Israel Adesanya has been in professional kickboxing for a long time. He was not a big star before his last fight with Alex Pereira. His MMA career has developed in parallel and as a result he has been more successful than when he is kicking.
18 wins, 0 losses – with this record he came to the fight with Romero. Until two years ago Adesanjo was known only to those who follow MMA very closely – and not just the UFC – and now he is a superstar.
Romero is the 2000 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling and the 1999 world champion. He could also have won a medal in Athens 2004, but lost the bronze medal to Sajid Sajidov. In 2007 Yoel won a tournament in Germany. He did not return to Cuba. In Germany, Romero began his career in MMA – his first fight in 2009, at age 32.
Then, he went to United States. Romero made his debut in Strikeforce, but the promotion was bought by UFC owners. Everything went smoothly for the Cuban there. He won eight straight drills and moved up to a title fight with Robert Whittaker. Romero lost. But then he fought again against Paulo Costa, who had been injured before the fight with Romero’s first match, and this time he won!
There were disgruntled: how is it that a fighter has two losses in a row and is fighting for the title? But the UFC bosses took into account that both fights with Whittaker and moreover the fight with Costa were very even.
At the UFC 248 match in Las Vegas, I saw a classic puncher vs. fighter. But that’s not really what happened given that Romero knocked his opponents out with punches from the standup. The co-main event was between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jędrzejczyk, where they exchanged 351 meaningful punches for two – higher than any other fight in their league’s history so far. However when Adesanya fought against Romero it turned out to be quite different.
First round. The Cuban threw four strikes, the New Zealand Nigerian three. Romero hooked Adesanya hard with a left. That was it. We didn’t see anything else interesting in the first five minutes. Yoel stood his ground, Yisrael was afraid to go forward.
Round two. The pattern of the fight did not change. Adesanya had no moments when he was sharp, but Romero had one – when he put Adesanya at the net and hit him hard a couple of times.
Round three. Adesanya won the fight. He was able to hold his opponent down and didn’t let him up. He fought more jabs and low kicks, but Romero still got a few of those.
Round four. Referee Dan Miragliotta encouraged the fighters to fight. They had a match and the low kicks from Israel weakened Romero’s leg. He didn’t respond in any meaningful way, but Adesanya was moving away from his opponent’s attack when he was low-kicking.
Fifth round. Romero tried to hit Adesanya with his left. He asked for a takedown at the end, but it was not enough to win. The champion won by unanimous decision of the judges.
Romero’s plan was to stand still. When Adesanya went for him, he would try to hit him.A counter-puncher to Adesanya who has never done that? A ridiculous excuse. But the Cuban was applauded. Although he deserved to be whistled just as much as his opponent.