MMA Review: #717: UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Costa

-And so we’ve reached the end of “normal”, whatever that is these days, as this was the final show to have actual fans attending before Covid-19 hit and everything had to change. It’s honestly hard to believe that it was just four months ago really – it barely feels like the same year.

UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier.

Welterweight Fight: Alex Oliveira vs Max Griffin

Oliveira was actually coming off three straight losses leading into this one, meaning he was potentially on a short leash in terms of his UFC future. Griffin was also coming off a loss himself and was 1-3 in his last 4, meaning he pretty desperately needed a win too. My pick? Cowboy.

Round One and Griffin comes out firing as Oliveira looks to dance on the outside. Hard right hand lands for Cowboy as they clinch up, and he moves Griffin into the fence. Griffin escapes quickly and Oliveira connects with some nice strikes from the outside. Clean counter uppercut lands for Oliveira. Looks like he’s really found his range. Big right hand lands for Griffin though and Oliveira is wobbled. He grabs a clinch, but Griffin trips him down into guard. Griffin’s corner don’t like that though, audibly yelling NO NO NO at him. Short punches connect to the head and body for Griffin and he moves into half-guard. Oliveira’s doing a good job of preventing too much damage though. Griffin manages to take the back standing after failing on an arm triangle attempt, and he drags Oliveira around a bit before dumping him, only for Cowboy to go for a kimura and reverse back up, landing a knee on the buzzer. 10-9 Griffin.

Round Two and Griffin charges out with a jab. Oliveira fires back with some strikes of his own, catching Griffin with a pair of hard low kicks and then a right hand. Griffin’s bleeding from the right eye. Stiff jab lands for him though. Big shot misses for Oliveira and Griffin clinches, and they jockey for position before Oliveira looks for the takedown. Griffin works to defend but he’s bleeding BADLY. He manages to shrug Cowboy off, but ref Mark Smith calls time to check the cut. Doctor says he’s good to go and they restart, with another low kick landing for Oliveira. Couple more really start to chew the leg up. Big right hand follows and Griffin is looking hurt. Clinch from Griffin and he looks for the takedown, but Oliveira stops it and forces him into the fence before breaking with a spinning elbow. Exchange continues and Oliveira’s landing really well. Takedown is blocked by the Brazilian and he looks for one of his own, but Griffin defends well and breaks. Front kicks to the body land for Oliveira and he connects with a spearing right hand. Seconds to go and he goes for a takedown, but Griffin defends to end the round. 10-9 Oliveira to even it up.

Round Three and holy shit, Griffin’s face is an absolute MESS. He opens with a clean jab and presses forward, but Oliveira again uses the uppercut as he steps in and continues to fire the front kick to the body. Clinch from Cowboy and they jockey for position, and the action slows down a bit as Griffin presses him into the fence. Looks like Griffin’s bleeding badly again. They break off and Oliveira drops for the takedown and gets it, and from there he uses a SLICK move to take the back. Griffin turns and ends up almost mounted, but manages to get to half-guard instead. He’s got a lot of blood running into his eyes, though. Back to full mount for Oliveira and he lands some hard punches directly to the bloody face. Griffin does an amazing job to reverse though and ends up on top with two minutes to go. Into half-guard for Griffin and he drops some elbows, and now Oliveira looks tired! Griffin can’t really open up on him from there though and the time is ticking away. This is a bloodbath too as both guys are absolutely covered in it. Short elbows connect for Griffin and that’s the round. 10-9 Oliveira despite the strong finish for Griffin, and I’d call it 29-28 for him.

Judges go 29-28 Griffin, 29-28 Oliveira, and 29-28 for Alex Oliveira to squeeze out the split decision. Really fun opener and I’d say the judges probably got it right, although it was a super-close fight in the end. Difference came basically when Oliveira found his range in the second and although Griffin fought hard, he really struggled once he was bleeding badly.

Welterweight Fight: Neil Magny vs Jingliang Li

Magny had been on the shelf for ages – since November 2018 – after a dubious USADA bust, and so this was a tricky comeback fight for him given Li was on a 3-fight win streak and had gone 7-1 in his last 8. Traditionally Magny had always dealt well with all-rounders like Li, but due to his long layoff I was taking the Chinese fighter.

First round and Magny puts the pressure on right away, forcing Li backwards towards the fence. Decent right hand connects for Magny as he comes forward. Nice combination follows before Li clinches and forces him into the fence. He manages to take Magny’s back standing and looks to force him down, but Magny defends well. Huge right hand suddenly separates for Li and Magny looks hurt badly. A combination follows and Magny’s wobbly, but he manages to close the distance to recover and hits a takedown. Weird position follows as Li turns to his side to try to stand and eats a hard right hand. They stand back up and Magny remains stuck to him, but Li reverses the position and goes for the takedown. 1:30 left and they break off, and Magny connects on a stiff jab and then clinches again. Big knee lands from the clinch for Magny before Li drops for the takedown again. This time he gets it, tripping Magny down into guard, but Magny quickly kicks him away and stands. Nice combo of knees and punches lands for Magny. He’s really using his jab well here. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Magny despite Li stunning him at one point.

Second round and Magny tags Li from the off with an absolutely beautiful combo. Li clinches, but Magny looks very calm from there as they jockey for position. Magny gets a rear waistlock and starts to land a lot of punches, then works to defend a takedown attempt. Cradle piledriver attempt (!) doesn’t pay off as Rogan and Cormier wax lyrical about Nogueira vs. Sapp. Fucking classic fight, that one. Good knees land inside for Magny and he hits a slam, then takes Li’s back with one hook. Li stands, but he’s taking a lot of shots inside here. Magny is looking phenomenal. Decent combo breaks for Li, but Magny continues to use his jab to set up bigger punches. Back to the clinch and Li looks for the takedown again, but Magny counters with some sharp elbows to the head. Big knee from the plum lands for Magny and he follows with a big combo. Li’s chin is great to take all of these shots. Huge flurry and a big takedown end the round for Magny. 10-8 round in my opinion. Li looks about done.

Third round and Li comes out swinging, but Magny just bounces around on the outside and chops him with a couple of hard low kicks. Couple of decent shots land for Li but Magny circles out and pops him with the jab. Li is swinging wildly now, but he’s being jabbed to death here. Nicely timed takedown attempt from Magny is blocked well by Li, who manages to get a rear waistlock. He can’t get Magny down though and they separate. Back to the jab for Magny and he dodges some more big swings before landing a heavy combo. Decent left hand connects for Li but Magny clinches. Big knee separates for him and he dodges some haymakers before backing Li up with more pressure using the jab. Beautiful trip takedown from Magny and he lands in half-guard and connects on some unprotected punches. Big shots land for Magny and Li’s taking a beatdown. The Chinese fighter attempts to stand, but keeps on taking shots, including some wild knees to the tailbone. More shots end the round for Magny. 10-9 Magny, 30-26 overall.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Neil Magny in one of his career-best showings. Li had been on a real roll coming into this one but he got completely whitewashed in all areas really as Magny did everything but finish him, and even then he probably came close late in the second. Looks like Magny lost nothing during his layoff which is fascinating, as he’s a clear contender in the Welterweight division.

Lightweight Fight: Beneil Dariush vs Drakkar Klose

This Lightweight clash sounded like a lot of fun on paper, as the hyperactive style of Klose had taken him to a strong 5-1 UFC record and a 3-fight win streak, while Dariush had won his last 3 in a row too. Despite Klose being the better athlete I wondered how he’d cope with Dariush’s grappling, and went for the Iranian to win by submission.

First round gets started and they trade some early strikes, with Dariush landing a body kick. Nice right hand connects for Klose as they continue to exchange, and it looks like Klose has the faster hands. Dariush fires back though and lands a couple of shots of his own before shooting. Nice takedown from Dariush and he gets a rear waistlock as Klose stands. Blatant fence grab prevents a suplex and earns Klose a warning from ref Jason Herzog. Dariush works a body triangle and hops on into the koala position, and Klose’s in trouble now. Dariush begins to work for the choke, but Klose works to prevent it. He’s doing nothing to shake Dariush off though. One minute to go and the crowd sound frustrated, but Dariush almost locks up the choke seconds later. Somehow Klose manages to survive, and the round ends with Dariush STILL in the koala. 10-9 Dariush.

Second round and Klose lands a hard low kick in the opening exchange. Blatant low blow responds for Dariush but Klose recovers in like two seconds and they restart. Pair of rights land for Klose and Dariush looks stunned for a second. They trade some haymakers and Klose lands a HUGE LEFT and Dariush is badly hurt! Klose wades in with some more shots, but a wild right from Dariush suddenly has Klose doing the FISH DANCE, and from there they EXCHANGE WILDLY until Dariush CRUSHES HIM WITH A RIGHT! Holy fuck.

That was an amazing fight right there. First round wasn’t up to much but wow, that second round was one of the best bits of action I’ve seen in a long, long time. Klose clearly had Dariush badly hurt, but he just got too wild in trying to finish him, and well, you can’t do that with anyone who can hit with power like Dariush. Unbelievable stuff.

UFC Women’s World Strawweight Title: Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Well, not only did this fight make a lot of sense from a matchmaking perspective – Zhang had obviously dethroned Jessica Andrade for the title back in August and Joanna, the most decorated champ in the division’s history, had beaten Michelle Waterson to claim a title shot – but it also got REALLY PERSONAL in the build. Why? Well, Joanna decided to make a CORONAVIRUS JOKE towards Zhang on Twitter, obviously a big no-no as China was still the epicentre for the disease at this point. For me it was no worse than anything Conor McGregor had done in the past, but yeah, it made her a major heel in the eyes of many – and also turned this fight into a must-see deal too.

Round One begins and both women come out moving around and throwing a ton of feints. Couple of low kicks land for Joanna in the early going and then she glances with a combination. Big right hand lands for Joanna. She’s definitely landing the better shots in the early going. Combo fires back for Zhang but she takes another heavy low kick. Insanely quick exchange goes Joanna’s way again and she’s smiling now as if she knows she’s landing the better strikes. Both women land low kicks and Zhang narrowly misses with a huge left hook. Couple of hard shots connect for Weili. Another exchange sees Zhang land the better strikes and she’s walking Joanna down now. Big right hand lands for Joanna but she eats a counter. Wild exchange sees Joanna land with a clean left, but Zhang fires back with a big right hand. Another big exchange seems to hurt Joanna and she backs up a bit. These are some WILD exchanges too. Heavy counter right lands for Weili as she takes a low kick. Exchange continues right until the buzzer with both landing again, and Joanna even appears to land a shot after the buzzer, angering the champ. Both women look badly marked up. Tight round to call but Zhang’s power shots probably took it.

Round Two and Joanna opens with a super-quick combination. Heavy right stuns Weili for a second but she quickly recovers. Nice low kick from the challenger. Big left hand from Weili but Joanna takes it well and lands another hard low kick. Combination connects for Zhang in another exchange but she takes a couple of low kicks in response. Big exchange sees both women land punches. Takedown attempt from Zhang is stuffed and they clinch up, with Joanna landing some decent knees and an elbow from there. Weili keeps working for a trip, but she can’t get the challenger down and she eats some more knees, but comes back with some heavy elbows to break. Stiff counter right lands for Weili and she stuns Joanna with a huge right hook right after. Superkick follows as Joanna circles out, and then they trade into the clinch with Weili getting a trip. Joanna pops back up though and they separate. Another big exchange follows with both women landing. You can see that Weili’s got the heavier hands, though. Few low kicks land for the champ but Joanna comes back with a nice counter right. Head kick lands for Joanna in the dying seconds and then she ends the round by clinching with some knees before Zhang trips her down. Insane round. 10-9 Joanna for me, but it could’ve gone either way.

Round Three and visually at least, Zhang looks to be in worse shape with swelling underneath both of her eyes. Big right hand connects for Joanna in the opening exchange as they just continue to trade BOMBS. This is one of the best fights I’ve seen in ages. Big combo from Weili backs Joanna up but she fires right back with a combo of her own. Left hand seems to rock Joanna for a second but she seems okay. Left hand into a head kick glances for the challenger. Really hard shots land for Weili in an exchange but then Joanna lands with a brutal left. Another one follows but Weili eats it right up. Nice body kick from Joanna and she stuns the champ with a left. Another combo follows and Weili is bleeding from the mouth. These two are just not slowing down at all as they continue to trade strikes. Big left from Joanna sets up another combo. Front kick to the body follows. She’s in control of this round so far. Clinch from Zhang and they trade strikes inside before she trips the challenger down. Joanna pops right back up though and they break off. Big body kick lands for Zhang and she connects on a clean counter right before dragging Joanna down. She pops back up, but her forehead is suddenly BADLY swollen. Body kick lands for Joanna. Trade continues and Joanna lands a hard left to slow Zhang down. Wild exchange sees both women just eat HUGE SHOTS. Holy fuck this is a great fight. Big front kick to the body sets up a trade and Zhang grabs a clinch as the round ends. 10-9 Joanna to put her up 29-28 going into the final rounds!

Round Four and Joanna’s forehead is looking ROUGH. Body kick opens for Zhang and they trade some more hard shots with Zhang really tagging Joanna with a right hand. Another right hand connects directly to the forehead and she gets wobbled for a second in a trade. Both women clash with kicks and Joanna tags Weili with a clean right. Big trade sees both land again and Weili’s left hook sends Joanna backwards for a second. She fires back with a combo though and holy shit I have no idea how neither of these two has gone down yet. Nice knees from the clinch for Joanna as neither woman is slowing down at all. Beautiful combination connects for the challenger. Few more clean combos land for Joanna but Weili tags her with a left hook coming forward. Joanna’s forehead is making her look like an alien. Brutal trade sees Weili absolutely leather Joanna with a right hand. Two more hard rights follow and holy shit Joanna’s head is swelling EVEN MORE. This is nearly impossible to score. Wild trade leads into the clinch and the crowd are just in awe now. They’re heading into all-time classic territory now. Elbow breaks for Joanna and the exchange continues with both landing even more shots. Round ends on the feet again and Joanna is almost unrecognisable. Really tough round to score but I’d probably lean towards Zhang’s power shots taking it.

Round Five and this could easily go either way. They start with a hug and then go RIGHT BACK to trading bombs at each other with both landing again. Announcers are all equally torn as to who’s winning. Big right hand connects for Joanna. Big left hook fires back for Weili and Joanna’s nose looks damaged and she has to backpedal a bit. Incredible trade sees Weili land the left hook again but somehow Joanna takes it. They’re still winging punches like it’s the first round, not the fifth. Huge combo from Joanna seems to have Weili stunned for a second but she comes right back with a clubbing right, only for Joanna to hammer her with another combo that forces her on the retreat! Jesus Christ. Two minutes to go and they clinch briefly before Joanna breaks off. Big exchange continues and I’ve never seen a fighter’s head swollen like Joanna’s, wow. More trading follows and we’ve got seconds remaining. Clapper sounds and Joanna STUNS WEILI WITH A SPINNING BACKFIST! She wobbles for a second but fires right back and that’s it! Fucking hell. Looks like the backfist busted Weili open too. Well, I’ve got that round for Joanna so I’d call it 48-47 for her, but you could honestly go either way.

Stats show Joanna outlanded Weili by 187 strikes to 169, but the champ landed more to the head, 104 to 75. Which doesn’t help at ALL. Judges have an unsurprising split, going 48-47 Joanna, 48-47 Zhang, and 48-47 for Weili Zhang to retain.

Well, I’d have gone the other way but really, who could have a complaint with that decision given the state of Joanna’s head? It was probably the closest title fight in UFC history, and definitely one of the best either. The crazy part was that where we’d seen fights with loads of striking trades before, they were always somewhat sloppy brawls like Guida/Sanchez or Griffin/Bonnar. This though saw both women display incredible technique AND stay in the pocket and fire shots at each other, for the full 25 minutes. Should the UFC book an immediate rematch? For sure, but it shouldn’t be until very late in the year if not 2021 just to let them recover from this war. Best female fight in MMA history and one of the best of all time point blank. If anything tops this for Fight of the Year then we’re in for a treat.

UFC World Middleweight Title: Israel Adesanya vs Yoel Romero

After Adesanya unseated Robert Whittaker for the title back in October, it looked like he’d be making his first defense against Paulo Costa, but when the Brazilian picked up a biceps injury, the UFC turned to perennial contender Romero instead, despite the Cuban coming off two straight losses. Personally I didn’t mind as it just sounded like a great fight, and I was taking Adesanya to win, just about, by picking Romero off from the outside.

First round begins and Romero takes up a bit of a weird stance, literally standing like a statue with a high guard as Adesanya just struts around him on the outside. One minute in and neither man’s landed a single strike. Crowd sound frustrated pretty quickly as the last fight probably spoiled them. Low kick glances for Adesanya. Nothing happens from there before Adesanya lands another low kick about a minute later. Romero comes back with one of his own, the first shot of the fight for him. Couple of strikes are blocked by Romero before he wings a counter left that connects with Adesanya’s head. He doesn’t follow up though and Israel lands another low kick. Jumping body kick glances for Romero. And that’s the round as nothing happens for like 45 seconds. Well, that was one of the lowest output rounds I can remember. 10-9 Romero I guess for that good left hand?

Second round and Adesanya opens with a body kick. Romero is doing a lot of feinting but he’s barely throwing a thing. Big left hand does connect for him as Adesanya throws a kick though. Looks like the Cuban is in full counter mode. Couple of head kicks glance for Adesanya. Leg kick follows. No idea what Romero is doing here as he isn’t throwing a thing. Low kick from Romero suddenly lands and nearly takes Israel off his feet, and a brief flurry has him covering up, but he circles out quickly. Couple of shots glance for Adesanya but he takes a decent left hand counter. Romero’s moving his arms in really weird ways here. Good leg kick from Israel. Not long left in the round and the crowd boo the lack of action. Round ends with a left from Adesanya. 10-9 Romero for that flurry I guess.

Third round and Adesanya opens with a body kick as Romero pushes forward. Big head kick misses for Adesanya and Romero narrowly misses a left hand on the counter. Weird moment follows as Romero does a forward roll towards the champ that doesn’t land. Counter left glances for the Cuban. Front kick connects to the chest for Israel. Low kicks land for both men. Crowd appear to be chanting “boring” now as we continue at a low output. Nice leg kick from Adesanya. Big rush from Romero sees him glance on a left hand, but he slips and can’t follow it up. Body kick lands for the challenger. Front kick to the body answers for Adesanya and he follows with a nice body kick. Front kick glances to the face but Romero sticks his tongue out in response. Couple of jabs land for Israel as the crowd continue to boo the slow pace. Head kick glances for the champ. Round ends there. Slightly better round, 10-9 Adesanya.

Fourth round and Dan Miragliotta gives them a bit of a bollocking before they get underway for their lack of output. Low kick opens proceedings for Adesanya as Romero remains pretty passive. Another low kick lands for Adesanya and Romero’s now doing some weird posturing without really throwing a lot back. This is such a strange performance. Couple more low kicks land for Israel and he circles way out to avoid Romero as he comes forward. Apparent eye poke follows for the champ and Miragliotta has to call time, looking super frustrated in the process. Doctor has to check him over but he’s good to go and they restart. Takedown from Romero kicks things off but Adesanya pops back up instantly. Romero’s right leg is looking badly marked up. More weirdness follows as Romero jumps around a bit but doesn’t do a lot. Couple of big shots do miss for him as Adesanya dances around but doesn’t land much of his own offense. Leg kick does land cleanly for the Stylebender though. Another brutal leg kick outright folds Romero’s leg in for a second. Takedown attempt is avoided by Adesanya but he eats a couple of punches on his way out. Round ends just after. 10-9 Adesanya.

Fifth round and again they get a bit of a warning from Miragliotta as they begin. Spearing left hand glances over the top for Romero in a brief exchange. Couple of jabs glance for Adesanya and he connects on another leg kick. Crowd are still booing. Counter left lands for Romero as Adesanya lands a low kick. Right hand to the body from Adesanya. Takedown attempt from Romero is well blocked and Israel lands another leg kick on his way out. Left hand glances and catches Israel off balance, but he seems okay. Two minutes to go and they’re not picking up the pace at all as the announcers crack jokes about all of the weirdness that’s happened across Romero’s UFC career. Another hard low kick lands for Adesanya and he outright sprints away as Romero tries to return fire. Big left hand lands for Romero but it didn’t catch Israel cleanly. Head kick glances for Adesanya. More boos rain down as Romero tries to tell Adesanya to bring it with about 45 seconds to go. Another kick buckles the Cuban’s leg. Left lands in an exchange for the challenger, and he ducks a weird cartwheel kick before screaming at Adesanya to end the fight, causing a pull-apart from Miragliotta. 10-9 Adesanya for a 48-47, but who the fuck knows.

Judges take FOREVER to give their scores as Paulo Costa taunts both guys from cageside. Finally we get a decision, 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 for Israel Adesanya. Romero looks furious with that call but shit, how could he have expected to win by throwing so few strikes?

Was this the worst title fight of all time? It’s probably up there – people would point to Woodley vs. Maia or Thompson but at least they had some wild moments. This was just an incredibly low-output fight, with Romero barely throwing anything and Adesanya only throwing little more, mainly those leg kicks which to be fair were effective. Crowd were probably spoiled by the previous fight but even so, this was bad stuff. Hopefully Adesanya’s next defense is much better.

Post-fight Adesanya calls out Costa and basically labels him a monkey, saying that he was scared that he might “shit in his hand and throw it at the fence” which is hilarious. Romero then cuts his customary confusing promo, seemingly suggesting he should’ve won but who the hell knows. Sounds like he’s blaming Adesanya for running away but to be fair, he was equally to blame for the shitty fight.

-Announcers wrap things up by hyping Adesanya vs. Costa, and that’s that.

Final Thoughts….

This is definitely a weird show to rate. It reminded me of UFC 129 in a lot of ways as we got a really good undercard and then a brilliant title fight, only for the main event to stink out the joint. In this instance, Zhang vs. Joanna was better than Aldo vs. Hominick, but equally Adesanya vs. Romero was far worse than GSP vs. Shields. Joanna/Zhang will probably end up being considered the Fight of the Year so obviously the show’s worth a look for that, but just stop before the main event comes on as it’s truly awful.

Best Fight: Joanna vs. Zhang
Worst Fight: Adesanya vs. Romero

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: