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It takes two to tango, but neither Israel
Adesanya
nor Yoel Romero
appeared to be very interested in engaging with one another in
Saturday’s
UFC 248
headliner.

Ultimately, Adesanya rode a leg-kick heavy attack to a forgettable
unanimous decision triumph over “The Soldier of God” at the
T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Adesanya saw his star dull a little
bit in the victory, but UFC president Dana White believes Romero
was primarily to blame for what transpired in the middleweight
championship bout.

Romero received the title shot at Adesanya’s request despite being
on a two-fight losing streak as true top contender Paulo
Henrique Costa
recovered from a torn bicep. White wanted to see
the soon to be 43-year-old Romero display more urgency in what
could very well turn out to be his last championship
opportunity.

“I’m shocked,” White said at Saturday’s post-fight press
conference. “Romero knew this was his last opportunity at a world
championship. I thought he was gonna come out like a bat out of
hell, put tons of pressure on him, shoot takedowns, try to knock
him out. He did literally none of that. If you’re Adesanya, he
fought the smart fight. You stay on the outside, he chopped that
leg apart, and he picked his punches and did what he did. Romero
did a lot of moving around and acting like he was trying to fight
but he never really did.

“Hindsight is 20/20. We probably shouldn’t have done that fight and
we should have waited for Costa. Oh well, we did it.”

Perhaps the most perplexing display from Romero come at the outset
of the fight, when the Cuban elected to stand flat-footed and
motionless in the Octagon. It was a bizarre scene, to say the
least. Adesanya took a cautious approach against his powerful foe,
and while it wasn’t a crowd pleaser, White gave credit to “The Last
Stylebender” for doing what he needed to do to achieve victory.

“This was a terrible fight,” White said. “If you look at the UFC as
a whole for as long as we’ve been doing it, you can literally put
in one hand s—y fights that we’ve done. It takes two to fight. If
somebody goes out there and doesn’t want to engage and doesn’t want
to fight, and you’re a guy like Adesanya, he’s got so much more on
the line. This is the way that the guy’s acting. He’s gonna stay
back and he’s gonna pick him apart the way that he did. That leg
was destroyed. . . He’s not gonna have a pep in his step tonight.
That leg is hurting.

“Adesanya did what he had to do in my opinion. Why run in there and
go crazy against a guy that dangerous when that guy is not fighting
at all?”

The Olympic silver medalist has lost four of his last five UFC
appearances – and any chance to climb back to the top of the
division seems like a long shot, at best.

“A path back to the title after that performance? You’re crazy even
asking that question right now,” White said. “He looked terrible
tonight. He looked terrible. He literally gave up an opportunity
tonight. Maybe he comes back in his next fight and looks like
Yoel
Romero
. But if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t expect him to fight
another 10 years looking like that.”


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