There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it: Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero at UFC 248 was a bad fight. The two fighters spent the majority of the bout staring daggers at each other as Adesanya tentatively picked away at Romero’s legs and Romero did ... something. Waved his arms around in front of his head. Occasionally did a little hop in the air. And about once a round threw a thunderfist of an overhand right attempting to one-punch knockout Adesanya.
Romero has a reputation for stop-and-go fighting. Anyone carrying that much beef on them needs to fight with a style that’s going to keep them from gassing out over 15 or 25 minutes. But in this latest fight, his measured intervals of waiting and attacking turned into so much waiting that it’s hard not to feel like we didn’t really get to see a fight. After Adesanya realized Romero was content to wait for the rare perfect counter opportunity, he just stayed on the outside and worked his kicks, earning a unanimous decision win.
Disappointing, for sure.
And Adesanya agrees: it was disappointing. In an interview with Megan Olivi, “The Last Stylebender” shared his thoughts on what went down in the Octagon.
”After the fight I was really frustrated that my dance partner didn’t want to dance,” he said. “If you look at a guy like Kelvin Gastelum, he brought the fight. Robert Whittaker, he brought the fight. It takes two to tango, so if I’m trying to fight and you’re just standing there going ‘C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!’ That’s silly. I mean, I took his best shot in the first round. That might be the only round I gave him.
“And look, he has a good poker face,” he said. “He’s playing like he’s not hurt but the legs didn’t lie. I touched him up, I cut him. I’ve never been in a boring fight. I don’t want to say it’s boring, but to me I was expecting more of a fight from him. Even in the fifth round, I was like cool, he’s gonna come desperate now and bring the fight. And just waiting for this surge or something. So yeah, it takes two to tango, but I was the only one willing to dance.”
”It’s hard to try and play with someone who’s playing hard to get,” he continued. “And I’m not going to chase you, you’re going to chase me. I’m the hot chick at the party, I’m the one with the belt. So if you wanna come get the belt, come get the belt. Don’t just stand there and wait for me to come to you. Are you stupid? I’m not stupid.”
Not that Romero’s tactics were a total surprise to Israel and his team.
”This is how he catches people,” Adesanya said. “They get bored, cuz I could have gotten bored in there, I was starting to get bored a little bit. So they get bored and then he explodes on you. So for me my coaches said we need 25 minutes of absolute focus. Don’t get bored, don’t get lulled. So for me I stayed focused the whole time. And yeah, it was boring. I’ve never been in a boring fight. ... So for me that was hard. And at the end of the fight he was like all ... come on. S**t, I won the fight at the end of the day. I did my best. But on my worst night I still beat the number three guy in the world, so that says something to me.”
Adesanya will have a chance to wash the bad taste from the Romero fight soon enough. UFC is already hyping up his next title defense against Paulo Costa, who had beaten Romero back in Aug. 2019. With the same super-aggressive power punching style people hoped Romero was going to use against Adesanya, we may finally get the fight we were all hoping to see at UFC 248.