Robert Whittaker was originally expected to face Georges St-Pierre for the title, but St-Pierre vacated it and Whittaker, the interim champion, became the undisputed champion. But when it comes down to it, Romero missed weight and as impressive as the performance was against Rockhold, it's hard to reward him for coming in at 187.7lbs, 2.7lbs above the 185lbs middleweight title fight limit.
It was clear that Rockhold was out, but Romero roared in and fired another left that landed square on the jaw and put out Rockhold's lights.
The win sets up a bumper rematch between the two, who won his title by downing Romero via unanimous decision a year ago.
By failing to make weight, Romero gave up any shot to claim the interim belt.
Romero turns 41 in April but shows no signs of slowing down and still has the ability to end any fight in a heartbeat with his brutal, fight-ending power.
That may sound like a lot of time, but for a big, muscular guy like Romero, who is also 40 years of age, it wasn't an easy task.
Getty Images SHARE
The Cuban silver medalist from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney went on to destroy Rockhold early the third round.
Watch UFC 221: Romero vs. Rockhold live stream online, fight time. However, he did conduct a brief interview on Fox Sports 1, where he said he thought he broke his leg in the opening stanza after absorbing several hard leg kicks from his opponent. Saturday night, the ageless Cubam middleweight collected the most impressive finish of his career, dropping former champ Luke Rockhold with a clean overhand left before smashing home a clubbing left to close out the proceedings. Whittaker was supposed to fight Rockhold on Saturday, but had to pull out with a variety of ailments, including chickenpox and a staph infection. The event was capped off with a violent third round knockout by Yoel Romero.
Romero strung together with lovely punching combinations in the second round and followed up with yet another hellacious offensive chain of movements in the third round.
Had Romero made weight, I would have likely leaned toward him. Rockhold last fought in September, when he scored a second-round TKO over David Branch.
After Rockhold had gathered some of his scattered bearings, Romero tried to console him, something that made for a hard watch.