UFC 248: Israel Adesanya booed, Zhang Weili cheered as champions retain titles in Las Vegas
Main event proved a forgettable encounter, although the co-main fight will go down as one of the greatest fights in MMA history
It was a tale of two title fights at UFC 248 in Las Vegas, as the headline fight failed to live up to expectations, while the co-main event produced one of the greatest title fights ever seen inside the octagon.
In the night's main event, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya claimed a unanimous decision victory over Cuban contender Yoel Romero after five tense, tight, but ultimately unfulfilling rounds at T-Mobile Arena.
Former kickboxing ace Adesanya earned scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 as he completed his first title defence as a UFC champion, but his victory was greeted by a shower of boos from the Las Vegas crowd after a fight that, despite the knockout power possessed by both athletes, failed to ignite.
Romero came out slow and static, hiding behind a high boxing stance, and his apparent willingness to be patient and not open up gave counter-striker Adesanya little to work with as barely a strike was landed in an utterly forgettable opening round. Things didn't get much better in the second, with only a couple of overhand lefts from the challenger the difference between the pair after the first two rounds.
But in the third, Adesanya started to find his feet, and he put them to good use as he connected with Romero's lead leg repeatedly with thumping low kicks to edge the round. With Romero looking ready to launch into action, Adesanya's movement and elusiveness denied any chance of the Cuban launching into a fight-altering blitz at the champion.
After the five rounds, Adesanya's hand was raised, and the pair offered markedly different takes on the bout that had just unfolded.
"It was a hard fight, but, cliché, I did what I had to do," said an unapologetic Adesanya to a chorus of boos from the Las Vegas fans. "I picked him apart. The legs don't lie. I did what I have to do to win that fight.
"He plays the game in lulls. He tries to get you into a false sense of security. My coaches said I needed 25 minutes of sharpness, but it's hard to engage with someone who doesn't want to dance. I touched him up. And still."
Despite his own status as the title challenger, Romero slammed Adesanya for not moving forward to engage him during the contest.
"He was running and running and running. That's not a champion," he said. "The people pay pay-per-view for a real fight, not for this. The people pay because they want to see a good fight. Not this. You need to respect the people. They pay for a fight, not for running."
Weili edges five-round classic
If the main event turned out to be a disappointment, the co-main attraction more than made up for it, as UFC women's strawweight champion Zhang Weili and former title holder Joanna Jedrzejczyk battled all the way to the scorecards after five rounds of some of the most electrifying action ever seen in a UFC title fight.
China's Weili and Poland's Jedrzejczyk set a relentless pace from the first minute to the last as they delivered a back-and-forth striking battle that left Weili cut and bruised, and Jedrzejczyk with a huge hematoma on her forehead after they traded a non-stop barrage of strikes through the full 25-minute duration.
Weili looked to have started the better of the pair, and appeared to be landing the more powerful strikes through the first two rounds, but as the fight moved past the halfway point, Jedrzejczyk's unrelenting pace saw her come back into the fight.
It meant the fight hung in the balance going into the fifth and final round, and the two strawweight warriors threw everything they had at each other in a breathless finale that had the fans on the edges of their seats as the bout went all the way to the judges' scorecards.
In the end, it was Weili who edged the contest via split decision, with scores of 47-48, 48-47, 48-47 as "Magnum" retained her title in a fight that is already being talked about as one of the sport's all-time great contests.
Updated: March 8, 2020 11:46 AM