No interim belt, no problem: Romero KOs Rockhold at UFC 221

2/11/2018 5:59:05 AM EST

Yoel Romero scored an early candidate for 2018's Knockout of the Year against Luke Rockhold. But he didn't win a belt for his efforts.

Romero used a wicked overhand left to the temple followed by a big left uppercut to the jaw to finish Rockhold at 1:28 of the third round of their UFC 221 main event in Perth, Australia, on Saturday night (Sunday afternoon locally).

But Romero, who was a substitute for UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, who pulled out of a scheduled bout with Rockhold due to illness, missed weight Friday, clocking in at 187.7 for a 185-pound fight. That meant that he was ineligible to win the interim championship on the line in the fight. Rockhold would have taken the belt with a victory.

"I want to say I am so sorry that cutting weight was so bad for me," Romero (13-2) said. "That is the first time in my career it shut my body down."

After a tentative opening round, Romero, a Miami resident by way of Cuba, picked up the pace in the second, darting into range and landing punches in bunches on Rockhold (16-4), a former UFC and Strikeforce champ from Santa Cruz, Calif. That performance foreshadowed the finishing sequence in the third, as Rockhold found himself looking up at the lights before he knew what hit him.

The evening's co-feature bout was a downer for the Australian fans. Sydney slugger Mark Hunt (13-12-1, 1 NC) is one of the sport's most beloved fighters, but the heavyweight turns 44 next month, and his age showed in a one-sided loss to Chicago's Curtis Blaydes (9-1, 1 NC).

Hunt rocked Blaydes in the first with a pair of big rights, but Blaydes followed up with a takedown. That was the first of nine takedowns during the fight, as Blaydes cruised to a unanimous decision on a pair of 30-26s and a 29-27.

--Field Level Media