The contrast between Saturday night’s main and co-main event at UFC 248, was simply staggering. In the co-headliner – we witness arguably the greatest fight in women’s strawweight history between Zhang Weili, and Joanna Jędrzejczyk. The main event – a hugely forgettable middleweight title clash between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero, which promised so much more on paper.
Between both Weili and Joanna – the offensive pair produced an incredible three-hundred and sixty-six combined strikes over the course of a blistering five-round affair. In an incredibly close meeting, Weili manages to score her first successful title defence – not without some worry though. Jędrzejczyk managed to outland the Hebei native in terms of total strikes, with less output. Make no mistake about it though – this one was incredibly difficult to score, even after a couple more viewings.
After the culmination of the tie, we learned two things; Weili is an incredible five-round fighter with a fantastic output. And, former champion Joanna can definitely hang with the division’s elite. It’s a pairing that has an eventual rematch written all over it, not before both women take time to heal up. Fight of the Year may be wrapped up already.
Yoel Romero is undeniably one of the best wrestlers to walk the face of the earth. What’s become prevalent in recent years, is that the Cuban has become more of a counter-striker than an offensive grappler. Our main event has drawn comparisons to similarly forgettable middleweight matchups between Anderson Silva, and compatriots, Demian Maia, and Thales Leites, and rightly so.
Adesanya manages his first successful title defence, but he certainly can’t be blamed for the lack of significant output. The risk of entering the pocket hand in hand with Romero is absolutely catastrophic, evident with his stoppages of Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold, Lyoto Machida, and droppings of Paulo Costa and former champion, Robert Whittaker.
We witnessed that incredible danger early on. Adesanya slides into range in the opening round and gets dinged with an overhand left. Caution is now paramount for ‘The Last Stylebender’ Conceivably, the leg kicking display from Adesanya resulted in the unanimous decision judging in his favour, as well as some stiff body attacks. Romero offered very little for Adesanya to counter – something future opponent Costa is certain to provide.
Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa:
There’s very little to be said about this one. It’s the next step for both men. Huge rivals. Undefeated finishers. The new blood at middleweight. Adesanya emerged largely unscathed last night – so a matchup with Brazil’s Costa this summer makes itself. Bicep surgery forced Costa from appearing at UFC 248 last night, inside the Octagon. ‘Borrachinca’ exacted the most convincing display anyone has against Romero since Rafael Feijao in Strikeforce – but questions remain over the Belo Horizonte native’s ability to carry that ginormous frame for five rounds. For Adesanya, the threat of a brutal knockout loss is also on offer against someone as powerful as Costa.
Yoel Romero vs. Kelvin Gastelum:
While it seems unlikely Yoel Romero will be granted a fifth title opportunity in the future, a victory over the #7 ranked Kelvin Gastelum – proves he can still hang with the division’s best, even approaching his 43rd birthday. Kings MMA trainee Gastelum on the other hand, has dropped two straight losses, to Adesanya and Darren Till recently – but has managed victories over some legitimate middleweight legends. The 28-year-old has lodged wins over Jacaré Souza, Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort, Tim Kennedy, Johny Hendricks, and Nate Marquardt in recent years. It’s a pairing of two natural wrestlers who have evolved into dangerous punchers.
Zhang Weili vs. Jéssica Andrade – Rose Namajunas II winner:
The strawweight division remains Zhang Weili’s oyster. The Hebei native has her pick of opponents in her next outing following such a statement win over Joanna Jędrzejczyk. While rising contender, Tatiana Suarez isn’t there just yet, and Nina Ansaroff losing momentum with her defeat to Suarez – it seems the victor of UFC 249’s co-headliner may be next. Former champions, Jéssica Andrade and Rose Namajunes rematch for title tilt honours in Brooklyn, with the victor likely to earn their crack at 115-pound champion status once more. It was revealed recently Namajunas was offered a title bout against Weili for Saturday’s event, but refused. A victory over Andrade and redemption, certainly reinstates her into the number-one contender’s position.
Joanna Jȩdrzejczyk vs. Tatiana Suarez:
As mentioned earlier – Tatiana Suarez is a single big win away from her premier promotion title tilt, and with a win over Joanna, she becomes simply undeniable at 115-pounds. The undefeated grappler has been sidelined ever since her victory over Ansaroff back in June of last year – as she nurses a niggling neck injury. The Californian would be pushed to her absolute limits by Jędrzejczyk that’s undeniable – but if she can mitigate the Pole’s offence with wrestling, clinch work and grappling, she may just seal first professional world championship opportunity since her debut back in 2014.