Robert Whittaker brought UFC gold to Australia for the first time after a unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) victory over Yoel Romero on Saturday (8 July).
In a fight that became the main event of the pay-per-view after Amanda Nunes had to pull out of her title match with Valentina Shevchenko, the two middleweight contenders delivered one of the best back-and-forth bouts of the year.
Romero started off strong in the first two rounds as his Australian opponent seemed to have suffered an injury to his knee. However, Whittaker bounced back and won the remaining three as the Cuban started to tire in the championship rounds.
"[The knee injury] was pretty bad," Whittaker stated after the fight. "But champions are made of this stuff."
The 26-year-old will now face Michael Bisping for the middleweight title as the Briton stepped into the octagon and delivered a message to Whittaker.
"First of all Robert that was an awesome fight. Romero, well done. I wanted to come here and talk a lot of s**t but it was an awesome fight. But the fact that you're standing there with that f*****g belt on like you're a champion makes me sick. You should be ashamed of yourself. Take that [belt], fight me for it. I'll see you soon, motherf****r."
The 40-year-old Romero was graceful in defeat, claiming that he is still there in the middleweight title picture: "If the judges say he got it, he got it. I knew I hurt his knee. I was waiting for my moment. If I lost the fight, God knows why. I'm here, Joe. Never give up!"
In the co-main event, Alistair Overeem defeated Fabricio Werdum in a somewhat controversial decision win. With the result possibly going either way in a very close encounter, "The Reem" came out on top in the third fight with Werdum and will now, more than likely, challenge Stipe Miocic once again for the heavyweight title.
"I feel great with the win tonight," Overeem said following the fight. "I felt I was clearly the dominant fighter in the first two rounds. Round three was a little tough but I knew I had controlled the fight before then. Werdum is tough but I was the better man tonight."
UFC 213 results:
Interim middleweight title fight
Robert Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero via unanimous decision.
Alistair Overeem defeated Fabricio Werdum via unanimous decision.
Curtis Blaydes defeated Daniel Omielańczuk via unanimous decision.
Anthony Pettis defeated Jim Miller via unanimous decision.
Rob Font defeated Douglas Silva de Andrade via submission.