UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero Preview

UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 248 card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: March 4, 2020 • 9:21 PM ET

Yoel Romero is looking to pull off the upset this weekend.

The UFC middleweight title will be on the line at UFC 248 this Saturday, as undefeated champion Israel Adesanya will defend the belt against No. 3 ranked  Yoel Romero at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Adesanya will defend the belt for the first time since winning it in October with a masterful second-round knockout of Robert Whittaker. Adesanya’s title victory followed a five-round, back-and-forth war with Kelvin Gastelum last April, after which he won the interim title. The fight with Gastelum was also widely recognized as 2019’s Fight of the Year.

After the 30-year-old Adesanya won the title against Whittaker, many believed he would fight No. 2 ranked Paulo Costa (13-0), who most recently defeated Romero by unanimous decision at UFC 241 in August. However, an injury has sidelined Costa, and Adesanya doesn’t believe his legacy would be complete without a victory over Romero.

Just two years into his UFC career, Adesanya is a reigning and defending champion, a trajectory that fighters rarely experience. His rise has been fun to watch, and a victory over Romero would solidify him as the king of the middleweights, for now.

While many consider Romero to be the most feared fighter in the middleweight division, Adesanya knows he can be beaten. In a UFC promo, Adesanya said, “It’s me versus the ‘oogie boogeyman’ Yoel Romero. The guy that everyone’s scared of — especially Darren Till.

“You saw me call him out, because I don’t have fear. Fear is different from danger, you have to understand. I’m a dangerous man. A lot of people fear him because of what they’ve been told or what they see in the media, but I’ve seen the guy bleed, I’ve seen him cheat, I’ve seen him hurt. I know he’s human and like I said, fear is different from danger and I’m a dangerous man.”

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Adesanya, however, isn’t overlooking Romero.

“He is a dangerous man as well, I have to dot my i’s and cross my t’s,” Adesanya added. “Will he be the first one to beat me? Keep dreaming b***h, ha!”.

Romero will ride two straight losses into Saturday’s title fight, the first coming by a close spit-decision to Whittaker at UFC 225 last June and the second against Costa. The fight with Whittaker was a rematch for the title, but Romero was ineligible to win the belt due to missing weight.

In the second fight against Whittaker, many believe Romero won the fight after hurting Whittaker in the later rounds and nearly having him out on his feet. If Romero had made weight and won that fight, how much different would the middleweight division look today?

The 42-year-old Romero (13-4, 9-3 in UFC) has wins over former middleweight champions Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman, along with other notable victories over Jacare Souza, Lyoto Machida, Tim Kennedy, Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson.

The Cuban Olympic silver medalist doesn’t plan on the letting Saturday’s fight go the judge’s scorecards.

“I don’t want to go too crazy hard, but I need to finish the fight,” Romero told reporters at a media lunch on Monday in Los Angeles. “Me and my team have the plan to knock him out. When he makes the little one mistake – boom.”

If Romero defeats Adesanya, he would become the second-oldest champion in the UFC’s history behind only Hall of Famer Randy Couture, who held a UFC belt at 45 years old.

 

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be for the strawweight title, as champion Zhang Weili will defend the belt against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Zhang (20-1, 4-0 in the UFC) will defend the belt for the first time since winning it in August with a first-round TKO of Jessica Andrade. After dismantling Andrade, Zhang looks like she’s primed for many title defenses. She also has wins over Tecia Torres, Jessica Aguilar and Danielle Taylor. Saturday’s task, however, won’t be easy for the 30-year-old Chinese fighter.

Former champion Jedrzejczyk defended the belt five times before losing it to Rose Namajunas at UFC 217 in 2017. Since then, Jedrzejczyk has gone 2-2 and unsuccessfully challenged Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight belt at UFC 231.

Jedrzejczyk is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Michelle Waterson in October, her 10th win in the UFC. The 32-year-old Polish fighter knows she has to be ready against Zhang.

“I became the UFC strawweight champion after two UFC fights, what about this?” Jedrzejczyk said via BJPenn.com. “People didn’t know much about me either, so it doesn’t change anything. I have to be ready for anything and everything.

“I’m facing the best strawweight, and she’s my next big challenge. She’s the baddest women but I plan on taking back what belongs to me in the strawweight belt. I ran this division for two years and eight months. This will be a perfect night for me.”

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST

Lightweight bout - Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose

Welterweight bout - Neil Magny vs. Li Jingliang

Welterweight bout - Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin

 

ESPN Prelims at 8 p.m. EST

Bantamweight bout - Sean O’Malley vs. Jose Quinonez

Lightweight bout - Mark Madsen vs. Austin Hubbard

Middleweight bout - Rodolfo Vieira vs. Saparbeg Safarov

Middleweight bout - Gerald Meerschaert vs. Deron Winn

 

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

Women’s strawweight bout - Emily Whitmire vs. Polyana Viana

Featherweight bout - Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Movsar Evloev

Bantamweight bout - Danaa Batgerel vs. Guido Cannetti

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