LAS VEGAS — Yoel Romero started the fight standing completely motionless covering his face with his hands in a shell-like guard. Things didn’t get any less weird as the fight wore on.
In one of the least active — and most bizarre — title fights in UFC history, Israel Adesanya successfully defended his middleweight title against Romero via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 248 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
“I did what I had to do and picked him apart,” Adesanya said. “The legs don’t lie. I f—ed his leg up.”
The fans booed the result and booed throughout. At one point in the third round, people in the crowd started shining the flashlights on their cellphones.
“As long as [the judges] didn’t listen to the crowd, I was fine,” Adesanya said.
Afterward, Romero said it was “my victory.” The fans, who cheered him afterward, seemed to agree.
ESPN had Adesanya ranked as the No. 7 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world coming in. Romero was ESPN’s No. 4 middleweight. This was Adesanya’s first title defense after beating Robert Whittaker to win the middleweight title at UFC 243 last October.
The story of leading into the bout was that Adesanya could have waited for top contender Paulo Costa to return from bicep surgery. Yet, he chose to face Romero, despite Romero’s losing streak, because of Romero’s reputation as one of the toughest men in the UFC.
Adesanya (19-0) remained undefeated with the victory. The Nigerian-born Kiwi has won all of his eight UFC fights. Adesanya, 30, was thought to be on the verge of becoming one of the UFC’s big stars leading into the bout.
Romero (13-5) has lost three straight. The 42-year-old Cuba native has not won a fight since 2018. Romero, 42, won the wrestling silver medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Adesanya made a disclosed guarantee of $500,000 for the fight, while Romero made at least $300,000, according to purses obtained from the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC).
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