Matches to Make for the Winners and Losers of UFC 248
For better or for worse, Saturday's UFC 248 is an event fight fans will be talking about for weeks.
In the card's main event, UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya and challenger Yoel Romero lulled onlookers to sleep with a 25-minute fight that produced the extreme opposite of the violence that was anticipated.
In the co-main event, conversely, UFC strawweight champ Weili Zhang and challenger Joanna Jedrzejczyk slugged it out for five rounds and right into immortality, producing one of the best fights in UFC history.
Elsewhere on the card, we saw big wins from prospects, contenders, and veterans alike.
So where do the stars of this wild event go from here? We'll play matchmaker in the slides to come.
Preliminary Fights Quick Hits
Sean O’Malley def. Jose Quinonez via TKO (R1, 2:02).
- O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera vs. Eddie Wineland winner (UFC on ESPN 8)
- Quinonez vs. Grigorii Popov
Mark Madsen def. Austin Hubbard via unanimous decision.
- Madsen vs. Gregor Gillespie
- Hubbard vs. Yancy Medeiros
Rodolfo Vieira def. Saparbek Safarov via submission (arm-triangle choke, R1, 2:58).
- Vieira vs. Bevon Lewis
- Safarov vs. Trevin Giles
Gerald Meerschaert def. Deron Winn via submission (rear-naked choke R3, 2:13).
- Meerschaert vs. Jun Yong Park
- Winn vs. Tom Breese
Giga Chikadze def. Jamall Emmers via split decision.
- Chikadze vs. Zubaira Tukhugov
- Emmers vs. Matt Sayles
Danaa Batgerel def. Guido Cannetti via KO (R1, 3:01).
- Batgerel vs. Andre Ewell
- Cannetti vs. Pingyuan Liu
Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin
Alex Oliveira def. Max Griffin via split decision.
The main card was opened up by a welterweight battle between Max Griffin and Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira, who was likely fighting for his job after losing his past three bouts.
Although Griffin put up an excellent fight—particularly in the third round—Oliveira got the win he needed, capturing a hard-fought split decision over the bloodied American.
From here, Oliveira should be matched up with China's Song Kenan, who picked up a violent first-round victory over Callan Potter at the UFC's recent stop in Auckland, New Zealand. The matchup makes sense in terms of the pair's recent wins, and it seems like a sure thing in terms of entertainment.
Griffin, meanwhile, should be matched up with Emil Meek, who also fought on that Auckland card, losing a decision to Jake Matthews despite also delivering a strong third-round performance.
Neil Magny vs. Li Jingliang
Neil Magny def. Li Jingliang via unanimous decision.
The second bout of the main card also occurred in the welterweight division, with the long-absent Neil Magny returning to action against China's Li Jingliang. Both men had previously been ranked in the welterweight top 15 and were eager to regain that station in Las Vegas.
This one was all Magny, who weathered some early adversity from his rival to crank up the offense and capture a clear-cut unanimous-decision win.
With this successful return to action, Magny, who owns wins over the likes of Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks and Hector Lombard, should be matched up with the winner of the April 11 scrap between Vicente Luque and Randy Brown.
The ever-entertaining Li, on the other hand, should be matched up with a welterweight cut from the same cloth as himself: Michel Pereira. The Brazilian last fought on the UFC's recent stop in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, where he was disqualified after he blasted Diego Sanchez with an illegal knee in the third round. This fight makes all the sense in the world, and it will be a treat for any fans who are lucky enough to watch it.
Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose
Beneil Dariush def. Drakkar Klose via second-round KO (R2, 1:00).
The middle bout of the main card came courtesy of the lightweight division—the consensus best division in the UFC.
This fan-favorite division delivered once again at UFC 248, as former contender Beneil Dariush reminded the world why he was once so highly regarded with a devastating second-round knockout of the streaking Drakkar Klose.
Now on a four-fight win streak in the UFC's most competitive division, Dariush should battle Scott Holtzman, who is riding two big decision wins over Dong Hyun Ma and Jim Miller. This might read like a bit of a step down for Dariush, but after he suffered a brutal knockout loss against Edson Barboza last time he neared the lightweight mountaintop, there's no sense in rushing him.
Klose, meanwhile, should look to get back on track against Mairbek Taisumov. Beckan was on a six-fight streak until UFC 242 in September, when he was out-hustled by upstart lightweight contender Carlos Diego Ferreira.
Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Weili Zhang def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via split decision.
The UFC 248 co-main event was widely regarded as one of the most compelling title fights in the history of the UFC strawweight division. Yet it exceeded all possible expectations and will go down as one of the greatest female bouts in UFC history.
For five rounds, the champion Weili Zhang and challenger Joanna Jedrzejczyk pelted each other with everything they had. By the time the final round concluded, both woman were bloodied, and Jedrzejczyk's forehead looked a bit like a car airbag after a crash, but the judges' verdict was anyone's guess.
In the end, those judges awarded the win to Zhang, the UFC's first and only Chinese champion, by split decision. She's now on a borderline-preposterous 21-fight win streak.
Given the narrow nature of Zhang's latest win, a rematch with Jedrzejczyk makes perfect sense, and most hardcore fans would probably line up to see it. In the event that the UFC goes another direction, Zhang could defend her title against the winner of the UFC 249 co-main event between former champs Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade, while Jedrzejczyk should attempt to get back on track against the loser that fight
Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero
Israel Adesanya def. Yoel Romero via unanimous decision.
Much like the UFC 248 co-main event between Zhang and Jedrzejczyk, Saturday's headliner between undefeated middleweight champ Israel Adesanya and ferocious challenger Yoel Romero was expected to be an absolute banger. Unlike the co-main event, this one failed to live up to expectations.
The pair of middleweights, both known for their propensity for violence, threw fewer than 90 strikes combined over 25 minutes. That didn't leave the cage-side judges much to work with.
In the end, they unanimously sided with the champion, but if the booing from the Vegas crowd and the groaning on social media were any indication, that result was not tremendously popular.
Whatever the case, Adesanya is still the UFC middleweight champ and can now look ahead to his next challenge. Given how snooze-inducing his fight with Romero was, you can be sure the UFC will brush off any talk of an immediate rematch between the two and look to fresher contests.
Luckily, there's no shortage of interesting options for either man.
From here, Adesanya should defend his belt against the undefeated Paulo Costa. The Brazilian destroyer actually earned a title shot against Adesanya by defeating Romero by decision in August 2019 but was sidelined by a bicep injury, which led the UFC to give Romero a shot.
The time for another attempt at this Adesanya vs. Costa fight—two of the only undefeated fighters in the UFC—has come. Costa was cage-side for the UFC 248 main event, talking plenty of trash, which will give the UFC plenty of promo material.
As for Romero? Well, even at 42 and with three razor-thin decision losses in the rearview, he remains one of the best middleweights in the world. If he wants to continue plying his trade in the Octagon, he should be matched up with Kelvin Gastelum. The No. 7-ranked middleweight has not fought since a loss to Darren Till last November, and is one of the few fighters in the division Romero has not fought. Book 'em.