Serious cajones.
Serious cajones.

World stunned by Aussie beast

ROBERT Whittaker walked away with the full $100,000 fight of the night bonus for his stunning, controversial UFC 225 win over Joel Romero in Chicago.

The middleweight champion survived a furious late onslaught from Cuban Yoel Romero to score a split-decision win at Chicago's United Center.

The Aussie fighter had to be taken to hospital after the fight, but he walked out of the octagon with the respect and asminration of every UFC fan on the planet for surviving five rounds with devastating Cuban slugger Yoel Romero.

Whittaker's ability to keep his feet and recover from some of the most vicious shots witnessed recently in the Octagon left commentators stunned.

Nobody walks away from flush Romero shots on the chin - nobody except Whittaker.

He was awarded the decision via a controversial, split judges decision, but few would have felt aggrieved by the decision after seeing the torment he went through.

Whittaker controlled the first two rounds and shaded the fourth, but was clearly hurt in both the third and fifth.

Crunch.
Crunch.

Two judges scored the fight 48-47 to the Australian and their colleague had Romero winning by the same total.

Romero's right eye was closing in the second round and he was finding it hard to tag the nimble Australian, who displayed outstanding footwork and continued to push the pace.

Renowned for producing explosive moments after being seemingly passive, Romero did just that in the third to change the momentum of the fight. He floored Whittaker with a massive right-hand shot.

Romero landed several other strikes, but Whittaker survived and landed a few of his own in an epic round.

Whittaker reasserted himself in the fourth, landing regularly with hand and foot, against an opponent who seemed to be tiring, but the Australian got caught a couple of times late in the round.

Whittaker started the final round well, but Romero again floored him and dominated the last three minutes of the fight, finally enjoying some success with his ground game and scoring some takedowns.

Absorbing some heavy shots in the final, the New Zealand-born Whittaker held on.

The epic third round has been labelled by some UFC commentators as the round of the year.

Both men gave as good as they got.
Both men gave as good as they got.

Whittaker revealed after the fight he fears he broke a bone in his right hand in the first round and wasn't able to feel anything below his right elbow in the final three rounds of the fight.

"I can't feel it up to my elbow," Whittaker said.

"It's absolutely brutal."

Whittaker admitted he thought the judges' decision was going to be "real close" but was adamant he did enough to win the fight.

Romero didn't think so. The 40-year-old Cuban paid Whittaker respect after the fight, but then said in his post-fight interview the judges made a mistake awarding the fight to the champion.

He also criticised officials for denying him a final chance to make weight during the weigh-ins on Saturday.

Romero was denied a final attempt to weigh-in after coming in 90 grams over the limit. The Illinois combat sports authority denied him a third chance because he appeared in distress from the weight cut.

Most of the controversy behind the judges' decision focused on the decision not to award Romero a dominant 10-8 round in the fifth, despite coming within inches of stopping the fight when Whittaker was rocked on the Octagon floor.

This card featured five current and former UFC champions in front of a sold-out United Center crowd in Chicago.

In the co-main event, Colby Covington (14-1) defeated Rafael dos Anjos (28-10) for the interim welterweight championship in a unanimous decision.

Covington controlled the five-round title fight by outstriking the former lightweight champ. The outspoken Covington called out current welterweight champ Tyron Woodley. Woodley has been out indefintley with a shoulder injury.

In his second pro fight, former WWE star CM Punk, a Chicago native, had the crowd chanting his name in the first round, but Punk was unable to show any sense of force in the cage against Mike Jackson (1-1).

Jackson peppered Punk (0-2) with punches to the face throughout the fight and won in a lackluster unanimous decision.

Punk, who was featured on the main card, didn't help his standing with the UFC after two disappointing showings.

Yoel Romero almost ended it.
Yoel Romero almost ended it.

Another Chicago native, Curtis Blaydes, kept climbing the heavyweight rankings with an impressive second-round TKO of Alistair Overeem. Blaydes (10-1-1) dropped Overeem (43-17-1), then damaged the No. 2 contender's face with a series of elbows before the fight was stopped.

Former heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski (27-16) lost in a slugfest to Tai Tuivasa (10-0). All three judges scored it 29-28. Holly Holm (12-4), former bantamweight champ, was impressive with her pound and ground game beating Megan Anderson (8-3) in a unanimous decision.

In a flyweight fight, Sergio Pettis (17-3) defeated No. 1 contender Joseph Benavidez (25-5) in a split decision. Pettis' striking game was the difference as he bounced back from a unanimous decision loss to No. 2 contender Henry Cejudo.

Former lightweight champ Rashad Evans took a right knee to the face, followed by a right hand by Anthony Smith (29-13) before the fight was stopped in the first round as Evans (24-8-1) lost his fifth straight fight.

During the card, the UFC announced former UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on July 5 in Las Vegas. Rousey was the first female fighter signed by the UFC and had six consecutive title defenses.

- with AAP, AP


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