UFC 248: Previewing Adesanya-Romero and Other Matches on the Card
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya badly wants the chance to end the Jon Jones era. Over recent months, the 30-year-old has been berating the UFC's most accomplished fighter in what appears to be a serious bid to get a crack at Jones in a champion vs. champion superfight.
Can you imagine how Adesanya must have felt through the first half Jones' epically difficult bout against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 on Feb. 8? It appeared the Jones-Adesanya megafight was slipping away one big Reyes punch at a time, but Jones rebounded over the second half of the bout to end up the winner.
In the end, Adesanya's superfight dream matchup against Jones lived for another day.
But Adesanya probably shouldn't be looking past terrifying middleweight behemoth Yoel Romero at UFC 248. The 42-year-old Cuban Adonis might be coming off two losses, but the former Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling is a great grappler, hard puncher and a fighter with his back up against the wall. Adesanya can't possibly afford to look past Romero, who is perhaps the scariest UFC fighter to never have won the title.
Adesanya vs. Romero is a scintillating matchup between two of the best 185-pound fighters on the planet, so here's everything you need to know to get ready for the next big UFC pay-per-view event of 2020.
UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero Fight Card and Info
UFC 248 takes place live on March 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card pay-per-view is scheduled to begin on at 9:00 pm ET on ESPN+ PPV.
ESPN will show the prelims beginning at 7:00 pm ET.
The early prelims begin at 5:15 pm ET on ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass.
The card listed below is per ESPN and is subject to change.
UFC 248 Main Card (ESPN+ PPV)
Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero
Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Neil Magny vs. Li Jingliang
Sean O'Malley vs. Jose Quinonez
UFC 248 Prelims (ESPN)
Rodolfo Vieira vs. Saparbeg Safarov
Mark O. Madsen vs. Austin Hubbard
Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose
Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin
UFC 248 Early Prelims (ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass)
Gerald Meerschaert vs. Deron Winn
Emily Whitmire vs. Polyana Viana
Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Movsar Evloev
Danaa Batgerel vs. Guido Cannetti
The Main Event: Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero
Adesanya enters UFC 248 on a tremendous hot streak. Indeed, the Nigerian-born striker from New Zealand appears to have everything it takes to become a huge superstar in the sport, and he has already beat Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum and Robert Whittaker.
The Last Stylebender is now hoping to add Romero's name to the list, something that would bolster the fighter's credentials as one of the top competitors in the sport.
Adesanya is ranked No. 6 on the UFC's men's pound-for-pound list.
But Romero has long been revered as one of the best middleweights in the sport. His late start gave him an aggressive timeline that would have stifled most other athletes, but Romero enters UFC 247 with notable wins over Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold and Lyoto Machida.
But the most intriguing storyline in the main event is how UFC 247 could be Romero's last chance at capturing UFC gold. He's one of the most explosive athletes the company has ever signed, one who came into MMA with some incredible wrestling credentials. But Romero is 42 now, and it would seem the fighter is running out of chances.
Adesanya vs. Romero is a compelling matchup on paper. Adesanya was incredible last year, but Romero brings a unique set of skills that could seriously pose lots of problems for the relatively new champion.
That Romero only got the gig because middleweight monster Paulo Costa is recovering from an injury should only help to give the Cuban even more reason to leave everything he has inside the Octagon on fight night.
Co-Main Event: Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Could Weili Zhang have drawn a tougher first title defense than Joanna Jedrzejczyk?
Zhang, 30, from China, grabbed the UFC women's strawweight championship in stunning fashion by stopping Jessica Andrade the first round at UFC Fight Night 157 in August. Now China's first-ever UFC champion will hope to keep her title reign intact against rugged veteran and former champion Jedrzejczyk.
On top of Jedrzejczyk being as tough and skilled as they come in the sport, Zhang has the additional pressure of having been forced to move her training camp away from her home country because of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
Jedrzejczyk, 32, from Poland, is attempting to usurp Zhang to grab the women's strawweight title back into her own grasp. Jedrzejczyk previously held the UFC women's strawweight championship from March 2015 to November 2017 but enters UFC 248 having lost her last three championship bouts.
If that wasn't enough, the two have recently scuffled on social media over Jedrzejczyk posting a photo of herself wearing a gas mask on Instagram, apparently referencing the coronavirus outbreak in China. Zhang didn't see the humor in it, so the champion might also be entering this huge fight against Jedrzejczyk carrying some additional emotional capital.
Fight to Keep an Eye On: Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
If longtime 185-pound contender Derek Brunson hopes to stay among the top 10 middleweight menaces in the division, the 36-year-old American will absolutely need to prove capable of brushing back tough challenges laid upon him by 22-year-old unbeaten prospects like Edmen Shahbazyan.
Shahbazyan is coming off a sensational highlight-reel knockout of Brad Taveras at UFC 244 in November. That massive head kick made the rounds on social media after the fight, something that almost always gives young UFC fighters hoping to make big splashes in the sport a huge shot in the arm in terms of gaining exposure. A win over Brunson would help the fighter in that regard even more.
Besides, crossroad fights often produce quality action. Bruson was stopped by Israel Adesanya in the first round at UFC 230 in November 2018 but went 2-0 last year. That earned the fighter a new contract with the company along with chances like this where the fighter can potentially stave off an up-and-comer in Shahbazyan.
Best of the Rest
Darren Till vs. Jarod Cannonier (?)
One of the best fights on the UFC 248 card might not have actually been announced yet.
Former UFC welterweight title challenger Darren Till appeared fearsome when he moved up to middleweight to defeat Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 244 in November. Till was originally scheduled to face Jared Cannonier at UFC 248 before it was pulled off the card because of an injury to Till's ankle. However, Till is now apparently ready to get back to work, and he fully expects to face Cannonier at UFC 248.
The winner of Till-Cannonier would produce a top candidate for the main event winner's next championship fight. Both Till and Cannonier are ranked among the Top Five fighters at middleweight.
Neil Magny vs. Li Jingliang
UFC 248 also features a compelling welterweight matchup between Neil Magny and Li Jingliang. Magny is returning to the Octagon for the first time since being stopped by Santiago Ponzinibbio in the main event of UFC Argentina in November 2018. Jingliang has notched three straight wins, most notably knocking out Elizeu Zaleski in August.
Gerald Meerschaert vs. Deron Winn
Deron Winn is coming off the first loss of his professional MMA career. The 30-year-old grappler lost a split-decision to Darren Stewart in October. Now Winn draws 32-year-old veteran Gerald Meerschaert in a must-win matchup at UFC 248.