Yoel Romero has never been stopped in his 13-fight UFC career. Israel Adesanya wants to change that.
The Kiwi UFC middleweight champion will face Romero in a five-round headline bout at UFC 248 in Las Vegas on Sunday (NZ time), in his first official title defence since dethroning Robert Whittaker last October.
Romero has proven to be a tough out throughout his career. The 42-year-old Cuban has lost just three times inside the UFC octagon, with all three losses by decision. A perennial title contender, Romero has become known for his erratic and violent style of fighting and is thought by fans and pundits to be an opponent fighters in the division only face if they have to.
“He’s the guy no one wants to fight,” Adesanya said.
“Why? I’ve seen him get rocked, I’ve seen him get stopped, I’ve seen him get bloodied, I’ve seen him cry; I’ll make him cry. He’s human like anyone else.
“I want 5-0. I want a wash out … I want a clean sweep. But, if he dies he dies. It’s not really my problem.”
Adesanya requested a fight against Romero when consensus title challenger Paulo Costa was ruled out of action with injury late last year. There were layers to requesting Romero as an opponent, one of which being the fact Romero is an Olympic silver medal-winning wrestler and could pose a test unlike any other Adesanya has faced inside the octagon.
In his last four fights, Romero has attempted to take his opponents to the canvas 64 times, succeeding on 16 of those. In his two title fights against Whittaker, Romero attempted a total of 56 takedowns through 10 rounds.
He won’t be the first to try get Adesanya to the ground should he take that approach, but could find it to be a tricky task. Adesanya has successfully evaded 84 of 98 takedown attempts during his seven bouts in the UFC.
Even when he is taken to the ground, keeping him there is another task as he has shown an impressive sprawling ability.
“If he comes heavy with the wrestling he’d better pack a lunch because he’s going to be in for a long day,” Adesanya said.
Romero, who has won just once in his last four fights, is aware fans expect him to resort to his wrestling for the bout given Adesanya is the taller, longer fighter and a better striker. However, he’s shown throughout his career he’s more than willing to stand and bang with anyone.
“Normally the fights are unpredictable,” Romero said ahead of his bout with Adesanya.
“You can start by thinking it’s going to be a rainy day and then it turns sunny, so I just have a plan and we’ll see what comes out. I’m going to fight him with all of my styles.”
Knowing the unpredictability of a Romero fight, Eugene Bareman and the team at Auckland’s City Kickboxing gym have Adesanya prepared to go where ever the fight may take him.
“I can call audibles at the time,” Adesanya explains. “My coaches are the ones that have the game plan. We know what we’re going to do, we know what he’s going to do; we know his plan A to Z exactly to a tee.”
UFC 248 CARD
Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Yoel Romero (middleweight championship)
Weili Zhang (c) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (women’s strawweight championship)
Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose
Li Jingliang vs. Neil Magny
Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin
Sean O’Malley vs. Jose Quinonez
Mark Madsen vs. Austin Hubbard
Rodolfo Vieira vs. Saparbek Safarov
Deron Winn vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Polyana Viana vs. Emily Whitmire
Jamall Emmers vs. Giga Chikadze
Danaa Batgerel vs. Guido Cannetti