- UFC 248 takes place at T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday (March 7) at 10:00 PM ET
- UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya specifically asked to fight the “boogeyman” of the division, Yoel Romero
- The 42-year-old Romero looks to make UFC history in the title bout
On Saturday, the UFC heads to Las Vegas for UFC 248. The headlining bout sees Israel Adesanya put his middleweight belt on the line for the first time. His opponent is the No. 3 ranked 185-pounder, Yoel Romero.
Adesanya won the middleweight title in October 2019 when he knocked out Robert Whittaker at UFC 243. The win moved the New Zealander to 18-0 in his career.
The pay-per-view portion of UFC 248 streams on ESPN+. The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass.
ADESANYA VS ROMERO ODDS
UFC 248 PREDICTION & PICK
There’s a lot to like about the matchup between Adesanya and Romero. At the top of that list is the tension that will arise when the referee signals the start of the contest. Adesanya is one of the most dynamic strikers in the division. He also has one of the best coaches and teams behind him at City Kickboxing in Auckland.
Romero, who captured the silver medal for Cuba in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Olympics, does not have a particularly deep arsenal to choose from. What he does have is outstanding athleticism and the ability to harness his energy into devastating highlight reel finishing techniques.
My pick is the more well-rounded fighter. That man is Adesanya.
Pick: Adesanya (-280)
Adesanya had a magical run in 2019. He opened the year with a decision win over all-time middleweight great, Anderson Silva. He followed that with a five-round decision win over Kelvin Gastelum that saw him dominant the fifth-round of that “Fight of the Year” contender to win the interim middleweight crown. Then in October, Adesanya capped the year by knocking out Whittaker. The 30-year-old was at the top of many “Best Fighter of the Year” lists in 2019.
Romero’s run to UFC 248 has been a tough one. Whittaker defeated him by decision in an interim title fight in 2017. In his next outing, Romero lost a chance to win the interim185-pound title when he came in overweight. Romero did beat Luke Rockhold that night. The Cuban competitor got another opportunity to win the middleweight title in 2018, but he again came in heavy. That point became moot when Whittaker defeated him by split decision in that contest. The 42-year-old Romero is coming off an August 2019 loss to Paulo Costa.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Statistically, the edge mostly goes to Adesanya. He is more active with his striking as well as more accurate. As far as defense, Adesanya has the advantage there as well. He absorbs fewer strikes per minute and also has better overall striking defense. Romero does have a much higher takedown average, but Adesanya is no slouch in the takedown defense department. Adesanya also does not tend to spend too much time on the mat if he does get taken down.
As for coaching and game planning, Eugene Bareman and his team at City Kickboxing have developed into one of the best gyms in MMA. The City Kickboxing fighters have one of the best team records in MMA over the past two years. Bareman is a stickler for preparing each of his fighters for a specific opponent. Adesanya has the advantage here as well.
When it comes to explosive power, that advantage goes to Romero, but Adesanya, who comes from a kickboxing background, does an excellent job at working from distance and keeping that distance. It won’t hurt that Adesanya, who has never been knocked down, has a seven-inch reach advantage.
BETTING VALUE WITH ADESANYA
Romero said he is going for the knockout in this bout in the wake of his decision loss to Costa. That could mean that he is going to be extremely aggressive early in the contest. If Adesanya can weather that storm, his chances of victory increase exponentially.
I have little doubt that Bareman has trained Adesanya for Romero’s powerful and fast attacks and that his fighter will do all he can to keep Romero to the outside with his reach and his kicks.
If Romero fails to knock out Adesanya early, his cardio will likely be compromised. With that, Adesanya will look to stay active and keep Romero from regrouping.
Adesanya does have knockout power, but I suspect he will win this matchup by decision.
FIGHT STATS: ADESANYA VS ROMERO
|Israel Adesanya||Category||Yoel Romero|
|4.46||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||3.71|
|2.60||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||3.21|
|0.00||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||1.79|
|0.40||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.00|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Adesanya did not have to take this fight, but he asked for it. His reasoning behind that request was that Romero is the most feared fighter in the 185-pound division and if he wants to be the all-time best middleweight, he needs to defeat Romero. If Adesanya wins this bout, he’ll retain the title, remain undefeated and take a giant step toward establishing a legacy in the UFC.
A loss here could be the end of Romero’s chances at a UFC middleweight crown. He’s already had more opportunities than most fighters and he’s fallen short either on the scale or in the cage. If he drops this contest to Adesanya, Romero will have a long road back to another title shot. However, if he wins, Romero will be the second oldest champion in UFC history.