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For UFC, submission on the Strip

By Lou Finocchiaro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

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The highly anticipated UFC 248 featuring two world-championship bouts is Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. For decades fight fans have regarded Las Vegas as the fight capital of the world, and this card deserves such billing. UFC 248 pits world-class fighting talent from across the globe.

Israel Adesanya -275 vs. Yoel Romero + 235, middleweight (185 pounds), championship

MMA enthusiasts are eager to witness this outstanding clash of styles. The Cuban challenger, Romero, is a former world-class Olympic wrestling champion who at 42 still possesses dynamic explosion and profuse power laced with abundant unpredictability.

Romero is 1-3 in his last four bouts. He took two losses to then-champion Robert Whittaker, though Romero arguably won the second fight. Whittaker will never be the same after those two fights, an effect Romero has on most opponents. And Romero took a legit loss to the division’s No. 1 contender, Paulo Costa, in a three-round fight in August. Had that fight gone five rounds, I believe Romero could have won.

The interesting aspect to those fights is that Romero relied on his stand-up approach and power as opposed to his wrestling. That indicates he does not want to expend the immense energy it takes to wrestle in five-round championship fights or that he’s fallen in love with his power and has opted for a style that allows him to regulate energy much more judiciously.

Numerically, Romero thrives in the clinch (71% significant strike accuracy) and dominates on the mat (79% significant strike accuracy). He has executed 21 takedowns in his last nine fights. I ask myself why he would ever try to stand with Adesanya knowing this.

Adesanya is an athletic, kickboxing-based fighter who will hold several physical advantages over his grizzled opponent. The New Zealand native is 12 years the younger fighter, is 4 inches taller and will have a 6-inch reach advantage with his arms and a 2-inch reach advantage with his legs.

As freakishly talented as Romero is, the fact remains that Adesanya’s athleticism, fluid movement, precision striking and young man’s cardio have only improved in his short time on the scene.

Adesanya further earned the MMA community’s respect when he called for this fight. No one in the middleweight division wants to fight this monster. Adesanya heard the naysayers who have claimed he’s never fought someone who can drag him down and wrestle the life out of him.

He still has not, but the reward of confronting Romero head on and winning in this manner would exemplify a career that could well be more than special.

This fight opened Adesanya -185 vs. Romero + 145 and has ballooned to current pricing.

If I knew Romero was going to sell out and grapple, tackle and wrestle Adesanya and take the fight to him like Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns but on the floor, I’d be betting the farm on Romero.

But I believe Adesanya will be able to control distance and space by sticking and moving for five rounds and piece Romero up with volume strikes. But I’m not willing to lay that price, so I’ll use Adesanya as the first leg in a two-fighter parlay with the co-main event.

Zhang Weili -195 vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk + 175, women’s strawweight (115 pounds), championship

This is another fascinating fight. Ex-champion Jedrzejczyk is striving to regain the title she considers hers, and newly crowned champion Weili is looking to prove to the MMA world that her devastating KO of then-champion Jessica Andrade was no fluke but rather a sign of things to come.

Jedrzejczyk enters this fight with claims that she’s focused on only one thing — the title. She is free of personal issues and has been training at ATT in Florida. Her depth of championship fight experience is clearly an advantage, as is her height and reach. 

Jedrzejczyk uses that length with a Muay Thai kickboxing attack. She employs precision volume striking and does her damage over time, not via one strike. In her day, Jedrzejczyk’s size, grit and length were difficult for competitors to manage.

While I believe she’s still a top fighter, I think she has lost the hunger and drive that up-and-coming fighters possess when trying to make names for themselves. Jedrzejczyk now has the things that dull a fighter’s senses, such as money and recognition. She has gone from a scrawny little Polish killer to an uppity debutant in just a couple of years.

In my handicapping, all fighters who go from poverty like Jedrzejczyk did to riches and fame complete with designer jeans, French tip nails, helicopter flights to and from arenas and bodily “enhancements’” are not long for top billing. It’s my own hangup.

Weili, on the other hand, is a pure fighting machine physically and mentally. She possesses dynamic strength and pure power striking coupled with unrelenting forward pressure and a well-rounded fight arsenal. She’s versed in the Oriental arts of Sanda, Shuai Jiao and BJJ and mixes those arts with basic MMA concepts. Thus far in her UFC career, she’s been unstoppable.

Weili’s training and background are unorthodox, but I think we’ll see much more of the Chinese fighting style influencing others as the Chinese are a burgeoning demographic for MMA. 

Weili does have some issues to address, however.

She has had only four UFC fights, and in each she was the much taller, bigger woman. That won’t be the case Saturday, as Jedrzejczyk will have a couple of inches of height and arm reach on her. So Weili will need to determine a way to manage her opponent’s movements and get inside of the vastly more experienced fighter’s reach to operate from the pocket.

This is the key to the fight. If Jedrzejczyk finds herself flat-footed, this fight will end. Jedrzejczyk will be unable to withstand the drubbing Weili can administer.

I don’t believe Jedrzejczyk is in position to overcome Weili. I view Jedrzejczyk’s only edge as experience, and that might not be enough against a fighter of Weili’s makeup.

While I want to believe in the guile and experience of Romero and Jedrzejczyk, the fact remains that the fight game is for young, hungry competitors. Though Romero is yearning for his first title and Jedrzejczyk is focused on regaining hers, I believe each will lose.

My bet: Adesanya -275 to Zhang -195 Parlay pays: 1.06u

Insight the Octagon readers have realized a 5-0 mark thus far in 2020, earning 6.36u on releases.

UFC Favorites

2020: 42-29 59.1%

2019 62.3%

2018 65.5%

2017 65.9%

 

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