Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (19-4) of New Zealand takes on Cuba’s Yoel Romero (13-2) on Saturday night in the main event at UFC 225 at the United Center in Chicago. The belt will not be on the line after Romero missed two chances to make weight. Rafael dos Anjos (28-9) and Colby Covington (13-1) will be featured in the co-main event with the interim welterweight belt on the line. Former champion Holly Holm (11-4) will battle Megan Anderson (8-2) in a women’s featherweight bout, while former professional wrestling superstar CM Punk (0-1) takes on Mike Jackson (0-1).
Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero live round-by-round coverage
This was originally scheduled to be for the UFC middleweight title, but Romero missed weight by 1/5 of a pound. That’s the second straight fight Romero missed weight for. Whittaker and Romero fought last year, and Whittaker won via decision. Whittaker is a striker who relies on speed and cardio while Romero comes from a wrestling background and has tremendous athleticism and knockout power.
Round 1. Whittaker opens with a series of kicks. He attacks the lead leg in particular. Romero just stays back in defensive mode. Whittaker continues to attack the leg while mixing in his boxing. Romero lunges in with a powerful hook that misses. Whittaker remains quite active throughout the round while Romero is throwing very little. Romero lands one hard leg kick. Whittaker attacks the body with a few punches. 10-9 Whittaker.
Round 2. As in the first round, Whittaker is the much more active fighter. He’s using his kicks principally to the legs and then utilizing his boxing to keep Romero at bay. Romero is fighting a strange fight, still doing exceedingly little. Romero throws a head kick that doesn’t land. Romero’s eye is swollen shut. Romero, now compromised, becomes more aggressive with his attacks. He lands a nice uppercut but Whittaker answers back and then blocks a takedown. 10-9 Whittaker.
Round 3. Romero drops Whittaker with a massive right hand and swarms on him. Romero lands a series of elbows to the head and then big punches. Romero lights up Whittaker with punches by the cage looking for the finish. Whittaker answers with a couple big elbows but Romero keeps coming. They end up in a clinch with both men gathering themselves. Romero opens up again with heavy punches looking for the finish. Whittaker lands a head kick in response that connects hard. Romero keeps coming. He takes Whittaker down momentarily but Whittaker gets up quickly. 10-8 Romero.
Round 4. Whittaker lands a big head kick early. Whittaker uses a barrage of jabs and mixes in another head kick attempt in the middle. Romero has largely gone back to his inactivity from the beginning of the fight. Whittaker lunges in with a solid straight right hand. Romero connects with a few good jabs. Romero wobbles Whittaker with a punch late and follows with another big punch that rocks Whittaker again. 10-9 Whittaker.
Round 5. Romero catches Whittaker with a two-punch combination early. Romero uses a spinning back kick to the body. Romero drops Whittaker with a massive left hand and follows with punches on the ground. This is very close to over but Romero hesitates trying to avoid hitting the back of the head. Whittaker attempts to work his way back up. On the feet, Romero lands a knee and some hard punches. Romero rather than backing away and going for the knockout is just holding Whittaker. 10-8 Romero, 47-46 Romero.
Winner: Robert Whittaker, split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).
Colby Covington vs. Rafael Dos Anjos live round-by-round coverage
This is being billed as an interim welterweight title fight even though champion Tyron Woodley is ready to fight. Covington comes from a wrestling background and has gained attention with his brash, abrasive trash talking. He has been particularly nasty towards the country of Brazil, angering his opponent for this fight. Dos Anjos is a former UFC lightweight champion now looking to become champion in a second weight class.
Round 1. Covington runs across the cage and gets caught with a hard punch in the process. Covington keeps pressing for the takedown. He gets Dos Anjos down momentarily but Dos Anjos pops back up and they fight for position by the cage. They trade punches and elbows from the clinch but Covington can’t get the takedown. Dos Anjos lands a few hard knees to the body. He is really connecting well there but Covington keeps coming. Both men throw some kicks from distance before Covington again goes to the clinch. Covington was constantly instigating clinches that round but Dos Anjos landed the better shots. 10-9 Dos Anjos.
Round 2. Covington goes for an early takedown again and again gets it quickly but just like in the first, Dos Anjos gets up quickly. Dos Anjos uses a solid body kick on the break. Covington again looks for a takedown. Dos Anjos continues to attack the body with kicks and punches. Covington goes back to the clinch. Dos Anjos lands a nice looping left hand. Covington answers with a right hand of his own and then an uppercut. Covington goes back to the clinch. Covington gets a takedown late but Dos Anjos gets up quick again. 10-9 Dos Anjos.
Round 3. Covington goes back to the clinch. They break. Covington lands a couple kicks and goes back to the clinch. They trade kicks. Covington goes back to the clinch. After a break, Covington moves in with punches and goes back to the clinch. Dos Anjos lands a straight left hand and Covington goes back to the clinch. 10-9 Covington.
Round 4. Dos Anjos lands a few solid punches early. Covington goes back to the clinch. Dos Anjos goes for the takedown and gets Covington down. Covington looks to get up quickly and after some work he does. Dos Anjos goes for a takedown again and gets Covington down. Covington gets up but Dos Anjos pulls him down. Covington gets up again. Dos Anjos goes for the takedown again and this time it is blocked. They exchange punches late and Covington gets the takedown in the final 20 seconds. 10-9 Dos Anjos.
Round 5. Covington comes in with punches and looks for a takedown. Dos Anjos attempts a flying knee but doesn’t hit it. Covington takes Dos Anjos down but Dos Anjos stands up. Dos Anjos lands a hard body kick before Covington clinches. Covington comes in with some nice punches before clinching again. They exchange punches from distance. Dos Anjos connects with a left hook but has his takedown attempt blocked. Dos Anjos attempts a kimura. He doesn’t get it but he prevents Covington from getting a takedown. They trade punches wildly towards the end. 10-9 Covington, 48-47 Dos Anjos.
Winner: Colby Covington, unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47).
After the fight, Covington says he is going to take the belt and deliver it to Donald Trump, while also calling out Tyron Woodley.
Holly Holm vs. Megan Anderson live round-by-round coverage
Holly Holm is the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion who knocked out Ronda Rousey to end Rousey’s reign on top. She has struggled in recent fights but is looking for another major title fight. Megan Anderson is the former Invicta featherweight champion making her UFC debut. She is eyeing a bout with UFC featherweight queen Cris “Cyborg” Justino.
Round 1. Anderson moves in with punches and lands a heavy knee to the head. They clinch and Anderson lands a knee to the body. Neither fighter is able to do much in the clinch but they trade smaller blows. They break and Anderson moves in again throwing big punches. Holm answers with a nice front kick up the middle. Holm then shoots and secures a takedown. Holm ends up in side control. Holm looks for full mount but ends up in half guard instead. 10-9 Anderson.
Round 2. Anderson moves into closer range, with Holm throwing some kicks as Anderson attempts to close distance. They end up in a clinch before Holm backs up. Holm throws a few kicks from range, mostly low. Holm takes Anderson down as Anderson is moving in. Anderson has half guard and Holm passes into side control. Holm lands a series of punches from there. Holm looks to set up an arm triangle choke but gives it up when she gains full mount. Holm opens up with punches from there. Holm lands a series of elbows from there. 10-8 Holm.
Round 3. Holm opens with a number of kicks. Anderson throws a straight punch up the middle and Holm goes for the takedown. Anderson fights to prevent that against the cage. Holm gets the takedown two minutes in, right in the area Alistair Overeem was badly bleeding before. Holm gets up and returns to the feet. Anderson comes in looking for a big shot but Holm catches her with another takedown. Holm moves into full mount. Holm opens up with a flurry of punches from there and keeps up the offense. Holm attempts a guillotine choke at the end. 10-9 Holm, 29-27 Holm.
Winner: Holly Holm, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26).
That was an important win for Holm against a dangerous opponent. The revelation was clearly Holm’s grappling, as the former boxing champion relied heavily on her ground game and did very well there.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Tai Tuivasa live round-by-round coverage
Andrei Arlovski is the former UFC heavyweight champion and is toward the tail end of his career. He has won two straight via decision. Tai Tuivasa is 7-0 with knockouts in all of his wins.
Round 1. Tuivasa lets his hands go early. Arlovski knocks him down with a punch, but he quickly gets up and is fine. Tuivasa gets a takedown and lands in full mount. Arlovski is able to tie Tuivasa up and prevent Tuivasa from doing anything in the position. Arlovski then explodes and pushes him off. Arlovski returns to his feet. Tuivasa is bleeding badly. Tuivasa drops Arlovski with a hard punch. Arlovski gets up and goes for the takedown. Tuivasa prevents that. Tuivasa lands a few punches and they clinch. Arlovski lands on the break, but Tuivasa answers back with big punches. Whenever it appears Tuivasa is going for the finish, Arlovski answers back and keeps him honest. 10-9 Tuivasa.
Round 2. Arlovski opens with a few low kicks. Tuivasa connects with a few solid punches. Arlovski then answers back. Arlovski connects with a couple more punches after that. Arlovski’s boxing looks very crisp. Tuivasa clinches but then gives it up. Arlovski lands a few more quality punches and Tuivasa is bleeding pretty badly again. Tuivasa moves in with punches of his own, but Arlovski clinches to neutralize Tuivasa. As Arlovski moves in, he gets countered with a nice hook. 10-9 Arlovski.
Round 3. Arlovski connects with a strong right hand. Tuivasa answers back with a combination of his own. Both men seem content with a deliberative pace where they take turns going for offense. With the fight seemingly in the balance, it’s surprising neither man has been more aggressive in the final round. Tuivasa backs Arlovski up against the cage with two hard punches. He then follows with additional punches before Arlovski backs out of danger. Tuivasa lands a final two-punch combination late. Arlovski walks away with a finger raised in celebration at the end, which may be a miscalculation of how the fight went. 10-9 Tuivasa, 29-28 Tuivasa.
Winner: Tai Tuivasa, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
That was a close, competitive fight between fighters from different generations.
CM Punk vs. Mike Jackson live round-by-round coverage
CM Punk was an extremely successful professional wrestler, becoming one of the WWE’s most popular wrestlers. After a falling out with that company, Punk decided to pursue an interest in MMA, and UFC decided to give him an opportunity. Punk lost his first fight but now gets a second shot. Mike Jackson was used as an opponent for Punk’s first foe, Mickey Gall, and he competes here with an identical 0-1 record.
Round 1. Punk misses with a kick. He lands a leg kick. Jackson connects with a straight punch. Jackson blocks a takedown attempt. Punk lands a right hand and looks for the takedown. He doesn’t get it. Punk lands a right hand. Jackson lands a hard right hand of his own. Punk clinches. Punk lands a couple knees to the body. Punk pushes for the takedown but can’t get it. Punk looks tired with a few of his strikes. Punk looks for another takedown but again it is blocked. Punk gets a takedown in the final minute. Punk lands a few elbows late but Jackson gets back up. Jackson lands a couple body punches late. 10-9 Jackson.
Round 2. Jackson lands a few nice jabs. They end up in a clinch but Jackson backs away. Jackson hurts Punk with a punch but Punk looks for a standing guillotine. He doesn’t come close and Jackson takes him down. Jackson lands some punches from the top. Punk looks for a triangle choke but doesn’t come close. Jackson continues to land punches from the top. 10-8 Jackson.
Round 3. Punk’s face is a mess starting the third. He clinches and looks for a takedown. Jackson defends easily. Punk gets caught with a punch coming in and Jackson takes top position. Jackson lets Punk back up, and Punk comes in swinging wildly. Jackson answers with hard punches of his own. Punk attacks the leg but can’t set up a knee bar. Jackson ends up on top. Jackson lands some punches from there. Jackson attacks the body as the fight comes to a close. 10-8 Jackson, 30-25 Jackson.
Winner: Mike Jackson, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26).
That was ugly. Punk showed heart but he just doesn’t belong in the UFC. Jackson toyed with him in kind of a strange manner.
Alistair Overeem vs. Curtis Blaydes live round-by-round coverage
Alistair Overeem is one of the most accomplished heavyweight fighters in MMA history. He possesses devastating striking but does have an issue with his chin. Curtis Blaydes is a rising star from Chicago with three straight wins.
Round 1. Overeem switches stances and gives some different looks while keeping his hands low. Blaydes is in a much more orthodox stance. Neither man does much in the first minute. Blaydes attempts a head kick, but it misses. Overeem appears to be waiting for Blaydes to come in, but Blaydes is cautious himself. Blaydes gets a takedown at the midpoint of the round. Blaydes isn’t able to generate a lot of offense but does land some punches here and there while Overeem focuses on tying him up. 10-9 Blaydes.
Round 2. Overeem lands a massive knee to the head and a few big punches as Blaydes moves in. Overeem looks for a guillotine choke but loses it. Overeem then looks for a heel hook. He can’t get that either. Blaydes lands a nice uppercut back on the feet. Overeem moves in with a knee, but Blaydes catches him off balance and takes him down. Blaydes lands punches and elbows from the top as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Blaydes.
Round 3. Blaydes lands a knee to the body and a right hand to the jaw early. Overeem connects with a kick to the body. Blaydes opens up with some punches and looks to finish but then decides instead to just take Overeem down. Blaydes opens up with some elbows. He bloodies Overeem badly, hurts him, and the fight is stopped.
Winner: Curtis Blaydes, TKO, round 3.
Curtis Blaydes played it safe for much of the way but he turned it on at the end and got a highlight reel finish that will be remembered much longer than the preceding rounds.
Claudia Gadelha vs. Carla Esparza live round-by-round coverage
Claudia Gadelha and Carla Esparza are two of the top women’s strawweight contenders. Gadelha is 15-3 with her only losses coming to elite opponents, while Esparza is a former champion riding a two-fight win streak.
Round 1. Gadelha drops Esparza with a punch and then lands another big one. Esparza dives in for a takedown but doesn’t get it. Gadelha lands another big punch but moves in recklessly, and Esparza catches her off balance with a takedown attempt. Esparza can’t keep Gadelha down, but it does give Esparza time to recover. Esparza returns to the striking and she rocks Gadelha with a punch. Gadelha’s legs go wobbly and Esparza moves in and gets a takedown. Gadelha goes for a heel hook and then uses the opportunity to get out from under Esparza. Gadelha then takes top position. Esparza gets up but Gadelha then takes her back down. Gadelha goes for a guillotine late but time runs out. 10-9 Gadelha.
Round 2. After trading punches, they end up in a clinch. Gadelha gets a takedown. Esparza attempts to use a headlock to reverse but ends up back on the bottom. Gadelha lands a nice elbow but Esparza stands back up. Gadelha is able to pull Esparza back down. Esparza gets up and takes Gadelha down at the very end of the round. 10-9 Gadelha.
Round 3. Esparza lands a hard punch early. Gadelha answers with a solid punch of her own. Esparza lands a few nice punches. Gadelha has a tendency to fade in fights and she does look tired here in the third. Gadelha does land a strong takedown with two minutes left. Esparza gets up and gets a takedown of her own. Esparza lands some punches from the top until the end. 10-9 Esparza, 29-28 Gadelha.
Winner: Claudia Gadelha, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
The crowd boos the decision, which is understandable given Esparza was winning at the end but that should have been an obvious decision for Gadelha.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Mirsad Bektic live round-by-round coverage
Ricardo Lamas has been a top featherweight contender for many years and is fighting in his hometown of Chicago. He will take on a competitor nearly a decade his junior in Mirsad Bektic. Bektic is 12-1 as a professional with five UFC wins and is looking to break into contender status himself.
Round 1. Lamas shoots in for an early takedown and briefly gets Bektic down, but Bektic pretty much immediately returns to his feet. Lamas continues to work for the takedown but eventually gives it up. Bektic lands a solid right hand at range. Lamas slips and Bektic looks to capitalize, but they end up in a clinch stalemate by the cage. Lamas throws Bektic down, but Bektic gets up immediately and looks for a choke. Bektic then takes top position on the ground. Lamas looks to quickly return to his feet. Lamas stands up. 10-9 Bektic.
Round 2. Bektic looks to land a big punch while Lamas moves in for a takedown. They end up grappling again next to the cage. Lamas has a cut on the cheek as a result of an accidental headbutt. Lamas uses a few kicks and then shoots in for another takedown attempt. Lamas doesn’t get it but does land a back elbow on the break. They then end up back in a clinch by the cage. We end up in yet another stalemate. 10-9 Bektic.
Round 3. Lamas shoots in for a takedown and eats a couple punches. They end up in another clinch stalemate. Bektic gets a takedown but Lamas nicely sweeps and takes top position. However, Bektic then retakes top position. Lamas looks for a guillotine choke but Bektic pops his head out. Lamas returns to the feet. They end up back in a clinch. Lamas looks for a guillotine again but has to let it go. Bektic ends up in top position in the final minute. 10-9 Lamas, 29-28 Bektic.
Winner: Mirsad Bektic, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).
That was not a spectator friendly fight and won’t do a lot to generate much excitement in either man’s next fight.
Rashad Coulter vs. Chris De La Rocha live round-by-round coverage
Rashad Coulter is an 8-3 heavyweight with knockouts in all of his wins. He is 0-2 in the UFC. Chris De La Rocha is likewise 0-2 in UFC and 4-2 overall in MMA.
Round 1. De La Rocha lunges in with punches and then looks for a takedown. Coulter defends it. De La Rocha goes for another takedown, and they end up working against the cage. They break and trade punches. Coulter lands a big one. In a scramble, De La Rocha looks for a guillotine choke. He can’t get it, but he does take top position on the ground. Coulter gives his back and De La Rocha looks to lock in a rear naked choke. De La Rocha doesn’t properly secure the body, and Coulter turns around out of the position and stands up. Coulter immediately comes out swinging and lands a few big shots on De La Rocha. De La Rocha is bleeding badly. Coulter lands a few more big punches, but De La Rocha answers with some heavy punches of his own on a tired Coulter. Coulter then fires back with hard punches and backs De La Rocha up. De La Rocha has a heck of a chin. De La Rocha gets a takedown in the final 30 seconds. That was a wild, entertaining round. 10-9 Coulter.
Round 2. De La Rocha stuns Coulter with an early punch. Coulter fires back with a two-punch combination. De La Rocha gets a takedown a minute in. He quickly moves into mount and lands some punches. Coulter turns his back, and De La Rocha looks for that rear naked choke again. De La Rocha gives that up and lands some punches instead. He then looks for the choke again. He can’t get it under the chin so he goes back to punches. De La Rocha continues to land punches and elbows. They don’t have a ton of power but it’s all one-way action. Eventually, the fight is stopped.
Winner: Chris De La Rocha, TKO, round 2.
That was a wild fight. Those are two very big men and they used up their gas tanks. De La Rocha’s ground game was the difference.
Rashad Evans vs. Anthony Smith live round-by-round coverage
Rashad Evans is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and an accomplished Hall of Fame-level fighter. However, Evans appears to be approaching the end of his career. He has dropped four straight fights and hasn’t looked good in the process. Anthony Smith is 4-2 in the UFC and possesses knockout power.
Round 1. Smith turns Evans around with a hard leg kick early. Smith looks much bigger than Evans. Evans goes for a takedown but it is blocked. Evans looks for the takedown again but eats a big knee to the head and goes down.
Winner: Anthony Smith, KO, round 1.
That may be the sad ending to Rashad Evans’ storied UFC career. He just hasn’t looked the same for some time, and the fight game is a rough place to be for an athlete past his or her prime.
Charles Oliveira vs. Clay Guida live round-by-round coverage
This is a clash of styles in a competition between two well-known and experienced fighters. Clay Guida has fought in the UFC since 2006 and has gained popularity with his wild, long-haired look. He relies heavily on his wrestling and has won two straight. Charles Oliveira is more of a striker and submission artist. He has competed in the UFC since 2010 but has dropped three out of his last four.
Round 1. Oliveira leads with a few kicks. Guida is relying more heavily on his boxing. Guida lands a nice right hand and then throws a couple of kicks of his own. Oliveira lands a quality combination including a hard knee and then grabs a guillotine choke. Guida is forced to tap.
Winner: Charles Oliveira, submission, round 1.
Oliveira showcased what makes him a dangerous fighter there — precise striking and the ability to capitalize on submission opportunities in quick order. That was Oliveira’s tenth UFC submission.
Mike Santiago vs. Dan Ige live round-by-round coverage
UFC 225 kicks off with a featherweight bout as Illinois native Mike Santiago fights close to home against Dan Ige. Santiago got into the UFC with a win on Dana White’s Contender Series but lost his next two contests. Ige likewise is a veteran of the same contender series but lost his next fight.
Round 1. Ige moves in with a few hard punches and then takes Santiago down. Ige quickly secures mount and Santiago is forced to turn. Ige lands heavy punches from that position and the referee stops it.
Winner: Dan Ige, TKO, round 1.
That was a phenomenal performance from Ige. He was successful in every aspect of his MMA game in very short order and put away in dominant fashion a motivated fighter competing at home.