5 Mar 2020

UFC 248 Adesanya vs Romero: What you need to know

1:37 pm on 5 March 2020

Israel Adesanya defends his Ultimate Fighting Championship Middleweight belt for the first time against Yoel Romero at UFC 248 in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Ahead of the bout, RNZ takes a look back at the history of the two fighters and what each one's chances are.

Israel Adesanya (L) and Yoel Romero (R).

Israel Adesanya (L) and Yoel Romero (R). Photo: Photosport / AFP

Head to head statistics

Israel Adesanya

Age: 30

Style: Striker

Height: 1.93m

Weight: 83.9kg

Reach: 203cm

MMA record: 18-0-0

Yoel Romero

Age: 42

Style: Wrestling

Height: 1.83m

Weight: 83.9kg

Reach: 187cm

MMA record: 13-4-0

Israel Adesanya

Sunday's fight will be Adesanya's first defending the middleweight title he won off Australian Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in Melbourne in October. Adesanya won the fight by knockout in the second round.

While technically his first defence of the championship belt, Adesanya considers this his second title defence, having already captured the interim title after beating Kelvin Gastelum in an exhilarating five round slug-fest that many could argue was the fight of the year in 2019.

With an 18-0 record in MMA, and 7-0 in the UFC, Adesanya, fighting out of Auckland's City Kickboxing gym, is considered the favourite for Sunday's bout, but pundits worldwide are predicting Romero to provide a tough new challenge for "The Last Style Bender".

Robert Whittaker of Australia throws a punch at Israel Adesanya of New Zealand during UFC 243.

Israel Adesanya (R) beat Australian Robert Whittaker (L) to win the UFC Middleweight title. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It's a fight Adesanya and his team pushed hard for, despite his opponent only winning one of his last four fights.

"I'm a charitable guy, sometimes I do things for charity," Adesanya said.

"It's not even about the belt. I just wanna beat up the toughest guys. I want to beat up the people of our generation right now considered the best of the best, and he's one of them," Adesanya told Ariel Helwani in November last year.

Commentators predict if there is somewhere Adesanya is going to struggle, it will be with Romero's wrestling. Romero is a highly regarded wrestler, with an Olympic silver medal to his name.

It doesn't appear to concern Adesanya though, talking to Yahoo Sports he said he's confident he'll beat Romero and revealed how he plans on doing it.

"I can control where the fight goes as well, 'cause of my footwork,"

"Wrestling doesn't always start straight away from the clinch. It starts from the feet, where you're feet are placed, and he's flatfooted. I am not, I have really good footwork, and also, when he gets his hands on you. It's hard to get your hands on me when you can't see me. He keeps saying 'I see you soon boy.' No, you won't."

Adesanya's coach Eugene Bareman says there are distinct and clear weaknesses in Romero's game they believe they can take advantage of.

"We would like this fight to be a real showcase of how to dominate someone that people have this impression can't be dominated," Bareman said.

Adesanya also put concerns over a mark on his forearm to bed, which fans speculated was a staph infection, calling it "a little scrape" on Monday in the lead up to the fight.

Yoel Romero

Regarded as the scariest man in the middleweight division, 42-year-old Yoel Romero will face Israel Adesanya in what will likely be his last shot at the middleweight title.

Despite his reputation, Romero comes into Sunday's showdown with a one win, three loss record from his previous four fights.

Two of those losses were against Robert Whittaker, the man Adesanya beat for the title, as well as a loss to Paulo Costa.

Paulo Costa throws a punch at Yoel Romero in the third round during their Middleweight Bout at UFC 241 at Honda Center on August 17, 2019 in Anaheim, California.

Yoel Romero (L) lost to Paulo Costa (R) in his last fight in the UFC. Photo: AFP / Getty

While Romero is expected to use his wrestling expertise to try get the edge over Adesanya, he is also dangerous on his feet. Of his nine wins with the UFC, seven have been by knockout.

It's this reputation for explosive knock outs that had fellow middleweight Darren Till tweet, "I ain't afraid of no f****ing man on this planet!!!" and then quickly follow it up with, "Apart from Yoel [Romero]. He scary."

UFC President Dana White says it's a fight no other fighter asks for.

"Nobody wants to fight Romero, nobody does," he told press following the UFC 246 McGregor v Cerrone fight.

"Believe me, we make the phone calls, no one wants to fight Yoel Romero. Israel wants to fight him, Israel has the title. Israel feels that his legacy will not be complete if he doesn't beat Yoel Romero. How do you not respect that? I respect it and people wanna see it, and I promise you, it will be a big fight."

One concern for Romero going into the fight is his weight - having missed weight for back-to-back championship fights. First while stepping in at short notice for the interim-title against Luke Rockhold, which he won by knockout, and then the rematch with Whittaker.

He doesn't believe it'll be a problem against Adesanya though.

"Normally I am 202, depending. It is totally different now... It's no problem for me when I have time for my training. I am not thinking about my weight for my fight. I am thinking about my training camp. Because you need to lose your weight in training camp," he told Ariel Helwani's MMA Show.

Should Romero miss the weight, the fight will still go ahead.

"If he doesn't make weight, f**k, that's on him. I just get a large chunk of his cheque," Adesanya told ESPN this week.

How to watch the fight

UFC 248 will be available to New Zealanders on Sky Television's pay per view service - Sky Arena. It costs $39.95.

The main card starts at 4pm, with the Adesanya vs Romero bout the final fight of the night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.