Robert Whittaker was not 100 percent physically when he defeated Yoel Romero in their first fight 11 months ago, which is something to keep in mind when sizing up the rematch on Saturday.
With the UFC middleweight championship at stake, Whittaker is a -220 favorite on the UFC 225 odds with Romero coming back at +190 in the headlining fight on the main card, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The card, which is one of the most stacked the promotion has had in some time if all goes off according to plan (that is, everyone makes weight) takes place at United Center in Chicago.
Whittaker, despite being encumbered by a leg injury, won by unanimous decision when the two squared off in the Octagon at UFC 213 in July 2017. The Australian fighter has not fought since then. At his peak, Whittaker is a well-rounded fighter, combining high-volume striking – especially to opponents’ heads – with a strong takedown defense.
The main question with the 41-year-old Romero is his cardio, especially since the UFC’s recently adopted changes to weigh-ins have created extra challenges for older fighters to make weight. In their first fight he attempted half as many strikes as Whittaker but landed them at a higher rate. However, in a close fight, volume has a favorable effect on the judges’ scorecards.
Whittaker has landed at least one knockdown in six of his 12 career UFC fights, while Romero has had at least one in six of his 11 starts in UFC and Strikeforce. That suggests there is potential for a stoppage.
In the co-main event, Colby Covington (-130) is a narrow, nominal favorite against Rafael dos Anjos (+110) as they vie for the interim welterweight title. Covington is a on five-fight win streak, but the past three were by unanimous decision as he bases his strategy around takedowns and grinding opponents.
However, if Dos Anjos can tap into his Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu background and keep Covington at bay with powerful kicks, he will stand a great chance at winning and giving backers a payoff. There’s a strong likelihood the matchup goes the duration.
Holly Holm (-210) is favored against UFC debutante Megan Anderson (+180) in what amounts to a women’s featherweight title eliminator. Holm, the former bantamweight champion, is 0-2 as a featherweight. The powerful but inexperienced-with-grappling Anderson, at 6-foot tall to Holm’s 5-foot-8, will come in with a significant reach advantage and that might help her with wearing down Holm.
The generation gap is hard to ignore in the heavyweight matchup between Tai Tuivasa (-250) and Andrei Arlovski (+210). Tuivasa, age 25, has won all seven of his pro fights by knockout or TKO, but the 39-year-old Arlovski will be his toughest opponent yet. Tuivasa believers should probably expect another quick knockout, while skeptics might look at a safe play on Arlovski dragging out the fight and testing the younger artist’s staying power.
In the opener on the main card, welterweight Mike Jackson (-200) is favored against CM Punk (+170) in a matchup that is as blank a slate as it gets, due to each man’s inexperience in UFC. CM Punk comes in with a deeper grappling background than Jackson and that could set him up for the upset in a fight that is highly likely to have an early stoppage.
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