Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk put on what many are calling one of the greatest bouts in history in their UFC 248 co-main event on Saturday in Las Vegas. Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero followed in the headliner, falling well short of expectations to put it mildly.
Zhang vs. Joanna was a whirlwind of action, each of them putting on a stunning display of technical striking, heart, and resilience. By contrast, Adesanya vs. Romero was largely a bout filled with the challenger holding his ground in the middle of the Octagon, while the middleweight champion darted in to attack his leg and then backed away.
There was very little action as Adesanya defended his middleweight championship to the tune of a lackluster unanimous decision victory, but then again, Zhang and Joanna’s was a difficult act to follow.
UFC president Dana White fully admitted that Adesanya and Romero were largely in an impossible situation trying to please fans that had just witnessed the women in the co-main event, but he denounced Romero for not even trying.
“I feel like Yoel Romero, he literally went out and stood in the middle of the (Octagon)… when the bell rang in the first round… just stood there with his hands up. You’re going in and facing the world champion. This is your last shot at a championship. You shouldn’t even be here getting this title fight. It should be Paulo Costa. If he didn’t get hurt, you don’t even get this opportunity,” said White, referring to Romero getting a title shot after back-to-back losses, solely because Adesanya wanted to test himself.
“You go in and you do everything you can to win that fight. He literally did none of that.”
Romero defends himself from Dana White’s criticism
Romero took a few swings at Adesanya throughout the bout, but didn’t unleash the overwhelming onslaught of power that we’ve seen on several other occasions. Instead, he held his ground, trying to bait Adesanya into engaging in a more close-quarters type of slugfest, one the champion could quite easily lose if Romero connected.
“Where do you fight? Don’t you fight in the middle of the ring? I was standing in the middle of the ring and he ran. He just ran and ran and ran. (After that first hit) he didn’t want anything after that,” Romero said, before comparing his opponent’s hesitancy to stand toe-to-toe with him to the way former world champion boxer Mike Tyson’s power would intimidate his opposition.
“It was the same thing when everybody wanted to fight Mike Tyson. Everybody had a plan until Mike hit them in the face.”
White doesn’t see a clear path back to the title for Romero
White, however, put most of the responsibility to push the fight on Romero, particularly since he wasn’t in a traditional position to even have the opportunity for the title shot.
Now, despite the 42-year-old Romero saying he intends to fight for another 10 years, White was incredulous when asked if Romero had a path to another title shot in twilight years of his career.
“A path back to the title after that performance? You’re crazy for even asking that question,” said White. “He looked terrible tonight. He literally gave up an opportunity tonight. Maybe he comes back in his next fight and looks like Yoel Romero. But if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t expect him to fight another 10 years looking like that.”
Yoel Romero reacts to Dana White’s criticism of his UFC 248 performance
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