UFC 248: Amid chorus of boos, Israel Adesanya edges Yoel Romero in uninspired title defense

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
(L-R) Israel Adesanya of Nigeria battles Yoel Romero of Cuba in their UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 248 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 7, 2020 in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

LAS VEGAS — The enduring memory of the middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero will be the long and loud booing from the crowd. Neither man made much of an effort to engage and the result was irate fans and little action.

Adesanya won a unanimous decision by scores of 48-47 twice and 49-46. Yahoo Sports had it 48-47 for Adesanya.

It was difficult to understand the fighters’ strategy, particularly Romero’s. When the bout began, Romero went to the center of the ring with his guard high and stood there for 30 or 40 seconds without moving. It was a harbinger of things to come.

Adesanya moved and poked and threw kicks that were largely ineffective. Romero didn’t do much of anything but afterward was screaming as if he’d been robbed.

It was a horrible fight that did nothing to enhance Adesanya’s stature, but Romero’s rant post-fight in the cage with Joe Rogan was bizarre. Adesanya clearly did more than Romero, who fought in spurts and usually only threw one punch at a time.

Romero put more energy, seemingly, into his post-fight interview when he said “The people pay. For what? Not to see running.”

But both men were to blame for the slow pace and lack of action. Adesanya clearly was concerned about Romero’s power, but Romero did nothing to force the issue, following the champion around the ring without throwing.

At one point, many in the crowd turned on the flashlights on their phones and held them up in protest. At another point, they chanted, “Boring! Boring!” Mostly, they booed.

Neither fighter did much as the fight was going on to give them a reason to cheer, and Romero lost for inactivity as much as for anything Adesanya did.

Adesanya will fight Paulo Costa next, but even when Adesanya was going at Costa, who was ringside, in his Octagon interview, the fans weren’t buying it.

Adesanya had been one of the sport’s rising stars, but he’s going to need to do work to rebuild his image after this one.

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