UFC 221 predictions, Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero fight card, prelims, main event
See who the experts at CBS Sports are picking for the PPV event on Saturday in Australia
Sunday morning is shaping up to be a battle of sorts. Former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is set to duke it out with top contender Yoel Romero in Perth, Australia, as the main event of , but there's a catch.
Romero failed to meet the 185-pound limit on Saturday afternoon, missing weight by over two pounds. After negotiations between the two sides, the fight will go on, but only Rockhold can win the interim middleweight champion, according to MMAFighting.com.
Rockhold was hoping to get his shot to reclaim the belt against current titleholder Robert Whittaker, but an in a bout close to home.
Rockhold wasn't concerned about the late change in opponent when asked this week in Australia.
"This was bound to happen one way or the other. Whittaker would have been first, Yoel would've been second. Yoel's first, so Whittaker will be second. I'm up for the task. I'm not lacking in any way," Rockhold said during UFC 221 pre-fight press conference.
Rockhold (16-3, 10 SUB) was on a roll prior to stunningly losing his belt to Michael Bisping in 2016. Now, he's one win away from having it back around his waist.
Here's what the rest of the UFC 221 fight card looks like with the latest odds from Bovada.
UFC 221 fight card, odds
Luke Rockhold (-160)
Yoel Romero (+130)
Interim middleweight title
Curtis Blaydes (-165)
Mark Hunt (+135)
Tai Tuivasa (-300)
Cyril Asker (+230)
Li Jingliang (-160)
Jake Matthews (+130)
Tyson Pedro (-285)
Saparbek Safarov (+225)
|Dong Hyun Kim (-129)||Damien Brown (+115)||Lightweight|
Israel Adesanya (-360)
|Rob Wilkinson (+270)||Middleweight|
Alexander Volkanovski (-210)
|Jeremy Kennedy (+165)||Featherweight|
|Jussier Formiga (-125)||Ben Nguyen (-105)||Flyweight|
With a big card on tap, our experts took a crack at picking each of the main card fights. Here are your pick makers: Brian Campbell (combat sports writer), Matthew Coca (producer), Michael Mormile (producer), Jack Jorgensen (editor) and Brandon Wise (editor).
UFC 221 predictions
Rockhold vs. Romero
Hunt vs. Blaydes
Tuivasa vs. Asker
Jingliang vs. Matthews
|Pedro vs. Safarov||Pedro||Pedro||Pedro||Pedro||Pedro|
Campbell on why Rockhold will win: Had he never taken late replacement Michael Bisping for granted in their UFC 199 title rematch two years ago, it's interesting to imagine where Luke Rockhold would be right now. But despite the shocking knockout defeat he suffered in the first round, and the circuitous and injury laden journey he took back to Saturday's interim title bout, it's also fair to question whether he's not still the best middleweight in the world right now. With a complete game built off of his dangerous kickboxing strengths, Rockhold has all the tools to give Romero the same difficulties Robert Whittaker did over five rounds last year. In fact, he may have more, and certainly has the proven stamina to outlast Romero's feast-or-famine attacking style.
Jorgensen on why Blaydes will win: It's never easy to pick against Mark Hunt, but here in the fight with Blaydes, I ultimately had to make that decision. Blaydes is rolling with wins in his last four fights -- counting the win over Milstead that was overturned because of the positive marijuana test -- and is getting the chance to shine here in the co-main event, which he has to take full advantage of. Blaydes has an extensive amateur wrestling background, and I think in the battle with Hunt, he'll use that to frustrate the veteran and climb up further in the heavyweight rankings. We'll see some haymakers thrown by these two, of course, but Blaydes will likely come away with the decision win in this one, getting his name out there even more.
Wise on why Hunt will win: The veteran never seems to get the respect he deserves. The 43-year-old is still alive and kicking in the heavyweight division despite his up-and-down career. Coming off a TKO win over Derrick Lewis last year, Hunt is the underdog against another up-and-comer in Curtis Blaydes. Despite the wrestling background of Blaydes, I think Hunt keeps this fight standing up and it turns into a sloppy brawl late with Hunt coming out victorious.
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