UFC 248 Preview: Israel Adesanya v. Yoel Romero

by Vito Basile

This Saturday, UFC 248 will happen in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena with the main event and co-main event as title fights. The main event will feature champion Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (18-0) v. Yoel “The Soldier of God” Romero (13-3) in a middleweight bout. Both men have impressive career wins, and what makes this fight unique is that Romero is getting a title shot coming off two losses. Romero is 2-3 in his last five fights, which I guess, by UFC math, makes him the #1 contender in a very deep weight class. Adesanya is coming into this fight is 5-0 in his last five fights, with his last fight against Robert Whittaker, unifying the UFC Middleweight Championship and becoming the undisputed middleweight champ. This will be Adesanya’s second title defense in the UFC. Stylistically, this a great match-up for fans, and we should be in for an epic battle like Usman v. Covington, and more recently Hooker v. Felder.

The challenger, Yoel Romero, looks like a statue of a Greek god and he can put your lights out. When I say he’s built like a statue, he really is. An Olympic freestyle wrestling gold and silver medalist, Romero is still very competitive in a young division. What he lacks in height he makes up for in thickness and girth. Romero comes from an Olympic wrestling background, so that’s a strength for him. Here are some keys for Saturday’s match-up:

  • Takedowns: Romero’s Olympic wrestling should help neutralize some of Adesanya’s striking ability. He needs to force some takedowns and make Adesanya uncomfortable and put him in positions where he feels vulnerable. He should make him exert some energy trying to stuff the takedown.
  • Take away reach: Adesanya has a big advantage in the reach department, standing four inches taller than Romero, and with a 6 ½ inch reach advantage. Anytime that a fighter has that kind of reach advantage, it’s going to be Jabfest USA. Romero must stay inside and not let Adesanya get his arms extended. It’s a tall task for him, but this is important because a guy like Adesanya has phenomenal stand up.
  • Uppercuts/Body Shots: If Romero can neutralize some of Adesanya’s length and get inside, he needs to throw power shots, which undoubtedly he will, but he needs use those uppercuts and body shots. Slow down Adesanya and make him retreat; Adesanya will want to attack and force Romero to backpedal.

Romero has 11 KO’s in his career, so he certainly has the strength to finish Adesanya. He’s a dangerous fighter when it comes down to it and he matches up perfectly with Adesanya.

Adesanya, the undisputed UFC middleweight champion, is an absolute animal. In his last two fights, he defeated Kelvin Gastelum to win the interim UFC middleweight championship, and he defeated Robert Whittaker to unify and become the UFC undisputed middleweight champion. Gastelum v. Adesanya won “Fight of the Night” honors, winning by decision, and Whittaker v. Adesanya was competitive until Adesanya got comfortable and KO’d Whittaker in the 2nd. The Last Stylebender has a traditional kick boxing/boxing background, but has an average submission game. Some keys for Adesanya on Saturday:

  • Striking: He has a background in striking and utilizes his kick boxing background mixed with his long body very well. Adesanya is a patient puncher; he’s not going to throw punches and kicks in volume. He strategizes what he wants to throw. He likes to get into rhythm and put combinations together. Adesanya loves his jabs and his left hooks, but don’t let that fool you. He does have power in both hands. As for his kicks, he’ll throw a couple leg kicks and a few body shots to slow his opponent down a little.
  • Wrestling: Adesanya’s wrestling has gotten much better the last few fights, specifically his takedown defense. Opponents with wrestling backgrounds have recently found it difficult to take him down, but he’s far from perfect. Other than his defense, he’s gotten better at grappling and takedowns, but don’t look for him to really use it in this fight.
  • Submission: Adesanya has subs in his arsenal but doesn’t really use them unless he needs to. If the fight goes to the ground, look for the champ to go for a sub.

I expect this fight to stay on the feet with some power shots connecting. Romero needs to be smart and re-watch the Gastelum v. Adesanya fight. If Romero can utilize his wrestling in this fight, I think he has a shot. However, Adesanya has the length, power, and takedown defense to really neutralize Romero. Adesanya has great movement and uses his angles very well.

My prediction: Adesanya by KO in the 3rd.

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