UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya enjoyed a breakout campaign during 2019, and it appears 2020 will allow Nigerian-born New Zealander to have an even better one.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported Thursday that Adesanya will face No. 3-ranked contender Yoel Romera in the main event of UFC 248.
UFC 248 is scheduled for March 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The card also features a strawweight title fight between the UFC’s first Chinese champion Zhang Weili and former titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the co-main event.
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Adesanya’s Stunning Year Put Him In Prime Position
Adesanya (18-0) is one of the most promising rising superstars in the sport.
The 30-year-old thrillingly won the interim title against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236 in April. The former kickboxing champ became undisputed middleweight champion six months later by knocking out Robert Whitaker in the second round at UFC 243.
Now, Adesanya appears ready to keep the ball rolling downhill as he appears to be building into one of the UFC’s biggest assets. His height, length and expert striking ability have helped the fighter become a competitor nobody is the UFC’s middleweight division has been able to solve.
Superfight Looms in Background for Adesanya
If Adesanya is already looking past his next opponent, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise.
After all, Adesanya already has bigger plans than just middleweight supremacy. Adesanya has been calling out UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to agree to what would be considered by most to be a superfight. However, it doesn’t really make sense from the UFC’s perspective to make that fight happen until Adesanya builds a little more momentum.
Jones, 32, is ranked No. 1 atop the UFC’s official pound-for-pound list for very good reason. Adesanya jumping up in weight too fast to face arguably the toughest out in the business might be too big a risk for the company and the fighter to make right now. A better idea would probably be to build the fight so that the financials of it make enough sense to risk having one of the two stars take a loss.
Still, it’s conceivable that Jones vs. Adesanya could happen before the end of the year, and it would be a massive event. Jones is scheduled to face Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 next month.
Romero Solid Test for ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya
While, Romero, 42, from Cuba, is 12 years older than the champion, the expert wrestler is also considered by many to be one of the most physically impressive athletes in the sport. If the stalwart powerhouse can get his hands on Adesanya and force him to the mat, he definitely has the talent, skills and credentials to truly test Adesanya’s “The Last Stylebender” moniker.
It’s one thing to be an expert kickboxer like Adesanya and use those skills to punch and kick his way to victory. It’s quite another thing to outwrestle a former Olympic medalist in what most would be considered Romero’s last chance at grabbing the UFC championship belt that’s eluded him throughout his career.
Romero will enter the contest having lost his last two fights, including a razor-thin decision to Whitaker in 2018 followed by the tough task of drawing middleweight monster Paulo Costa for his next fight. Costa beat Romero by unanimous decision and appears to be next in line for a title shot after Adesanya-Romero at UFC 248.