UFC 248: Adesanya vs Romero Preview

UFC 248: Adesanya vs Romero Preview

By Jack Maher

In a battle of old vs (relatively) new, the UFC middleweight championship will be contested between long-time contender Yoel Romero, and undisputed middleweight champion Israel Adesanya this weekend at UFC 248.

Had you been told back in November of 2016 that Romero, who was fresh off a knockout of Chris Weidman which seemingly cemented him as the undeniable no. 1 contender, that his first fight for the undisputed title would not come until 2020, you’d likely be quite shocked, but matchmaking oversights, struggles to make weight, and some very tight losses mean this is the reality for ‘The Soldier of God’.

Adesanya has enjoyed a much more straightforward path to UFC gold, working his way through the rankings, and in to an interim title fight, which he won in thrilling fashion. Last October, Adesanya unified the belts in Australia against Robert Whittaker, with another display of striking brilliance.

Had this fight happened a year ago, I would have confidently backed Romero, this time last year we had yet to see Adesanya share the octagon with an elite middleweight, which begged the question, would he be able to replicate his flashy performances against the best?

Going in to his battle with Kelvin Gastelum, I highly doubt it was Adesanya’s intention to take as much damage as he did, but the ultra competitive nature of the bout taught us a lot about Adesanya, and more importantly, taught Adesanya a lot abut MMA.

Adesanya has so far shown an impressive ability to keep fights standing despite his opponents attempts to take him in to unfamiliar waters, a skill he shown in his fights against Gastelum and Derick Brunson.

Romero, an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, has much stronger wrestling credentials than anyone Adesanya has fought in the UFC so far, so I’m predicting he’ll see that as his path to victory.

I expect Adesanya to use his length and range of striking to keep Romero out of wrestling distance, and although it will be advantage Romero if he gets in to wrestling range, I believe Adesanya’s grappling has come on far enough to mean that even if Romero works his way in to wrestling range, it isn’t necessarily game over for Adesanya.

If Romero can’t keep Adesanya pinned to the floor, it’ll become a striking battle, something that isn’t unfamiliar to Romero, although usually he’s accustomed to being the most dangerous man in the cage.

Romero is a very dangerous striker, but usually waits and picks his moment to explode, typically in the third round. This means that if Romero can’t take the fight to the ground, he’ll either have to adjust his tactics and explode early, potentially opening himself up to dangerous strikes through the recklessness of his own wild attacks, or stick to his guns, and try to wait out to the middle rounds to take the fight to Adesanya, which may work, although it does potentially open him up to two rounds of  unanswered attacks from Adesanya.

In short, I believe this fight has came slightly too late for Romero and at the perfect time for Adesanya, Romero looks like he has ever so slightly started to slow down, which is completely understandable and long overdue, while Adesanya is like a sponge when it comes to absorbing knowledge about MMA, with his overall game improving more fight by fight.

Romero’s biggest advantage over Adesanya is his wrestling, and I believe Adesanya has enough about him to mostly keep the fight standing, where the fight will play in to his hands, and I believe ‘The Last Stylebender’ will hand Romero the most empathetic loss of his UFC career, stopping him inside three rounds.

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