After opening as a virtual pick’em on the UFC 221 odds Luke Rockhold has emerged as a clear favourite in his battle with Yoel Romero for the interim UFC middleweight championship on Saturday, sporting -160 odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The No. 1 UFC middleweight challenger is coming off a second-round submission victory over David Branch as a -600 favourite at UFC Fight Night 116 to improve his professional mixed martial arts record to 16-3, but has much to prove going into Saturday night’s Romero versus Rockhold main event matchup at Perth Arena in Perth, Australia.
Rockhold rode a five-fight win streak to the top of the UFC middleweight division, eventually capped by a fourth-round TKO of Chris Weidman at UFC 194 to claim the title while paying out on +135 odds. However, Rockhold’s reign would be short lived. The 33-year-old American suffered a stunning first-round loss in his first title defence, falling to Michael Bisping on punches at UFC 199 as a -650 favourite.
The loss to Bisping marked Rockhold’s second opening-round defeat since joining the UFC in 2013. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion lasted just 2:32 against Vitor Belfort in his promotional debut at UFC on FX 8 before going down to defeat by knockout as a +100 underdog.
Romero enters the octagon on Saturday listed as a +130 underdog, and looking to avoid consecutive losses for the first time in his career. Currently perched as the No. 2 challenger among UFC middleweights, Romero came up short in his first bid for the interim UFC middleweight crown in his last octagon appearance, dropping a unanimous decision to Robert Whittaker at UFC 213 as a slender -105 underdog.
That marked “Soldier of God’s” first loss since joining the UFC five years ago, ending an eight-fight win streak that featured six KO or TKO finishes, including a third-round knockout of Weidman as a +175 wager at UFC 205 that earned him Performance of the Night honours.
Elsewhere on the UFC 221 odds, heavyweight Mark Hunt will likely receive a warm welcome from the crowd in Perth as he takes on Curtis Blaydes as a +140 underdog, while Australian Tai Tuivasa aims to extend his perfect pro MMA record to 7-0 as he clashes with Frenchman Cyril Asker as -300 chalk.
China’s Li Jingliang takes on Australian Jake Matthews as a -160 favourite in the lone welterweight matchup on the UFC 221 main card, while Tyson Pedro looks to recover from the first loss of his pro career as he faces Russian Saparbek Safarov as a -285 wager in a battle of light heavyweights.
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