Zhang, Jedrzejczyk Title Fight Steals Show at UFC 248
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Sunday, March 8, 2020
Adesanya, Zhang Retain Titles
There may not have been two more contrasting title fights in UFC history. A slugfest in the women’s strawweight division and snoozefest in the men’s middleweight division -- UFC 248, held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday night had it all.
In the main event, Israel Adesanya retained his middleweight championship with a unanimous decision over veteran challenger Yoel Romero (13-4). The fight was slow-paced and almost pedestrian throughout with Romero unwilling to engage Adesanya and the champion content to pick away at Romero with leg kicks for all five rounds.
Fans got an indication of what they were in for from the opening bell when Romero literally stood like a statue in the middle of the ring and didn’t throw a punch until the fight was two minutes old. Romero managed to land an overhand left that hurt Adesanya with 1:50 left in the round and followed with a running knee, but beyond those two flurries did little to show he wanted to mix it up with the champion.
The snail-like pace continued in rounds two and three, Adesanya inflicting significant damage to Romero’s right leg through a steady diet of leg kicks. Romero had the occasional burst of activity, but certainly did not display the sense of urgency that one might expect from the 42-year-old, given that this may have been his last title shot. It got so bad that referee Dan Miragliotta admonished both fighters at the end of round three, telling them both to give “the judges something to score”.
The weirdness of this fight continued in rounds four and five however, the fight ending with both fighters standing face to face yelling at each other -- about as close as the fighters got to each other all night. Romero simply did not do enough to win and Adesanya was a deserving winner of the bizarre battle.
On this night, it was the women who stole the show. In an epic co-main event, strawweight champion Weili Zhang (20-1) retained her title, earning a split decision victory over former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-3). A five round war, the fight was immediately heralded as the best women’s title fight in UFC history.
From the opening bell, fans were treated to an intense display of technical skill, power and courage. Both fighters traded a series of leg kicks in the opening round, with Jedrzejczyk landing a stiff right just over a minute in that halted Zhang’s forward pressure. Zhang stung Jedrzejczyk with a right coming out of a clinch and while the two exchanged punches early and often, the power of Zhang’s counter attack was evident.
Jedrzejczyk opened round two continuing to batter Zhang’s lead leg with outside and inside leg kicks. Zhang rocked Jedrzejczyk with less than two minutes left in the round, triggering significant swelling in Jedrzejczyk‘s forehead. Jedrzejczyk battled back and connected with a high left head kick flush on Zhang’s jaw and, in following up, Jedrzejczyk’s head hit Zhang on the jaw leaving the champion looking a little dazed at the end of the round.
Jedrzejczyk came out in a southpaw stance in round three hoping for more success with her high leg kick. The two continued to exchange blows at a furious pace and by the end of round three, Jedrzejczyk looked to be the fresher fighter despite the hematoma on her forehead continuing to swell at an alarming rate.
This was the first time Zhang had fought championship rounds in her career, and she showed her will to win in rounds four and five. The champion turned up the volume, seemingly having found her second wind, landing several significant strikes. In round five, she landed a hard right to Jedrzejczyk‘s nose that posed difficulties for the challenger for the remainder of the round. In the end, Zhang was a deserving winner of the split decision, both fighters leaving it all in the octagon to the delight and admiration of the T-Mobile crowd.
A rematch is a must.
The remainder of the main card featured other highly entertaining bouts. In the welterweight opener, the “Brazilian Cowboy” Alex Oliveira (19-8-1) earned a split decision in a hard fought battle over Max Griffin (15-7). Griffin looked to have captured the opening round, catching Oliveira with a hard right and following up with a takedown with 2:41 remaining. Griffin remained on top for the balance of the round and while not inflicting any serious damage, maintained a dominant position.
Oliveira came out and dominated round two, opening a nasty cut above Griffin’s right eye with an uppercut early in the round which proved to be the telling blow in the fight. Griffin, blood streaming into his eye, was unable to mount any significant offense after that. Likely even heading into the final round, Oliveira continued to pepper Griffin with front kicks and scored a takedown early in the round. Griffin reversed the takedown with 90 seconds left but could not muster enough of an attack to swing the judges’ decision.
In another welterweight tussle, Neil Magny (21-8) made a triumphant return to the octagon after a 16 month absence, dominating the favoured Li Jingliang (17-5) and capturing a unanimous decision.
Magny looked sharp in this one, displaying a high volume mixture of jabs, flying knees and takedowns to overwhelm Jingliang in the first two rounds. Jingliang, beaten and fighting obvious exhaustion, came out gamely in the third and caught Magny with a left early in the round but simply was no match for Magny’s arsenal.
In a spirited lightweight affair, Beneil Dariush (17-4-1) triumphed over Drakkar Klose (11-1-1) with a stunning second round knockout.
Dariush dominated the opening round, locking Klose in a standing body triangle early and spending the remainder of the round trying to apply a rear naked choke. Klose survived and came out strong in round two, landing a series of inside left kicks that were taking an obvious toll on Dariush. Klose continued to press and looked to have Dariush in serious trouble, landing an enormous right hand that sent Dariush back against the fence. But Dariush responded with a hard right of his own that wobbled Klose and he seized the advantage, landing a thunderous overhand left that sent Klose to the canvas, his mouthpiece dangling out of the side of his mouth. It was a stunning reversal and dramatic end that left the T-Mobile crowd aghast.
Ironically, the Adesanya/Romero title fight, which was expected to generate the most excitement, failed to do so. But overall, UFC 248 provided fans with great entertainment and the opportunity to witness arguably the best title fight in UFC history in either men’s or women’s division.