda Nunes through illness, causing her scheduled defense against Valentina Shevchenko to be scrapped.

Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter @mrogersUSAT.

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