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UFC 248: Israel dares the Soldier of God

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Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero will clash in the UFC 248 main event Sunday morning (4am, Nigerian time). PHOTO: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In the early hours of Sunday morning, Nigerian-born Kiwi, Israel Adesanya will put his UFC Middleweight strap on the line against the very dangerous Cuban Olympic silver medalist, Yoel Romero, in a fight that promises to be an intriguing and explosive clash of styles in the city of lights. This fight will be a career defining one for Romero as the outcome will either finally get him the title he’s been chasing for over a half decade or put the final nail in the ‘coffin’ of that opportunity and cement his legacy as the biggest ‘maid of honour’ in that division or at worst, make him the division’s gatekeeper. For Adesanya, this fight is just another one in his personal conquest to be the best ever and become the face of the UFC and MMA in general.

This fight was not meant to happen, at least not now. Adesanya was supposed to defend his middleweight title against fellow undefeated fighter, Paulo Costa, who defeated Romero last August to become the number one challenger for the title, but a bicep injury forced the Brazilian out of the fight and that situation has brought us here. Adesanya didn’t need to take this fight as he could have taken time off, wait for his original challenger to get healthy and get a new date for his first title defence, but he chose to take on arguably the most feared man in the division. To put it in perspective, Adesanya could have chosen to take on any other fighter in the division for his maiden title defence or not fight at all this weekend.

Followers of Adesanya’s rapid rise in the UFC (He’s been in the promotion for just two years), will not be surprised with his decision to take on this dangerous fight, as he’s always had supreme confidence and self belief in his own fighting abilities, which some people see as arrogance or being cocky, but he has continuously backed up the perceived ‘arrogance’ with exciting and devastating performances in the octagon. In his UFC debut in February 2018, during his post fight octagon interview after a second round TKO of Aussie fighter Rob Wilkinson, he said “middleweights, I’m the new dog in the yard and I just pissed all over this cage” Less than two years after making that bold claim, he became the undisputed UFC middleweight champion in October 2019 with a devastating second round KO of the former champion, Robbie Whitaker.

Adesanya is already changing the game for the period he has been with the UFC, because two fights in a year is considered a lot for most major UFC fighters and in less than twenty months, he’s had seven fights and is already the champion of his division. John Jones, arguably the greatest ever UFC fighter and the current light heavyweight champion, is already toeing that line and has began making at least two title defences in a year, saying he wants to be more active (There’s been bad blood brewing between Adesanya and the American and we might see a fight between them some time in the future).

The popular consensus is that this is a very dangerous fight for Adesanya and he also acknowledges that fact. Romero has always been at the cusp of being the middleweight king, but has always fallen just short. He fought against Whitaker for the interim title in 2017 and lost a very close fight via unanimous decision. In early 2018, he had the opportunity to fight for the interim title again, against Luke Rockhold, but couldn’t make weight and that meant he couldn’t get the title despite winning that fight by knocking


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