The undefeated Israel Adesanya will defend his middleweight championship against one of the most dangerous opponents in the division when he takes on Yoel Romero at UFC 248 in Las Vegas this Saturday.

UFC 248 Adesanya Zhang
Israel Adesanya (left) will defend his UFC middleweight title against Yoel Romero (right) at UFC 248 on Saturday. (Image: Josh Hedges/Getty)

Adesanya (18-0) is making his first defense of the unified UFC middleweight title, having won the belt by knocking out Robert Whittaker in October.

Adesanya’s Unafraid

Previously, Adesanya held the interim title after a decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum. The championships represent a tremendous rise through the UFC ranks for Adesanya, who only joined the company two years ago.

Romero doesn’t make for an ideal title defense, but he’s the best opponent available, and Dana White says that Adesanya wanted the challenge.

“Israel Adesanya wants to fight Yoel Romero, how does that make sense? It doesn’t make sense,” White told reporters before UFC 246. “You know what makes sense? Israel is such a badass, he wants to fight the guy nobody wants to fight.”

Romero (13-4) has a reputation as a tremendously tough and resilient opponent, one who often takes it slow but finds a way to finish opponents late. At 42, Romero has lost three of his past four fights, but many opponents are still reluctant to take him on.

UFC 248 Odds

  • Israel Adesanya (-260) vs. Yoel Romero (+210)
  • Zhang Weili (-166) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (+140)
  • Beneil Dariush (-178) vs. Drakkar Klose (+150)
  • Neil Magny (+158) vs. Li Jingliang (-186)
  • Alex Oliveira (-152) vs. Max Griffin (+130)

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

“I want to prove there are no limits, that age is pretty much a number,” Romero told reporters ahead of the fight. “[Adesanya] wants to fight the very, very best. When I used to wrestle, most people didn’t want to fight with me in wrestling. But there was always someone with the courage to face me, and I like that.”

Adesanya enters the fight as a clear favorite, with FanDuel Sportsbook posting the champion at -260 over Romero (+210).

Zhang Sees Chance to Motivate Fans Fighting Coronavirus

In the UFC 248 co-main event, UFC women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili (20-1) will defend her title against No. 4 contender Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-3).

Zhang won the title last August when she defeated Jessica Andrade in front of a Chinese crowd in Shenzhen. Like Adesanya, Zhang enjoyed a meteoric rise through the UFC ranks, taking the title in her fourth fight with the promotion, and just over one year after joining the company.

For Zhang, this fight represents not only a chance to showcase how far Chinese MMA has come, but also to inspire her fans back at home.

“This is going to be big for me and also for my country because we are combating the coronavirus,” Zhang told DAZN. “If I win this fight and retain my title, it’s going to be a huge motivation to those people in China who are combating this outbreak on the front lines. I think it’s going to be big.”

Former champion Jedrzejczyk has different plans and believes she can win back her title in dominant fashion.

“I want to make her quit and beg me to stop, that’s what’s going to happen,” Jedrzejczyk told reporters. Of course, one punch can finish the fight, but I’m ready for anything and everything.”

Zhang remains relatively untested for a world champion, meaning there are a lot of questions over how well she’ll deal with an experienced and talented fighter like Jedrzejczyk. Zhang enters the fight as a modest -166 pick over Jedrzejczyk (+140).

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