Post-Fight Thoughts: Israel Adesanya -vs- Yoel Romero
Thankfully UFC 248 included a Fight Of The Year candidate to assuage some of the disappointment that resulted from this dud. Yoel Romero and Israel Adesanya ended up providing 5 rounds of tension and little else, as the challenger was steadfast in his commitment to avoiding the counter game by simply doing nothing. For his part, Adesanya made the tactically smart decision to stay composed and fight tactically himself. This produced a fight that saw both men land rouhgly 1/4 of the total strikes as seen in the co-main and about 5% of the excitement.
This fight was dire, and the outcome should not come as a surprise to anyone. This is Yoel Romero's modus operandi; he executes the same patient, minimalist strategy in every one of his fights. Romero's propensity for brutal, sudden finishes seems to warp memories — making everyone forget the sheer annoyance felt prior to the startling KOs. As much as Israel Adesanya is known for highlight reel finishes, he can only work with what his opponents give him and Yoel is exceptionally stingy.
It was unfortunate to see the fight fizzle out, but I can't be mad at Adesanya for his performance. I scored the last 3 rounds for him, and gave the first 2 — the staring contests that they were — to Romero, albeit ever so slightly. Adesanya adapted to Romero well, and managed to do considerable damage to his lead leg and began winning the small exchanges that made up each round. It was a boring fight, but Adesanya won by doing just enough to win rounds in which very little actually happened.
Yoel Romero's frustration was a bit perplexing, but could probably be chalked up to adrenaline. I understand being cautious, especially when dealing with a quick, agile striker like Adesanya — you obviously don't want to go charging into a buzzsaw — but his output was so minimal, and MMA judging is so notoriously bad, that he gambled on winning rounds by fractions of an inch. Likewise, Romero's consistent refusal to employ his wrestling skills seems especially bizarre if his plan was to avoid protracted striking exchanges of any kind.
I look forward to forgetting this fight, and I don't expect that process to take long. As much as I wanted to believe this would be an epic battle between 2 vastly different archetypes, it ended up being a complete chore. Adesanya did the right thing, and won a very dangerous fight without incurring much damage or taking any unneccessary risks. He loses a little bit of shine since he did ask for this fight, but — like I already said above — he can only work with what he is given. Bring on Paulo Costa and let's consider this experiment over.
As for Yoel Romero, I think he needs to move up to light heavyweight. I don't know if his aversion to wrestling is strictly due to a stylistic choice, or if he feels the energy expenditure is not worth the risk. Romero's weight cuts have always been tough, and he did miss both times he fought Robert Whittaker. I would really like to see what Romero can do at light heavyweight, and there aren't any compelling fights left at 185 pounds either. I sure as hell don't want to see a rematch.
Published: March 8th, 2020.