I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that Yoel Romero’s title shot, which comes against Israel Adesanya in the UFC 248 pay-per-view (PPV) main event this weekend in Las Vegas, is the work of charity, a gift from promotion president, Dana White, who appears to have longterm plans for the middleweight division.
It also helped that Paulo Costa blew out his biceps.
Romero (13-4) is coming off a loss to “The Eraser” and has already dropped two separate middleweight title fights against Robert Whittaker. In addition, “Soldier of God” turns 43 next month and sports an ugly history of blowing up the scale at the most inopportune times.
Not exactly the kind of fighter you keep idling on the corner of Next & Shot.
If the power-punching Cuban comes up short against Adesanya, there is really nowhere left for him to go but the front gate, where he’ll likely be used to judge the value of future title contenders. “Yeah, but he hasn’t beaten Romero” is the kind of sentence we’ll use for the remainder of his career.
Or maybe he can just go be tiny (and happy) at 205 pounds.
If he wins ... well, that validates White’s decision to soldier on (no pun intended) while other contenders, like UFC 248 back up Jared Cannonier, continue to build their case. No question Costa would be next in line, with an Adesanya rematch somewhere down the pipe.
More importantly, it gives Romero a second lease on his combat sports life.
”I want to prove there are no limits, that age is pretty much a number,” Romero said during fight week (via MMA Fighting). “I think you can do anything if you believe in yourself. If you live a disciplined lifestyle, if you live a not-so-emotional life, (and) if you live under a conviction, everything is possible.”
The same can be said for Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
While certainly not as old as Romero, and already far more accomplished in terms of championship success, the Polish piston turns 33 this summer and is already 0-3 in her last three title fights. Outside of Urijah Faber and Holly Holm, securing a fifth title fight after an 0-4 run is damn-near impossible and at the very least, takes a considerable amount of time.
Or an injury shake up, similar to the one that benefited Romero.
Jedrzejczyk (16-3) must also prove that she’s not yesterday’s news, a criticism that has continued to haunt her in losses to Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko. Alongside up-and-coming stars like the No. 3-ranked Tatiana Suarez, reigning strawweight champion, Weili Zhang, is being called the future of the division.
And not without merit, as “Magnum” has 17 finishes in 20 wins.
Handing Zhang her first UFC loss reestablishes Jedrzejczyk as the top of the 115-pound food chain and sets up a rematch with the winner of Andrade vs. Namajunas, who mix it up at the UFC 249 extravaganza next month in Brooklyn, New York. More importantly, it gives Jedrzejczyk a little more leeway when it comes to future losses, if and when they come.
Beating Zhang, coupled with the equity she accrued during her dominant run from 2014-17, keeps Jedrzejczyk relevant in the crowded strawweight title picture, even if she fails to defend her belt the next time out. It would also help silence the weight cutting critics who believe she may no longer be fit to compete at 115 pounds, particularly with these new additions.
“It’s the most important fight of my fighting career, in my life,” Jedrzejczyk said about the UFC 248 co-main event (via MMA Junkie). “I’m very happy to be the challenger and take back what belongs to me – the strawweight belt. It’s been a while. I was the champ for 966 days and it’s been more than 518 days without me having the belt, without me being the champ. It means I was the champ for the reason, and I’m the right person to be the challenger for the strawweight belt.”
Just so we’re clear, losing at UFC 248 doesn’t make Romero or Jedrzejczyk washed up, exposed, overrated, or whatever other buzzwords the Just Bleed’rs like to throw around behind every defeat. But a loss does end their championship relevance for the foreseeable future, putting more on the line than just a shiny gold belt.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 248 fight card this weekend right RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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