No Interim Title, No Problem: Yoel Romero KOs Luke Rockhold in UFC 221 Main Event

By Brian Knapp Feb 10, 2018

When you fight Yoel Romero, you are never far from danger.

Romero knocked out Luke Rockhold with a pair of left hands in the third round of their UFC 221 headliner on Saturday at Perth Arena in Perth, Australia. Rockhold (16-4, 6-3 UFC) bowed out 1:48 into Round 3, his bid for the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown going unrewarded. Because he was overweight for the bout, Romero (13-2, 9-1 UFC) was not eligible for the title.

Rockhold controlled much of the first 10 minutes with a steady jab and kicks the legs and body, though Romero reminded everyone of his explosive nature with a flurry of punches in the second round. Early in the third, the American Top Team ace floored Rockhold with a knifing left hand and then finished him with a brutal standing-to-ground left uppercut.

Romero, 40, has won nine of his last 10 fights.

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Blaydes Weathers, Manhandles Hunt

Repeated takedowns, a crushing top game and heavy ground-and-pound carried Elevation Fight Team standout Curtis Blaydes to a unanimous decision over Mark Hunt in the heavyweight co-main event. Blaydes (9-1, 4-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-26, 30-26 and 29-27 marks from the judges.

Hunt (13-12-1, 8-6-1 UFC) had the rising contender teetering on the brink in the first round, where he wobbled him with two right hands. Blaydes weathered the attack, got his takedowns in gear and slowly but surely turned the tide in his favor. He did his best work in the third round, as he alternated between slams and takedowns, fed the increasingly fatigued Hunt elbows and forearm strikes and climbed to full mount in the closing seconds.

Blaydes, 26, has rattled off three consecutive victories.

Undefeated Tuivasa Brutalizes Asker

Australian prospect Tai Tuivasa kept his perfect professional record intact, as he wrecked Cyril Asker with punches and elbows in the first round of their featured heavyweight pairing. Tuivasa (7-0, 2-0 UFC) brought it to a close 2:18 into Round 1.

Asker (9-4, 2-3 UFC) never stood a chance. Tuivasa dazed the Frenchman with a left hook, followed it with a standing elbow and backed him to the fence. Punches -- some to the head, others to the body -- and elbows flowed from there, with Asker turtled and trying to survive. Tuivasa connected with another elbow and shoved his opponent to the canvas, giving referee Steve Perceval the opening he needed to call for a merciful and just stoppage.

Tuivasa has finished all seven of his opponents in the first round.

Matthews Outduels China’s Li

“The Ultimate Fighter Nations” graduate Jake Matthews won for the second time in as many outings, as he picked up a unanimous decision over Jingliang Li in a three-round feature at 170 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for Matthews (12-3, 6-3 UFC): 29-28, 30-26 and 30-26.

The Aussie set the tone from the outset. He dropped Li (14-5, 6-3 UFC) with a left hand in the first round, moved into top position and achieved full mount before battering the China Top Team rep with ground-and-pound, advancing to the back and hunting the choke. Cut by an inadvertent head butt early in the middle stanza, Matthews bit down on a tight guillotine choke. A desperate Li freed himself by blatantly gouging the 23-year-old’s eye. No point was deducted. Matthews kept his cool, switched gears in the third round and chopped down Li with a right cross. He polished off the win with a takedown in the waning moments.

The loss snapped Li’s four-fight winning streak.

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Pedro Kimura Submits Safarov

Tyson Pedro submitted M-1 Global veteran Saparbek Safarov with a kimura in the first round of their light heavyweight showcase. Safarov (8-2, 0-2 UFC) bowed out 3:54 into Round 1, as the Dagestani brute remained winless inside the Octagon.

Pedro (7-1, 3-1 UFC) conceded an early takedown but returned to his feet and exploited his advantages there. The 26-year-old Australian prospect tore into Safarov with right crosses, knees and powerful kicks. Backed into the fence, Pedro countered a takedown with the kimura. Safarov rolled in a bid to free himself but only wandered deeper into danger. Pedro secured his position and continued to crank on the shoulder lock until the tapout came.

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