After finally returning from a 15-month absence to demolish David Branch last September, Luke Rockhold foresaw a return to homeostasis in the middleweight division when he was booked to meet champion Robert Whittaker in the main event of last night’s (Sat., February 10, 2018) UFC 221 from the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia.
However, those plans fell apart when Whittaker was forced out of the bout with a serious staph infection and chickenpox. Rockhold’s chances to win a title in Perth, although diminished, remained intact in a sense when Yoel Romero filled in for “The Reaper” in an interim title bout, even though he missed weight and could not win the placeholder title himself.
Rockhold earned 30 percent of Romero’s purse and went through with the bout amidst seemingly never-ending chaos, and the result was as chaotic as the lead-up to the bout. After a close and measured fight from both combatants in the first two rounds, Romero used his scary athletic ability to explode and floor Rockhold in the third frame (highlights here), absolutely knocking him out cold with a penultimate left uppercut that could have dropped a horse.
After the victory, Romero apologized to a dazed Rockhold and actually kissed him while he was clearly without his faculties in the octagon. However, Rockhold appeared to not hold any lasting grudge against ‘The Soldier of God,’ issuing a statement of respect to the Cuban powerhouse by declaring he was ‘made of steel’:
Respect to Yoel that man is made of steel.
— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) February 11, 2018
A classy response from Rockhold, who almost assuredly will be facing a barrage of criticism that he got too overconfident and was knocked out for it again like he was against Michael Bisping at UFC 199.
While that may or may not be the case, what simply cannot be denied is the fact Romero is possibly the most explosive athlete in UFC history, and he’s showed no signs of slowing down as he heads toward a title rematch with Whittaker.
Meanwhile, the former champ has been forced to go back to the drawing board with two knockout defeats in his last three UFC fights. Luckily for him, the middleweight division has become top-heavy all of the sudden, and one win could get him back on the edge of title contention.
For now, however, he just had to admit Romero is a man of steel.