UFC 248: Israel Adesanya beats Yoel Romero to retain UFC middleweight title.
It wasn’t the explosive performance fans were hoping for, but Israel Adesanya remains the UFC middleweight champion nonetheless.
Adesanya saw off the dangerous challenge of Yoel Romero at UFC 248 in Las Vegas with a smart tactical display to secure a unanimous decision victory and extend his unbeaten record to 19-0.
It was a passive fight at times as Romero (13-5) was reluctant to engage with the Nigerian-born Kiwi, with the judges scoring the five-round bout 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 in Adesanya’s favour.
As Adesanya expected, Romero fought in bursts as he tried to catch the champion off guard with his unpredictable power.
But apart from a brief exchange in the first round, Adesanya was able to stay out of trouble and proceeded to pick off Romero, with kicks to the lead leg proving particularly effective.
“It was a hard fight but, cliché, I did what I had to do,” Adesanya said. “You can see he’s going to be limping after this.
“He touched me in the first round, that was the hardest shot he could land and after that I knew I could take his best shot. So I did what I had to do and picked him apart. The leg’s don’t lie.”
UFC stats showed Adesanya out-strike Romero 48-40 – the majority of which were to the legs of Romero. He also blocked all three takedown attempts by the former Olympic wrestler, who couldn’t get the fight to the canvas despite his elite grappling background.
While the contest was met with boos by the crowd at the T-Mobile Arena, the clever tactics clearly took a toll on Romero, who finished the fight with a big welt on his right thigh.
“He plays the game and lulls… to get you into a false sense of security,” Adesanya said. “My coaches said you need 25 minutes of sharpness and focus. I was hoping to touch him a little more but unfortunately it’s hard to engage with someone who doesn’t want to dance.”
Asked if he was concerned when the fight went to the judges, he added: “As long as they didn’t listen to the crowd I was fine.”
Romero voiced his displeasure at the result as he accused Adesanya of “running and running”.
But the Cuban only had himself to blame.
He began the fight by standing completely motionless with his guard up and barely threw a punch in the first two rounds before Adesanya surged ahead in rounds three and four.
Romero picked up the pace in the final round but never really came close to catching the champion.
“That is my victory,” Romero said. “The people pay pay-per-view for a real fight. Not for this. You want to see running go see Usain Bolt.”
The headline act was a complete contrast to the epic co-main event as China’s Zhang Weili won a split decision over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk to retain the women’s strawweight title.
The fight was immediately hailed as the best women’s title fight in UFC history as the pair traded brutal shots throughout five thrilling rounds before Zhang came out on top on two of the judges’ scorecards (48-47, 48-47, 47-48).