Yoel Romero thumbed his nose at the oddsmakers. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
The highest-profile upset at UFC 178 “Johnson vs. Cariaso” on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas was also the most controversial.
Tim Kennedy, a -135 favorite, was stopped by Yoel Romero (+115) 58 seconds into the third round of their middleweight showcase, though the result came with some controversy attached to it. Romero remained on his stool for an extra 28 seconds between the second and third rounds in what many viewed as a blatant attempt to recover from punishment he had absorbed. The 2000 Olympic silver medalist managed to escape what looked to be certain defeat near the end of the second round, where Kennedy rocked the American Top Team-trained “Soldier of God” with a pair of right uppercuts and had him reeling against the cage. Romero pressed forward early in the third round, unleashing a full-blown assault for which Kennedy had no answer. The two middleweights pocketed $50,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses for their efforts.
Romero, 37, has won all five of his fights since arriving in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, finishing four of them.
Meanwhile, Brian Ebersole eked out a split decision over John Howard (-235) on the undercard. Ebersole’s best round was the first, as he controlled the cage, scored with a takedown and landed short punches from back mount. Howard seemed to turn the tide in the second round, showcasing his standup skills before taking it to the ground and attempting a rear-naked choke. According to FightMetric, Howard out-landed the Tiger Muay Thai export in total strikes, 46-40, and significant strikes, 29-28, in the third round, but two of the three judges sided with Ebersole (+195).
The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Ebersole, who had dropped back-to-back bouts to Rick Story and James Head.
Finally, Manny Gamburyan was a +135 underdog in his bantamweight debut, as many believed Cody Gibson’s striking, wrestling and sizeable reach advantage gave him the clear edge. Indeed, Gibson (-160) reinforced those beliefs with his start, as he displayed strong standup and explosiveness in round one. However, Gamburyan lured him into his signature guillotine in the closing seconds of the second round, forcing Gibson to tap and recording the upset.
The 33-year-old Gamburyan has now won UFC fights in three different weight classes.