UFC 248 Preview – Adesanya vs. Romero, Zhang vs. Jędrzejczyk

UFC 248 takes place on Saturday March 7th in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Two Titles are on the line in the fight capital with Israel Adesanya (18-0-0) defending the middleweight title against Yoel Romero (13-4-0). Weili Zhang (20-1-0) defends her strawweight title for the first time against former champ Joanna Jędrzejczyk (16-4-0).

A little over two years ago Israel Adesanya made his UFC debut at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia. A card that hosted a middleweight title fight between Luke Rockhold and the fighter that aims to take the belt off the champ, Yoel Romero. On that night Romero won that contest via KO but was unable to claim the title after he came in overweight at 187.7 lb which meant he was not eligible to win the interim title. This was a situation Adesanda didn’t take too kindly to speaking at the most recent 248 pre fight Press Conference. 

“He’s a guy who disrespected the sport. He had probably another two hours to try and make the weight and he decided not to make the weight – I’ll take the fine, take the deduction of a point, but I won’t dehydrate myself to the point where I won’t be able to fight? All I know is if he misses weight, I’m gonna take 80 percent of his f****** cheque, that’s it,” Adesanya said.

“That’s the only thing that pisses me off, is that it won’t be classified with a red ruby on my belt.”

Romero, born in Pinar Del Rio, Cuba and fighting out of Coconut Creek, Florida where he trains with American Top Team has fought only twice since that night. Those two fights didn’t go to plan for ‘The Soldier of God’. A razor close decision loss of then champ Robert Whittaker and another close decision loss to top contender Paulo Costa more recently. Why does a fighter get a title shot off two losses you ask? Well Adesanya called for it.

“He’s a guy no one wants to fight, the ‘Oogey Boogeyman’,” Adesanya said. “Even Darren Till said ‘I’ll fight anyone except Yoel’. Why? I’ve seen him get rocked. I’ve seen him get stopped. I’ve seen him cry. I’ll make him cry’’.

Romero is a decorated wrestler. He competed at two Olympic Games for his country with a silver medal in freestyle competition at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Adesanya on the other hand is a decorated kickboxer winning cruiserweight and heavyweight Grand Prix’s with the ‘King in the Ring’ promotion. He also competed for Glory Kickboxing middleweight strap. 

The Nigerian born star now resides in Auckland, New Zealand where he trains at City Kickboxing gym under the tutelage of Eugene Bareman. He has risen fast up the rankings into stardom in his two year stint in the UFC. The self proclaimed ‘Last Stylebender’ was involved in the 2019  Fight of the Year against Kelvin Gastelum where he claimed the interim title and then went on to unify that belt with a massively impressive KO over Australian 185 pounder Robert Whittaker at UFC 243. Adesanya also holds a win over former middleweight champion Anderson Silva and a brutal KO victory over Derek Brunson. 

Despite losses in his last two encounters Romero too has built up an impressive resume in his UFC tenure. A win over Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and despite his wrestling background he pulled off brutal KO victories over Lyoto Machida, Chris Weidman  the previously mentioned Luke Rockhold. His losses to Whittaker(x2) and Costa were by the thinnest of margins. At 42, this will likely be his last chance of becoming a UFC champ and this bout is set to be a stylistic match-up for the ages. Romero has the same message for Adesanya as he has had for adversaries,

“I see you soon boy”.

The Co-Main Event see’s the UFC first ever Chinese champion Weili Zhang. She defends her title against UFC veterern and former champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk.

Zhang has not lost a fight since her professional debut. She arrived in the UFC in 2018 and won two bouts in the space of three months with wins over Danielle Taylor and Jessica Aguilar. Going into 2019 a win over top contender Tecia Torres got her a title shot against then champ Jéssica Andrade. Zhang steamrolled Andrade when she stopped the fight via KO in the very first round in her home country. A rise to the top that was not expected by many. She finds herself a worthy adversary in former strawweight champion in the shape of Joanna. 

The Polish challenger, fighting out of ATT in Coconut Creek, Florida is no stranger to UFC title fights. She has defended this very belt five times. She then went on to challenge for the Flyweight title when she came up short against Valentina Shevchenko. That loss forced her back down into a division she once dominated and last October she picked up a unanimous decision victory over Michelle Waterson. That win catapulted her into contention to be two time champion in the 115 pound division. She has notable wins over Cláudia Gadelha (x2), Carla Esparza, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Jéssica Andrade amongst others.

Other stand out bouts on the card include the return of ‘Suger’ Sean O’Malley (10-0-0) after his two year USADA ban. He matches up with Jose Alberto Quiñones (8-3-0). Danish wrestling sensation Mark O. Madson (9-0-0) makes it two Olympic silver medalists on the card sharing that accolade with Romero. He fights American Austin Hubbard (11-3-0) in a lightweight showdown. Veteren Neil Magny (21-7-0) faces Chinese big hitter Jingliang Li (17-5-0), Alex Oliveira (20-8-1) fights Max Griffin (15-7-0) and Beneil Dariush (17-4-1) squares off against American prospect Drakkar Klose (11-1-1). 

Check out the countdown video below and listen to Sean and Andy break down this card on the latest SevereMMA Podcast. Check out SevereeMMA.com for all UFC 248 build up right upto the fights Saturday night.

Ian O'Neill is a Kilkenny man living in Canada. You can catch him on Twitter most of the time talking all things MMA. Follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma.