B/R Staff Roundtable: Did Israel Adesanya Deserve the Win over Yoel Romero?
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya scored the unanimous decision victory over Yoel Romero on Saturday night at UFC 248 in Las Vegas, but almost nobody was happy about what they had just witnessed.
Adesanya and Romero combined to land just 88 strikes over the 25-minute contest with neither fighter scoring a takedown. It was one of the worst UFC title fights in history, and the whole thing seemed especially lackluster in comparison to the co-main event battle between women's strawweight champion Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Regardless, the most important question as we look forward to what comes next in the division is whether Adesnya actually deserved the win over Romero, that's what the Bleacher Report MMA crew got together to discuss this time around.
Hey, guys, did Izzy deserve the nod at UFC 248?
Tom Taylor: Did Israel Adesanya deserve his win over Yoel Romero? I say yes.
In a fight that gave the judges almost nothing to work with, the Nigerian-born Kiwi landed more strikes—including a procession of kicks that pulverized Romero’s right leg—and defended all three of his foe’s takedown attempts. He was clearly reluctant to engage the Cuban, but he is a counter-striker first and foremost, so that shouldn’t have surprised anybody. It was a close fight, but Adesanya getting the judges’ nod was totally justifiable.
Was it the star-making performance the UFC was probably pulling for? Of course not.
I think most of us will agree that the promotion was hoping for an impressive Adesanya win at UFC 248. A 30-year-old striking sensation certainly makes for a more marketable champion than an almost 43-year-old who has a terrible track record when it comes to making weight for title fights. I believe that’s why most of the card’s pre-fight promotional material portrayed Romero as some kind of unstoppable beast. It’s not that the UFC wanted a monster for a middleweight champion. The UFC wanted a monster-killer for a middleweight champion. The promotion was hoping Adesanya would fell his destructive adversary in a display worthy of Geralt from The Witcher.
He sure didn’t deliver on that, but he did get the win, and he definitely deserved it.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: The fact that Adesanya and Romero arrived amid the lingering smell of head-on collision violence didn’t do anything to lessen expectations. They’d engaged in requisite trash talk, been the subject of promissory Dana White hype and managed to incorporate a cigar as a venom-peaking prop at Friday’s weigh-in.
So the thought that a co-Fight of the Night was imminent didn’t seem like a reach.
Which only made the subsequent dud seem, well… duddier.
Adesanya wasn’t exactly a violent blur, but because Romero had been portrayed as the bringer of chaos it’s hardly surprising the Nigerian’s approach would be built on cool sharpness. Had the challenger done his part, it may have become a compelling mesh for something more than the handful of times they actually engaged. Romero was presumably never more than a clean shot from changing the balance—and the more he’d pressed, presumably the deeper the champion would have been forced to reach into a bag of style-bending tricks.
It never happened, which instead leaves us to nitpick whether Adesanya’s sorry output of 11, 12 and 11 strikes in the second, third and fourth rounds offsets Romero’s embarrassing 4-2 advantage in the first and his high watermark of 14—to Adesanya’s 12—in the hell-bent-for-leather, by comparison, fifth.
It says here that it does. The champion deserves his belt. Yippee.
And next time Romero fights, I'll cue up Camila Cabello instead. I'm if stuck with a non-violent Cuban, at least she can sing.
Jonathan Snowden: I know I'm alone out on an island here, but I was entranced by Romero vs. Adesanya. I won't go so far as to call it good—as Tom rightly points out, almost nothing at all happened over 25 long minutes.
But the promise of something amazing happening was present throughout. That was enough to keep me on high alert even as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Such is the explosive power both men possess.
Unfortunately, it's a power most often accessed by way of the counterpunch. Each fighter was waiting for the other man to attack, hoping to quickly pounce on the slightest mistake. Neither man wanted to lead and both stubbornly refused to bend to the other's will. The end result was a fight, well, without much fighting.
As to who won, well, that's a little more complicated, a combination of objective strike counting and subjective interpretations of strike quality. In real-time I had Romero winning 48-47. But I'm not mad Adesanya got the duke. His powerful kicks and the bruises they left on Romero's leg are arguments it's hard to argue too vehemently against.
Kelsey McCarson: I suppose I'm a victim of my own expectations about this fight. With Adesanya possessing such a fun style and Romero seemingly with his last big chance to finally grab the UFC gold that's eluded him over the years, I expected to see some real fireworks.
And coming off the tremendous high of watching Zhang Weili and Jonna Jedrzejczyk produce one of the better action fights I'd ever seen in my life, I guess I had something built in my head that wasn't going to happen.
But none of those things matter very much to my original question. Did Adesanya deserve to win the fight? Yes, I think he did. Romero's big plan was apparently to lure Adesanya into range so he could explode on him. It didn't work, in part because Adesanya was content to score the points win from the distance.
That was the right move if the highest ordered good for the champion was to retain his title belt.
So, yes, Adesanya deserved the win.
But did fans deserve a little more action during the contest? Maybe that's true, too.