3 Ways Yoel Romero Can Beat Israel Adesanya at UFC 248
He's a dozen years older, arrives with two straight losses and is less prone to highlight-reel inclusion.
But if you think that means Yoel Romero can't win his UFC middleweight title match with incumbent Israel Adesanya this weekend in Las Vegas, think again.
The 42-year-old Cuban has been agonizingly close to adding a championship-caliber bullet line to his resume, dropping an interim title fight in 2017, missing weight prior to knocking out Luke Rockhold in another interim bout seven months later and losing a split decision in yet another opportunity in 2018.
Adesanya is the favorite for good reason, but the gap between he and Romero is hardly vast.
To illustrate that point, we put together a brief list with the ways and means through which the challenger can finally break out and add himself to the premier mixed martial arts promotion's belted class.
Clock through to see if you agree, and let us know in the comments what you think.
1. Get It to the Ground
When it comes to Romero's best chance to become champion, he's got a priority.
The quicker and more often he can get Adesanya off his feet and onto the mat, the better off he is.
Romero comes to the Octagon with a clear-cut advantage in wrestling prowess, having won a 1999 world amateur championship and taken second and fourth at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics, respectively.
He averages 1.98 takedowns per 15 minutes, according to UFC.com, and the fact that he's shorter and not as long-armed as the champion will be masked a bit if the combatants get horizontal.
It's easy to fall in love with knockout power—not surprising, given 11 KOs in 13 wins— but it says here it'd be far wiser for Romero to exploit the wrestling edge rather than relying solely on punches.
2. Strike with a Striker
Take a good long look at Romero.
See the menacing face and the physique that could have been carved out of a mountainside.
And then go ahead, you tell him he can't win a fight against Adesanya by striking.
While it's clear that the challenger's overall resume has a foundation in wrestling, it's no less clear that he's scored all but two of his professional wins via effective use of punches, kicks and/or elbows.
He lands better than three significant strikes per minute with a 51 percent accuracy rate and averages a shade less than a knockdown every 15 minutes.
In other words, he can damage you in a number of ways. And just because Adesanya enters this fight as the perceived superior with hands, elbows, knees and feet, Romero is hardly incapable of taking that path.
3. Take Him to Deep Waters
Only a fool would suggest a guy who looks like Adesanya wouldn't be in killer cardio shape.
And no, we're not at all doing that here.
But Romero's no slouch either. And because he's a wrestler by trade, it's been his career-long practice, especially in recent years, to drift his opponents away from the shore before attempting to drown them.
The challenger has gone into the third round (or beyond) in 11 consecutive fights stretching all the way back to 2013. Six of those fights, in fact, have ended in third-round stoppage wins—as did a previous victory in just his second pro fight back in 2010.
Adesanya, by contrast, has scored three stoppage victories in his UFC tour of duty, but not a single one has come beyond the second round.
He may not have the initial fireworks of his championship-level opponent, but if Romero can stay in the game long enough to slow things down and get them on the mat at least intermittently, he may have done precisely what is needed to set up late-round heroics or turn the tides for a scorecard win.