Whittaker vs. Romero 2 delivered on every level. Without question, that decision could have gone either way. A day after defeating Yoel Romero by split decision at UFC 225, Robert Whittaker called it the “hardest fight” of his career. This begs the question, what’s next for Robert Whittaker?
While a Whittaker vs Romero 3 match is possible, don’t bank on it. There are plenty of other big names for Whittaker’s camp to consider.
Let me start with showing respect to @yoelromeromma and his team. That was the hardest fight of my career and it was a war. Last night was my night though and I must say thanks to all the people that made it possible for me to go out there and perform. Thanks to my coaches Fabricio Itte, Alex Prates, Justin Fitzgerald, Justin Lang and Stu McKinnon for the work they put in day in day out. Also huge shout out to the boys and girls at @graciejiujitsusmeatongrange , @standstrongboxing , @liveathletic_ep and @bulldoggymcastlehill . Thank you to my manager Titus Day @6_degrees_group for making all the extra work run smoothly so I can have full focus on the fight. Thank you to all my sponsors @kaplan_homes @musclemealsdirect @musashinutrition @20foursports @bethesda @unibet . Lastly a big thanks to my family, friends and Fans, especially my wife @sofiamareewhittaker for looking after me and making this week real easy. I didn’t need to take the fight but I told you I would give you fireworks…hope you liked them 👊🏽
Whittaker’s Victory Came At A Price
According to Whittaker’s team, the fighter broke his thumb in the first round of the fight. The Reaper disguised the break well until about the fourth round when he began to throw many more elbows than punches with the right arm. Whittaker still did strike with the right hand from on occasion, making his victory, and toughness all the more impressive. This marks the second fight with Romero that Whittaker has won after sustaining an early injury.
The x-ray was posted publicly:
Whittaker has now defeated Romero twice, and the likelihood of a third bout is extremely unlikely. During the post fight press conference, when Dana White was asked about Romero moving up to the light heavyweight division, “We’re gonna have to talk to him and his team, and yeah it’s probably a good idea to go to 205”.
Here’s the party Romero would be walking into:
The middleweight division is in shambles at this point.
Whittaker just beat the number one contender in Romero for the second time, but Romero knocked out the number two contender, Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 on Feb. 10th. Rockhold beat number three contender Chris Weidman in 2015. Weidman submitted the fourth ranked contender Kelvin Gastelum just under a year ago at UFC on Fox 25, while Gastelum went the distance and won via decision in his last fight against Ronaldo Souza. And that rounds out our trickle down “who’s-who” of top five middleweight contenders.
So, What’s Next For Robert Whittaker?
Three potential matchups for The Reaper
Even with his loss to Weidman, it appears that Kelvin Gastelum would be the front runner for a title shot if Whittaker were healthy. Gastelum has won his last two fights, the first by knocking out Michael Bisping back in November. The second, a split decision win versus number five middleweight contender Ronald Souza at UFC 224.
Gastelum is the shortest match-up for Whittaker standing in at 5’9″. His reach measures two inches shorter than the champion as well. Gastelum has good power and great hands, he’s 50 percent take-down attempts and has submitted two opponents.
Earlier we mentioned Weidman’s submission victory over Gastelum, it was a much needed win after losing his three previous fights (all by knockout). Weidman won via arm-triangle choke in the third round, and announced that he wanted to be the next to challenge Whittaker while attending UFC 221 in Perth.
Weidman stands in at 6’2″ and showcases a 78″ reach compared to 6’0″ and 73.5″ for Whittaker. For comparison, Yoel Romero is 5’11” with a 73″ reach. Weidman, the wrestler, could have an opportunity to keep Whittaker at distance with his reach until he attempts a take down (Romero had three against Whittaker at UFC 225). Weidman also has 10 wins via submission.
Although this list is in no particular order, Rockhold is obviously the first choice if he hadn’t lost to Romero in February. UFC 225 would have hosted Rockhold vs. Whittaker for the title instead. The two were due to fight in Perth (instead Romero stepped in for an interim bout, missed weight, and won).
Rockhold has dropped two of his last three fights, his last victory coming by way of knockout versus David Branch. Rockhold vs Whittaker is a fight that needs to happen anyway. The southpaw kick-boxer presents an interesting challenge to Whittaker, at four inches taller, he would enjoy a three and a half inch reach advantage over the champion.
This one might be a little harder to schedule, but recent questions have been raised about GSP’s intentions to either fight or retire. MMA Junkie recently reported an interview between Dana White and TSN.ca in Canada where White said, “As far as I’m concerned, ‘GSP’ is retired right now. He’s not interested in fighting anybody.”
Although GSP’s manager points out that St-Pierre is not retired via text with MMA Junkie admittedly, this is more of a wish-list item. Honestly, who wouldn’t love to see Whittaker go up against arguably one of the best pound for pound fighters in UFC history?