WTF happened? What does it mean? And what could it have meant?
As a fan that values rankings and fight records, I found the match up odd and confusing from the onset given Yoel Romero’s 3 fight losing streak and weight-cutting issues in his last two runs at the 185 lbs. title( I say 3 fight losing streak instead of 2 because he failed to make weight for his fight against Luke Rockhold, which I see as a loss all around) I thought that if this fight did indeed take place, it had to be his last chance at UFC gold. So I found validation in Dana White’s harsh words post fight confirming my assumption, in statements that were in dark contrast to the MMA media’s hype up of Romero in the two weeks leading up to the fight.
How much longer will MMA media praise this man for what he might do?
If you chose to indulge any of the pre-fight breakdowns, a la JRE( the Joe Rogan Experience) podcasts or Inside the Octagon with Dan Hardy and John Gooden, or perhaps listen the commentary while re-watching some of Romero’s previous bouts, you always hear something to the effect of “ He lulls you into a false sense of security, then explodes on you” The wording varies, sometimes adding additional hyperbole about explosive athleticism or reference to fast-twitch muscle fibers. It’s rare to find any criticism for a decorated Olympic wrestler choosing to never use his best weapon, or making any kind of adjustment between rounds when a fight isn’t going his way. He’s just always banking on the proverbial puncher’s change
This hypes him up, potentially justifying undeserved title shots by perpetuating a superhuman and dangerous image of this man that is always founded in what he might do, as opposed to what he actually does, and has been doing in his previous title fights. In short, he hangs back until someone is brave- or careless-enough to engage him at close range and he counters with some explosive overhand left or a jumping knee, followed by a flurry of looping punches until his opponent can scurry away to a safe distance. He’s only active when someone presses forward until he backs up against the fence and is left with no choice but to engage. Think back to his epic fight of the night against Paulo Costa (UFC 241, Aug. 2019) At the time I thought of it as little more than a very amusing slug fest between two muscle bound meatheads. But now I have a much greater appreciation for it, as well as respect for the savagery and bravery of Costa for pushing forward like he did and getting the nod from the judges in this his last split decision victory. It just so happens that in this instance, Romero did not have a dance partner, but rather an opponent that just chose to stay on the outside chopping at his right with low kicks.
Round by Round Summary
-RD 1: Romero take’s center of the octagon and puts his hands up. Adesanya circles on the outside throwing feints. Yoel doesn’t move. OKAY, so right off the bat Izzy’s strategy has gone to shit. Izzy’s game is heavily reliant on feints to get a read on his opponent’s reactions then start picking them apart. Romero knows he’s completely invulnerable to anything Izzy might throw at him if he’s fresh, so he doesn’t flinch. The only significant strike landed was by Romero when he countered a low kick with an overhand left. As usual, he takes the first round off.
-RD 2: Izzy turns up the volume a little bit with kicks to the mid section and to the head. Romero keeps trying to counter with the same overhand left, but having already felt it and gotten a read on it, Izzy’s head is now too elusive a target.
-RD3: Commentators keep asking why this decorated Olympic wrestler never uses this tool in his arsenal. Romero now getting a read on Israel’ s kicks and dodging head kicks but at this point the incessant booing from the crowd is becoming a real distraction.
-RD4: Referee Dan Miragliotta urges the fighters to get more active by telling them to “give the judges something to score.” Halfway through the round it becomes apparent that Yoel’s right leg is very badly battered. There were a couple of flurries where Yoel rushed izzy against the fence, throwing looping punches reminiscent of his Luke Rockhold bout ( UFC 221) where I’m thinking this is it. He’s going to land something. But the knockout never materialized. Izzy always managed to dance away.
Round 5: More of the same until the final bell.
I found myself chuckling in amusement after the final horn when both fighters stood right in each other’s faces screaming god knows what( I guess I’ll have to wait for UFC 248: The Thrill and the Agony- Sneak Peak to find out if anyone near them was mic’d up at the buzzer ) I imagine each fighter was crying out as if he’d been robbed by the other, Yoel most intensely b/c he’s opponent didn’t fight him on his terms
BECAUSE OF COURSE HE DIDN’T!!!
By his own admission during the post-fight presser, Israel Adesanya wasn’t going to risk his belt – along with the accolades and millions of dollars that come along with it,- by rushing in and making a potentially fight-ending mistake simply to appease a couple of restless drunkards in the crowd.
Adesanya did the smart thing..
But not necessarily the right thing from a marketing perspective. Remember that he didn’t have to take this fight, and chose to promote himself as the man calling out the one guy that no one wants to fight because adding this name to the resume would elevate his legacy to heretofore unseen levels( my interpretation, not his exact words). However, in the presser invokes the old cliché “fighting is a dance and it takes two to tango,“ presenting the defense that he already had the belt and it was up to Romero to take it from him. And he’s technically right. But that now creates a conflict in his own self promotions that we as the fans can’t reconcile. On the one hand you’re supposed to be brave calling out the boogeyman of the division, but then say that it was up to said boogeyman to bring the fight to you. How can we see it any way other than as a defensive statement to justify a lackluster main event.
What this could’ve meant? And what it actually means now.
If Izzy had won in spectacular fashion he could’ve reached levels of stardom the likes of which are yet unseen in this still young sport. If Yoel had actually won the title on his 4th attempt and at the age of 42, it would’ve proven the value of a never say die attitude and that age is just a number. But since that didn’t happen, Yoel is just another stat on Izzy’s fight record, and barring unforeseen circumstances Yoe’l hopes for UFC gold go down the toilet. And if continues to fight in the same weight class, I imagine it will now be as a journey man/ gate keeper for any new up-and-commers coming down the pipeline.
Now I get why Dana was trying to get people to focus on the co-main event in the junkets leading up to fight night, which was a spectacular future fight hall of fame inductee. Calculating promoter that he is, he wastes no time hyping up the now inevitable Adesanya v. Costa fight by telling us how it could never be like this one.
“Costa will try to take his head off and make him fight. “