The UFC returned to pay-per-view as one of the most stacked cards of the year went down Saturday night, live from Chicago, Illinois. UFC 225 featured great names and exciting fights from top to bottom. The top two fights saw middleweight champion Robert Whittaker take on Yoel Romero in a non-title bout, and Rafael dos Anjos took on Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title.
The main event was back and forth, with both fighters having their moments. The fight ended with Whittaker winning a very close split decision.
In the co-main event, Colby Covington reached the top of the welterweight rankings as he is now known as the interim champion. “Chaos” outclassed the former lightweight using his All-American wrestling to grind out the decision win. With the victory, a matchup against Tyron Woodley is right around the corner.
UFC 225 Standout Performances
Along with those top two fights, the rest of the card delivered. We saw two of the best female fighters in the world as Holly Holm took on Megan Anderson. Former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski took on the young and talented Tai Tuivasa. The featured prelim on the free part of the card featured a pair of the best heavyweights. The legendary Alistair Overeem took on another up and comer in Curtis Blaydes. Two top strawweights settled their rivalry as former title challenger Claudia Gadelha took on former champion, Carla Esparza.
We also saw a fading champion in Rashad Evans take on Anthony Smith on the UFC Fight Pass prelims. The prelims also featured former flyweight title challenger, Joseph Benavidez, and Sergio Pettis.
Through the esteemed veterans and thrilling action, it’s time to identify the five fighters that performed well enough to make our Standout Performance list. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
#1: Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero
Robert Whittaker def. Yoel Romero via Split Decision (48-47 Romero, 48-47 Whittaker, 48-47 Whittaker)
Coming into this fight, Robert Whittaker had been inactive since the first time these two met. That fight took place back at UFC 213 with Whittaker winning a unanimous decision to win the interim title. Whittaker was eventually promoted to the undisputed champion after Georges St-Pierre vacated the title. While Whittaker has been on the shelf, Romero took on former champion Luke Rockhold on short notice at UFC 221 in February. He won that fight in the third round with a brutal knockout to earn him another shot at Whittaker.
In their first fight, Romero came out quick, throwing low line kicks to the knee. This time, Whittaker comes out hard and throws the same exact leg kicks at Romero. Romero covers up, staying defensive as Whittaker continues to throw. When he does open up, Romero connects with a clean left hook. Whittaker walks him down and throws a head kick that causes him to fall, but he quickly gets back up.
Whittaker continues to walk forward as he keeps throwing the side leg kick to Romero’s lead leg. About a minute left in the round, and Whittaker is still pressing forward while Romero covers up. Romero finally finds an opening and rushes forward, lunging with punches but can’t connect. The round ends with Whittaker ducking down as Romero launches a quick spinning back fist. This round was all Whittaker as he pressed forward and landed many shots. Romero did not do much this round as he spent it covering up and not throwing much.
Whittaker opens this round with the side leg kick once again as he has been finding success with it a lot. Romero seems to be opening up a lot more this round as he’s looking to throw more shots. Nothing is stopping Whittaker’s pressure though as he continues to push forward throwing a lot of kicks. He has been finding a lot of success with the sidekicks to the knee and the body. With about two minutes left, you can notice that Romero’s right eye is almost completely swelled shut.
This kind of thing could very easily cause the doctor to call the fight if he were to be called in. Fortunately, no doctor is called in as they continue to trade in the middle with Whittaker once again utilizing the kicks. Whittaker is also finding a lot of success with his punches as well. The round ends with Whittaker landing a side leg kick and a good jab. It seems that Whittaker has gone up 2-0 as he looked very well in this round. He continued to use those kicks and was connecting with good punches and head kicks.
Whittaker rushes out for round three and throws the side leg kick again, hyperextending Romero’s knee again. But then Romero turns it on. He throws a hard shot that connects perfectly and knocks down Whittaker. He gets back to his feet as Romero starts to rush in, looking to end the fight with one punch. Whittaker is stumbling around the cage as Romero gets him down to the ground. “The Reaper” gets up but Romero stays on him like glue as he continues to throw. He’s landing hooks and uppercuts until Whittaker lands a shot that makes Romero level change as it seemed to have stunned him. The two are going back and forth until they lockup on the cage and look to recover from the shots they both took.
They break and Robert Whittaker lands a beautiful spinning elbow, but they lock up again as Whittaker lands big knees to the body. Romero looks to get the body lock takedown but can’t get it and they meet in the middle again. Both guys are still throwing with Romero seeming to be the aggressor this time. He backs Whittaker up to the fence and lands great punches in combinations until they walk out to the center again. There, Whittaker lands a beautiful head kick that stuns Romero, but Romero continues to walk forward.
Romero locks him up again and looks for a takedown and gets it momentarily, but Whittaker quickly gets up. The round ends with the two locked up on the fence after what seemed to be the greatest round of the year. This was definitely Romero’s round as he landed the knockdown and poured it on him throughout the round.
The championship rounds begin with a touch of gloves. Whittaker walks down Romero throwing sidekicks and lands a good head kick. Romero hasn’t thrown in the first minute as it seems he could be looking to coast a little bit. Whittaker keeps connecting with the side leg kick, hyperextending Romero’s knee over and over again. The fight is forced to come to a pause as Whittaker connects to the groin of Romero. It was an accidental kick, but Romero will still get five minutes if he needs it, but most fighters don’t take the full five. The fight resumes as Whittaker lands another leg kick. Whittaker rushes forward as he lands a nice head kick.
Romero continues to stay a bit inactive, throwing a couple punches here and there. Romero seems to be conserving his energy for a possible round five. Twenty seconds left in the round and Romero connects with a punch that stuns Whittaker. He walks him down and lands another but Whittaker takes it. It seems this round will go to Whittaker as he landed nearly forty strikes while Romero landed a bit over ten.
Romero stuns Whittaker with a one-two fifteen seconds into the round. Whittaker is still attacking the leg of Romero with that side kick to the knee. Romero finds some energy again and lands a left hand that drops Whittaker. Romero immediately jumps on him, looking to finish the fight with hard ground and pound. Whittaker covers up and attempts to defend himself the best he can as it seems like the fight could be stopped soon. He seems to recover quickly but he stays down looking to rest while also looking for a takedown. Romero continues to pour on ground and pound looking for a finish until Whittaker gets back to his feet.
Once they’re back in the clinch, Romero kicks out Whittaker’s legs from under him as they go to the mat again. Two minutes to go and the two are on the mat with Romero on top, moving towards Whittaker’s back. He gets the back and throws hard knees to the back of Whittaker before Whittaker gets back to his feet. Both guys are very exhausted as Dan Mirgliotta urges them to work before breaking them up.
They meet back in the center with Whittaker landing another leg kick. But Romero looks fresh as he runs in for another combo but doesn’t land much. He attempts a spinning kick, but Whittaker lands a push kick that throws him to the mat. The round ends and it could be anyone’s fight at this point. Round five could have very well been a 10-8 round for Romero.
Round one went to Whittaker as he was the aggressor and landed more shots. The second round should be Whittaker’s as well as he did the same as the first, although Romero started to pick it up that round. Romero could have very well gotten a 10-8 in the third round as well though. He landed many powerful shots, including dropping Whittaker once and stunning him on multiple occasions. In round four, Romero slowed down as he looked to be conserving energy. Whittaker landed nearly thirty more strikes than him. Even though Romero landed very good shots at the end, Whittaker still should have done enough to win that round. Round five could have been another 10-8 for Romero as he seemed to have landed more shots and knocked him down as well. He controlled him in the clinch and on the ground while Whittaker was stunned.
When the decision was read, it was revealed that Robert Whittaker would win the fight by split decision. Not one judge gave Romero a 10-8 in either round three or round five, which ended up deciding the fight. Had Romero gotten one 10-8, the fight would have been a draw. Had he gotten two 10-8’s, He would have won the fight although Whittaker had won three of the five rounds.
Regardless of the scoring, this fight was amazing. Both men put on a show for fight fans around the world. And, Robert Whittaker fought 90% of that fight with a broken hand as he revealed he broke it in the first round. A third fight would be very exciting, but unfortunately, with weight issues, Romero may need to move up to light heavyweight for his next outing.
#2: Curtis Blaydes
Curtis Blaydes def. Alistair Overeem via TKO (Elbows) at 2:56 of Round Three
MMA legend, Alistair Overeem was coming into this fight off of a brutal loss to Francis Ngannou at UFC 218. He lost via knockout of the year due to a brutal uppercut from the powerful Ngannou. Curtis Blaydes came into the fight a winner of three straight. His most recent win came at UFC 221 when he defeated another MMA legend, Mark Hunt. A win against Overeem would put him in position for a number one contender fight in the shallow heavyweight division.
The fight began as the two met in the middle and touched gloves. The two spent the first two minutes moving around, feeling each other out. Blaydes began to start throwing some punches after those first two minutes. A lot of what was thrown were faints though as he was trying to set up a takedown. About halfway through the round, Blaydes shot in for a double leg and got it easily. Blaydes spent the remainder of the round in Overeem’s half guard as he landed a few shots. With fifteen seconds left in the round, Overeem began to attack a heel hook but ran out of time. This round seemed like a victory for Blaydes as he got the takedown and stayed on top for most of the round.
The round started and Blaydes began to look like he was going for a takedown already. As he changed levels, Overeem landed a perfect knee that seemed to stun Blaydes. Overeem then landed a good right hand that forced Blaydes to shoot for a takedown. Overeem defended and looked to lock in a heel hook once again. He looked as if he could have gotten it but had to let it go. As the two got back up, Blaydes threw a knee of his own, but barely hit Overeem.
Blaydes shot in for another takedown and Overeem landed another knee, but Blaydes was still able to complete the takedown. Blaydes was once again in Overeem’s half guard as he looked to pass into a position to throw some ground and pound. Occasionally, Blaydes threw some elbows that connected and then he would attempt to pass. With about 25 seconds left, Blaydes was able to posture up just enough to land a few good shots. Blaydes remained on top of Overeem until the end of the round, which should result in Blaydes being up 2-0 going into the third round.
The met in the middle as they touched gloves to begin the final round. Overeem needs a finish this round as he is clearly down 2-0. Blaydes attempted to go in for a takedown but instead landed a knee to Overeem’s body before landing a good punch. Blaydes continued to move forward and he lands a good right hand that clips Overeem. He lands a good combination before shooting in to take down Overeem and not risk the counter strikes of Overeem.
Much like the last two rounds, Blaydes was in half guard once again. They almost get up to their feet once again but end up on the mat again. This time Blaydes wound up in Overeem’s full guard, but that didn’t matter at all. Blaydes found an opportunity to posture up and landed elbow after elbow after elbow. It looked like Overeem’s face had exploded as each elbow caused splatters of blood before the ref stepped in. A dominant win for Blaydes that should earn him a number one contender fight with someone like Alexander Volkov next.
*WARNING* This KO may ruin your appetite. pic.twitter.com/bgZDKZeXs2
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) June 10, 2018
#3: Anthony Smith
Anthony Smith def. Rashad Evans via Knockout (Knee and Punches) at 0:53 of Round One
Coming into this fight, UFC legend, Rashad Evans, hadn’t won a fight since 2013 when he defeated Chael Sonnen at UFC 167. He had a short stint at middleweight, going 0-2 there before moving back to light heavyweight. His opponent, Anthony Smith, was making his light heavyweight debut after going 4-2 at middleweight. His most recent fight took place at UFC Fight Night 125 when he took on Thiago Santos. He lost that fight in the second round by TKO after a body kick and ground and pound.
The fight started as the two met in the center. Smith began by throwing a quick left hand that didn’t land. Smith was also connecting with good leg kicks. The two found themselves in the clinch and Smith landed a good elbow. Evans turned Smith around and now Smith’s back was to the fence. Immediately, Smith put Evans in a position that guaranteed a knee to come, he just needs to time it. Smith found the opening and threw one knee that connected perfectly, knocking Evans out.
— UFC (@ufc) June 9, 2018
This is definitely Smith’s biggest victory of his career as he beats a former light heavyweight champion and UFC legend, Rashad Evans. It’s not clear as to whether or not that was it for Evans, but it seems like it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Evans to call it quits after that one. He hasn’t won a fight in nearly five years, in fact, Georges St-Pierre retired and unretired since Evans got his last win. Regardless, it was a great performance from Anthony “Lionheart” Smith as he looks to become a threat to the light heavyweight division.
#4: Charles Oliveira
Charles Oliveira def. Clay Guida via Submission (Guillotine) at 2:18 of Round One
Team Alpha Male’s Clay Guida was originally supposed to take on Bobby Green at UFC 225. A few weeks before the fight, Green was forced out of the fight due to an injury. That presented the opportunity for the always dangerous Charles Oliveira to step in on short notice.
Guida is was coming off a TKO victory over fellow UFC veteran, Joe Lauzon. This fight took place back in November at UFC Fight Night 120. Oliveira, taking the fight on short notice, was coming off of a TKO loss to rising lightweight, Paul Felder at UFC 218.
The fight started as Oliveira looked to touch gloves, but Guida shook his head. Oliveira quickly began to pressure Guida, using kicks and backing him up. Oliveira was finding early success with low leg kicks. Guida was able to use some counter attacks off the leg kick though. The jabs of Oliveira were also working as they opened up a cut near Guida’s right eye. Guida rushed in looking to land a combination, but Oliveira moved out of the way and threw a knee that barely missed. Oliveira then landed some good punches before Guida looked to land a double leg. As soon as Guida went for the takedown, Oliveira immediately locked in the guillotine choke that forced Guida to tap quickly. The win brought his submission victories in the UFC to ten which ties the MMA legend and the greatest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner of all time, Royce Gracie.
LIGHTNING QUICK IN CHI-TOWN.
Oliveira forces the tap in round one.
— UFC (@ufc) June 9, 2018
#5: Dan Ige
Dan Ige def. Mike Santiago via TKO (Punches) at 0:50 of Round One
Dan Ige was coming off of a disappointing UFC debut coming into his fight against Mike Santiago. That fight came at UFC 220 when he faced Julio Arce, and he lost that fight by unanimous decision. Santiago came into this fight riding two straight losses. His most recent loss came against Mads Burnell at UFC Fight Night 124 in January.
The fight started and Ige immediately rushed in and landed a good combination. After that combination, he shot in for a takedown and got it. As soon as they got to the ground, Ige got to the back mount and started pouring down punches. He looked for a rear naked choke but decided to just keep punishing him. Santiago was covering up and just fifty seconds into the fight, Ige had obtained his first UFC victory. The TKO win was just the start of what promised to be an excellent card.
— UFC (@ufc) June 9, 2018
With one of the most anticipated cards in the books, we look at what’s next for the UFC. Next week, they’ll be taking a break, before heading to Singapore for UFC Fight Night 132. In the main event, UFC veteran, Donald Cerrone, will take on Leon Edwards in what should be an exciting welterweight matchup. Plus, in the co-main event, former interim light heavyweight title challenger, Ovince Saint Preux, takes on Tyson Pedro. For myself, this card will start at 1:30 in the morning and will go on until about 8 in the morning. UFC Fight Night 132 will be an all-nighter as I watch and determine which fighters claim their spots in MMASucka‘s Standout Performances. So join me next week as we look back on UFC Fight Night 132 to determine who takes those five spots.
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