Written by Jack Zampillo (@Jack_Zampillo15) — March 4th, 2020
Las Vegas will play host to yet another night of highly-anticipated contests as two of the UFC’s most exciting champions are set to defend their belts for the first time. Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya looks to continue his demolition of the 185ers, but standing in his way will be long-time title contender, Yoel Romero. The co-main event of the evening features newly crowned Women’s Strawweight Champion Zhang Weili who looks to silence any doubters as she takes on one of the best pure strikers the game has ever seen in Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
From dance-offs at press conferences to social media propaganda, everything about these two matchups is dynamite. Zhang is one of the most explosive fighters on the UFC roster whose pace and constant pressure is proven to wear down opponents. Can Joanna weather the storm and regain the crown she once called hers? Or will Zhang be able to overwhelm her and retain the strap?
Stylistically, Romero is widely considered Izzy’s toughest contest to date. Yoel brings a skillset that has fighters constantly guessing where the next attack might come from. However, he is going up against a man that combines elite-level striking with masterful distance control. Can Romero get to Izzy and put him away? Or will Adesanya persevere under pressure and claim his stake as one of the greatest Middleweights of all time? Let’s break it down.
Zhang Weili © vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk
With her first round demolition of Jessica Andrade in August of last year, Zhang Weili became the first Chinese fighter to obtain UFC gold. Fighting out of Beijing, Weili boasts a 20–1 record. Pretty good, right? Here’s the impressive part: She has finished 17 of the 20 women she has beaten. 10 of those stoppage wins have been by (T)KO and 7 have been by submission.Talk about a well-rounded fighter.
When I think about Zhang Weili, the first word that comes to mind is vicious. Being a vicious fighter can be kryptonite, considering this sport is much more than just running at your opponent trying to take their head off. However, Zhang uses her aggressiveness in a technical way. Take the fight against Andrade for example. Following a bull rush from Andrade early in the first round, a counter right hand from Weili dropped the former champion, marking the beginning of the end for Andrade. Zhang followed with an array of strikes, not slowing up until the job was done. The power behind those shots was eye-opening, but what impressed me more was the precision and technicality that was shown. Every strike she threw landed. Flurries like this could pay dividends when trying to overwhelm an opponent as tough as Joanna.
Being a well-rounded fighter is important. Weili’s elite-level striking combined with her ability to dominate opponents on the ground has molded the 125 pound champion into one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Weili is riding all the momentum in the world and I can’t wait to watch her compete.
Standing across from the octagon will be former 125-pound champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. With 6 successful title defenses under her belt, Joanna is no stranger to the big one. The Polish product holds a 16–3 record with 5 finishes in her career and has masterful striking in her arsenal. Following a dominant win over Michelle Waterson in October, Joanna is poised for an impressive performance. Something tells me we will see one.
One of the most impressive things about Joanna is the way she is able to control the pace of a fight while landing significantly. Joanna’s distance control is one of the best aspects of her game and played a big role in her reign as champion. Her past 6 victories have been by unanimous decision. Does that mean she doesn’t have the ability to finish opponents? Absolutely not. She landed a combined 1,139 strikes in those fights. That shows her ability to perform at a high level throughout the whole duration of her fights, a skill she will surely need come Saturday night.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk is one of the most skilled women’s fighters the UFC has ever seen who is coming into this fight with “nothing to lose.” As the great Rocky Balboa once said, “When a fighter ain’t got nothin’ to lose, he’s dangerous.” Joanna IS dangerous, and I think the fact that she believes that she has nothing to prove is a good thing. She’s fighting a woman that’s riding a lot of momentum, and not feeling the pressure of that momentum can go a long way when trying to regain the most prized possession in combat sports. Experience, a high fight IQ, and patience are three areas where Joanna has the advantage. No, Joanna doesn’t possess the power Weili does. But remember, there’s a psychological side to this. We have a very interesting co-main event on our hands.
Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk are essentially polar opposites. Weili uses brute force to attack her opponents with flurries of vicious strikes. Joanna is more patient and has mastered the skill of fighting for 25 minutes. If Weili is to avoid getting dragged out into Joanna’s kind of fight, she needs to look to apply pressure early and use her wrestling skills to put Joanna in an uncomfortable position. On the other hand, I believe that it is imperative that Joanna gets Weili’s respect early in the fight. She needs to make it a point to throw Weili off of her game early in the fight and break her down over the course of 5 rounds. While Weili is fully prepared for the fight, I believe that the problems she has had to go through due to the coronavirus outbreak in her homeland could have taken their toll. I think Zhang will come out aggressive in this fight and present some problems early. However, Joanna is a seasoned veteran who has been here before. I think she will be able to fight through early adversity, control the pace, and regain the title as the queen of the 125ers. Joanna Jedrzejczyk by decision.
Israel Adesanya © vs. Yoel Romero
Fireworks will be on display March 7th as two of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster are set to have the cage locked behind them. The winner? Undisputed king of the Middleweights. Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero is a fan’s dream match. From their charismatic personalities to the athleticism each one possesses, the main event of UFC 248 is sure to live up to the hype. Like the co-main event, Adesanya and Romero differ in many ways. Adesanya is composed and patient with a fight IQ higher than most. Romero is a bruiser who has absolutely no problem taking shots to give them. Worlds will collide on March 7th, and I can hardly wait to see how it plays out.
The way Israel Adesanya came into the UFC, took the division by storm, and became the undisputed champion in less than 2 years still blows my mind. The City Kickboxing product holds an undefeated record of 18–0, with 14 of those wins by (T)KO. Coming off of a very impressive victory over the former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 243, Adesanya looks to begin what should be a long title reign with a victory over his toughest opponent to date.
Israel Adesanya is what I like to call, “The People’s Champion.” Fans of the sport want to see a champion that is active and willing to take on anybody that poses a threat to them. Adesanya is one of my favorite fighters, but not just because of the way he fights. Do you remember how Conor McGregor became so popular? He talked a lot of shit, backed it up, and beat the hell out of everyone the UFC put in front of him. That is the path Adesanya is on, but here’s the difference: Israel Adesanya doesn’t care about the limelight. He cares about legacy. Take this fight for example. Coming off of a two fight skid, this wasn’t the bout the UFC was going to make. Adesanya was set to take on #1 contender Paulo Costa after he healed from a bicep injury. But, Israel got hungry. So, he called out a guy that nobody ever calls out, somebody extremely dangerous with a lot of experience. I respect the hell out of that.
A piece of Adesanya’s game that separates him from the rest of the pack is his ability to maintain distance while landing significant strikes. Due to the fact that Adesanya does not have much of a wrestling background, being able to do this bodes very well when competing against some of the best wrestlers in the world. Having an 85% takedown defense doesn’t hurt either. Izzy is a man on a mission, and he will not stop competing until he is considered one of the greatest fighters of all time.
Taking his third crack at UFC gold is the “Soldier of God,” Yoel Romero. Hailing from Cuba, Romero steps into the octagon holding a 13–4 record with 11 wins by T(KO). Coming off of a two-fight skid at the hands of Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa, Romero is feeling good and focused on the tall task ahead of him.
If I had to pick one man that was coming off of two straight losses to fight for a title, it would be Yoel Romero. To put it bluntly, Romero is a freak of nature. From flying knee knockouts against former champions to backflips at pressers, he has it all. The athleticism that Romero possesses combined with the power of a heavyweight has made him one of the most feared men in the UFC. But what will give him the edge over Adesanya? Israel is so skilled across the board, where can Yoel beat him?
Let me remind you, Yoel Romero has an olympic medal in wrestling under his belt. As previously stated, Izzy knows how to stuff a takedown. However, I’m just not sure Adesanya has faced anyone with the unorthodox style Romero brings to the table. The Cuban is a power wrestler who will work to control his opponents by out-muscling them, something that he should look to take advantage of against a man much thinner than himself. The power that Romero has shown in his striking throughout his career has his opponents so focused on defending his attacks on the feet that they leave themselves open to getting taken down. Yoel will have the advantage in this department. The former olympian competed for a world championship before Adesanya was even in the UFC. He has fought the best of the best in the middleweight division, including 3 former champions. He fought for an hour with Robert Whittaker, and arguably beat the hardest hitting 185er in Paulo Costa. Yoel Romero knows what it takes to become a world champion.
Two animals with their sights set on the same prey will be locked in a cage on Saturday night. What more could a UFC fan ask for? The biggest factor that I believe will determine the outcome of this fight is how well Adesanya can control distance against a guy like Romero, who isn’t afraid to step out of his comfort zone and try unorthodox things to get the job done. If Romero can break down the wall that is Adesanya’s defense and get on the inside, he could find a lot of success. However, that wall is not easy to break. Adesanya has a very high fight IQ and knows when to attack. I see the Nigerian-New-Zealander using his distance management along with creative striking to wear on Romero round by round. Izzy won’t have problems hitting Romero, and eventually The Soldier of God will be overwhelmed. Israel Adesanya by T(KO).
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