This year’s third UFC pay-per-view is just around the corner, and what a stacked event we’re gifted with. The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada will yet again play host when, reigning, defending UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya takes on Yoel Romero in his first UFC title defence. In the co-main event, we’re as equally gifted when the pride of Chinese MMA Weili Zhang defends her female Strawweight title against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The unanswered questions will be answered next week and as the anticipation grows, so does the pressure. Who has the greater chance of prevailing with the crown this weekend? Let’s take a closer look at UFC 248 main event of the weekend.
Quite possibly, Israel is the fastest growing star in UFC history. The fighting pride of New Zealand & Nigeria respectively makes his first title defense inside the T-Mobile arena and clearly has no fear in taking on the Middleweight’s toughest competition. Undefeated in MMA upon his arrival, Israel promised to remain undefeated and capture the gold. Common words amongst passionate rising stars but, soon became a reality before anybody even had the opportunity to doubt him.
It took Israel less than two years to capture the UFC Middleweight strap, his contest with Yoel will be his 8th UFC fight which is unheard of in such a small window of time since his debut. Two wars against two legends put Israel in a position to claim his worth, and then the eventual demise of champion Robert Whittaker became slightly more dramatic than expected. A TKO stoppage and a new Middleweight champion defending his soil in 2020 were on the shoulders of a guy who’s been signed for 24 months. His 18-0 undefeated record sails into the new year with a catalog of new fighters ready to go to war with the champ.
Israel will continue his journey into 2020 with high expectations and goals to accomplish; he’s vowed to “clear-out” the Middleweight division with an eventual destination laying in the Light Heavyweight division. But, before Israel can procrastinate on his future endeavors, ‘The Soldier of God’ Yoel Romero will be standing in his way.
Can the explosive, Olympic level wrestling offense put a roadblock in Izzy’s way? We did witness Kelvin Gastelum find some success in taking down the champ. Across five, five-minute rounds, I have no doubt that Yoel may land a takedown or two but ultimately, Israel is the big favorite for a reason (-249). His kickboxing history, long and rangy body type, combined with the backing of City Kickboxing gym… is more than enough reason to have confidence in the champion moving forward in 2020 and beyond.
Yoel ‘The Soldier of God’ Romero
Is he in the right place at the right time? Or… has Yoel Romero rightfully earned his third Middleweight title opportunity. Well, no matter what side of the story you’re following, nobody can deny the impressive dominance and sheer athleticism that Yoel has brought to the table.
After suffering two back to back title chances against Robert Whittaker, and then a decision loss to up and comer; Paulo Costa, the future became a dull thought. That was up until Israel became champion and Costa suffered an injury, which now presents Yoel Romero with his third title shot in his previous four fights, a record of its own. With his back against the wall and minimal momentum behind him entering this contest, can the fully equipped Olympic wrestler return to winning ways?
7 years ago the UFC was introduced to a wrecking machine in the form of a Middleweight fighter and his name was Yoel Romero. His early tenure became a guessing game of “what round will Yoel knock out his opponent in?” Easily, one of the most feared Middleweights to ever enter a UFC octagon. Former Olympic Silver medallist, Yoel isn’t a stranger to being a champion, now aged 41 his biological time clock won’t allow him to compete at this level for much longer. With what is evidently his final opportunity at UFC gold, perhaps we’ll see the most dangerous ‘Soldier of God’ that we’ll ever witness?
The path to victory for each fighter seems to be obvious. Yoel should avoid a striking battle at distance with Israel and utilise his offensive grappling. Yoel certainly has the power to put down anybody but he’ll give up a significant speed advantage to Israel which could leave him accountable for a dangerous counter-striker or two. Grappling should be the plan, whether that happens or not is another story. Hopefully the ‘Soldier of God’ will get his swan-song.
UFC 248 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 7th 2020.