Two UFC titles will be on the line this Sunday as the Octagon heads to its proverbial home of Las Vegas for UFC 248. There are some high stakes match-ups as well as some that will be pure entertainment. Check out some of the key fights below.
At the top of the bill, New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya will attempt to make the first defence of his middleweight title against Cuban powerhouse Yoel Romero.
Adesanya broke Aussie hearts last October when he knocked out the countries first ever UFC champion Robert Whittaker in the second round. The title win capped off an unbelievable run for the Nigerian-born Kiwi, who made his UFC debut only 18 months prior.
Undefeated with 18 professional wins, Adesanya is an elite level striker who made the switch to MMA after competing in over 80 kickboxing fights.
Standing in the way of Adesanya’s first title defence is arguably one of the most avoided fighters in the UFC, Yoel Romero.
On paper Romero appears to be no match for Adesanya.
He is one of the oldest fighters on the roster at 42 and has lost three of his last four fights (although, many argue he won all three of them). But in MMA, styles make fights and Romero has the potential to be Adesanya’s kryptonite.
An Olympic silver medallist in wrestling, Romero is blessed with explosive power and the ability to turn his opponents lights off with a single punch, elbow or flying knee – just ask Chris Weidman. Despite his Olympic level wrestling pedigree, Romero prefers to hunt for the knockout with 11 of his 13 wins having come via KO.
Adesanya does have all the tools to avoid Romero’s ‘touch of death.’ He is a master of distance and a calculated technician, but one minor lapse in concentration could be all it takes for Romero to land on his chin and clinch the title.
The reverse could be true for Adesanya. If the Kiwi can manage to stay out of harm’s way, avoid the wrestling of Romero and keep the fight standing, he should be able to perplex Romero with his advanced stand up and pick the Cuban apart.
A win for either fighter will be monumental. For Romero, he will become one of the oldest fighters in UFC history to claim gold and clinch the title that has eluded him for many years. For Adesanya, it will be another huge scalp on his wall as he marches forward on his quest to be the best UFC middleweight to ever pick up 4-ounce gloves.
In one of the most intriguing strawweight title fights in recent memory, Weli Zhang will make the first defence of her strap against former strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Zhang lost her professional debut but has remained undefeated ever since, picking up twenty straight wins including four in the UFC. When fighting for the title in August of last year, it took Zhang just 42 seconds to deliver a devastating flurry of knees and elbows to knock out Jessica Andrade and become China’s first-ever UFC champion.
The first defence of her title comes against the most successful UFC strawweight champion of all time, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Jedrzejczyk defended the title a record five times, falling just one fight short of equalling Ronda Rousey’s record of most title defences for a female.
🏆 Zhang Weili vs. 🇵🇱 @JoannaMMA
— UFC (@ufc) March 7, 2020
The two fighters have contrasting styles that make this an extremely enticing match up. Zhang has an 85% finishing rate with ten of her twenty wins coming the first round. She has never been forced to fight into the 4th or 5th round and this is exactly what Jedrzejczyk will be looking to do. Jedrzejczyk is an experienced five-round veteran who has proven she can push the pace deep into the championship rounds, having done so seven times in her career.
How long this fight goes could very well determine the outcome. If Jedrzejczyk can weather the early storm of Zhang and take the fight into the championship rounds, the fight will favour her. Zhang will undoubtedly be looking to do what she does best and finish the fight early. She has a distinct strength advantage over Jedrzejczyk but will need to make the most of it early for ultimate effect. Look for Jedrzejczyk to outpoint Zhang, or Zhang to close the show early.
The pay-per-view opener has all the makings to be the ‘Fight of the Night.’ Both men love to stand and trade in the middle of the Octagon and this fight is unlikely to be any different. This is the type of fight the UFC purposely uses to open the show to get the fans excited for the rest of the night’s action. Neither fighter will back down and someone is likely to get put to sleep.
Outside of the main and co-main, the return of ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley is arguably the highest-profile fight on the card. O’Malley makes his long-awaited return after a two-year layoff to take on José Quiñónez. The fight features as the final fight on the televised ESPN prelims. O’Malley burst onto the scene after picking up a first-round KO win on Dana White’s Contender Series. The undefeated prospect’s brash personality and unique fighting style quickly made him a fan favourite. At 25-years-old, ‘Sugar’ is one to keep an eye on in the bantamweight division.
In the welterweight division, China’s Li Jingliang will be looking to put on a show when he takes on Neil Magney. The Chinese fighter is always exciting to watch and has an extremely aggressive style The man also known as ‘The Leech’ and has picked up two ‘Fight of the Night’ awards and three ‘Performance of the Night’ awards from his last six fights. Undoubtedly he will be looking to do the same on Sunday.
Both fighters will be entering this contest extremely confident with the pair both riding three-fight winning streaks. With the lightweight division the most stacked in the UFC, both fighters will be eager to pick up their 4th straight win and earn themselves a fight with a ranked opponent.