9 Jul 2017

Whittaker wins UFC title in thrilling fight

7:53 pm on 9 July 2017

New Zealand-born Robert Whittaker has won the UFC interim middleweight title with a thrilling unanimous points win against Cuban Yoel Romero in Las Vegas.

Robert Whittaker punches Yoel Romero in their interim UFC middleweight championship bout during the UFC 213 event.

Robert Whittaker punches Yoel Romero in their interim UFC middleweight championship bout during the UFC 213 event. Photo: AFP

All three judges scored it 48-47 to Whittaker, who suffered a foot injury in the first round.

Whittaker dominated the last three rounds of the fight, pinning the Cuban to the floor in the final minute.

"I sustained an injury earlier in the camp and I thought it would be 100 percent by now," Whittaker said.

"A guy like Yoel Romero, he sees a weakness he'll capitalise on it every time he can.

"I'm surprised he didn't kick it more. It definitely impacted on my game.

"I was trying to establish a solid jab and it's hard when your leading leg is bummed."

Regular middleweight champion Michael Bisping offered just a few words of congratulations before unleashing a tirade against Whittaker.

"The fact you're standing there with that ... belt on like you're a champion makes me sick, you should be ashamed off yourself," Bisping said.

Even when Sydney 2000 Olympic freestyle wrestling silver medallist Romero did take Whittaker down in round one, he regained his footing quickly.

The Cuban did his best work early, especially in the second round, when he took Whittaker down to the canvas and also pinned him against the fence.

But Whittaker, who has spent most of his life in Australia, lifted his tempo from the third landing good kicks and punches on his 40-year-old opponent.

Romero showed little offence in the third round, as Whittaker gained momentum.

Whittaker maintained that through the fourth and again in the fifth, when both men were tiring and Romero tried desperately to find a decisive strike or take Whittaker down.

Instead it was Whittaker who finished the fight on top, literally.

- Reuters

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.