Blame game erupts after big, fat UFC flop

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Fight fans were left shaking their heads after watching the snoozefest that was Israel Adesanya’s headline bout against Yoel Romero at UFC 248 on Sunday.

The New Zealand star successfully defended his middleweight title but it wasn’t like he faced much of a challenge from veteran Romero, who was widely panned for sitting back and failing to throw any meaningful shots.

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It took until nearly three minutes into the opening round for the first punch to land and the action didn’t get any better from there as Adesanya bided his time, content to chime in with leg kicks, safe in the knowledge Romero wasn’t prepared to let his hands go.

All the judges agreed Adesanya was a unanimous winner and while he was happy to walk away unscathed with his piece of UFC gold in tow, the main event left a sour taste in plenty of people’s mouths.

WHAT THE BOSS SAID

Dana White was less than impressed.Source:AFP

UFC boss Dana White is never one to bite his tongue and he couldn’t believe Romero was so tentative.

The 42-year-old Cuban started by walking to the centre of the Octagon and putting up a high guard, making his intentions clear from the outset.

White said he was “shocked” by Romero’s approach and slammed the lacklustre spectacle.

“Romero knew this was his last opportunity at a world championship. I thought he was gonna come out like a bat out of hell, put tons of pressure on him (Adesanya), shoot takedowns, try to knock him out. He did literally none of that,” White said.

“If you’re Adesanya, he fought the smart fight. You stay on the outside, he chopped that leg apart, and he picked his punches and did what he did. Romero did a lot of moving around and acting like he was trying to fight but he never really did.

“Right from the bell he came out and just stood there with his hands up. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

“This was a terrible fight.”

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White understood why Adesanya sat back and protected his middleweight strap, saying he was never put in a position where he needed to respond with out-and-out aggression.

The UFC president also said he regrets not being more patient and waiting to schedule a fight between Adesanya and Paulo Costa instead — before sounding a warning for what Romero’s future holds.

“We probably shouldn’t have done that fight and we should have waited for Costa. Oh well, we did it,” White said.

“Adesanya did what he had to do in my opinion. Why run in there and go crazy against a guy that dangerous when that guy is not fighting at all?

“He (Romero) looked terrible. He literally gave up an opportunity tonight. Maybe he comes back in his next fight and looks like Yoel Romero. But if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t expect him to fight another 10 years looking like that.”

WHAT THE FIGHTERS SAID

Israel Adesanya couldn’t give the fans the show they wanted.Source:AFP

Yoel Romero blamed his opponent for the lacklustre fight.Source:AP

Romero refused to accept the blame for the boring fight, instead accusing Adesanya of running like “Usain Bolt”.

“He’s running and running and running,” Romero said. “That’s not a big champion. The big champion stays here in the middle in the fight, like a real champion.

“That’s what I wanted to do was stand there and trade with him to give these fans a fight.”

If that’s what Romero wanted, he certainly didn’t get it. And even though plenty of criticism was flung his way, he maintained his innocence and kept pointing the finger at his rival.

“It’s impossible to fight against a ghost,” Romero said. “I don’t know how anybody could expect me to fight against a ghost.

“I’m going to start training for track or cross-country because obviously, he’s a cross-country and a track star so I need to catch up to his sport.

“It just became a running match and I just feel bad in general. It’s a huge disrespect.”

Adesanya wasn’t going to stand for the post-fight attack. The 30-year-old knew it was hardly his finest moment in the Octagon — he even took the mickey out of himself with an Instagram meme calling his latest bout the “worst title fight in history” — but he did what he needed to in order to remain a UFC champion.

“It’s not the fight I wanted to have. I had a different vision for how this fight was going to end but it takes two to tango,” Adesanya said. “I can’t force a guy to fight. I can force him to make mistakes, which I did a little bit by exposing his legs later on.

“But for me if a guy stands there for the first two minutes and just has his hands up, am I supposed to risk my belt and get clipped by him, which I did? That’s a bad move and I went back to what I do best, just pick people apart.

“That was really bizarre. I might as well have just used a training dummy at my gym as my sparring partner. It was just really bizarre because I expected a little bit more.

“I think one of his tactics is to try and bore you. He’s done it with a lot of guys. He’ll just stand there and bore you and then you’re just expecting something and then you lose concentration for half a second or a second and he catches you.

“That’s probably his only hope for this fight. That was really bizarre and it’s not my kind of fight but like I said, check my resume. If you haven’t seen me fight before, check my resume and see how I really f*** these dudes up.”

The pair didn’t provide enough action for a title fight.Source:Getty Images

WHAT THE MEDIA SAID

Writing for MMA Fighting, Mike Chiappetta said while Adesanya ran headfirst into the “scariest thing he could do” — a fight against the ultra-jacked Romero, whose punching power is his biggest weapon (when he actually decides to use it) — the defending champ baulked after getting clipped by an overhand left early in the contest.

Pre-fight, Adesanya had talked up his willingness to go toe-to-toe with the Cuban but that plan quickly changed when he was given an early indication of just what it feels like to be hit by Romero.

“To be sure, he (Adesanya) is hardly the first guy to walk in the cage with a plan, feel a Romero blast and move on to option B. But when you walk to the cage flanked by two women throwing rose petals at your feet as he did last night, well, you are kind of sending a message about greatness that people expect you to meet. Or at least attempt to meet,” Chiappetta wrote.

“It is a crazy thought that a fighter who is now a perfect 19-0 somehow came out of a championship win with a bad night, but that’s what happened. It’s because we know what he’s done and what he’s capable of. It’s because of his bravado.

“He is unquestionably an excellent fighter, but when you remind the world of your own greatness from time to time, you can’t be surprised when the world reminds you that you didn’t quite reach it.”

Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie placed the blame for the underwhelming main event squarely on Romero.

“Of course we wish every champion would put on scintillating performances, but as Adesanya said post-fight, he’s the one with everything to lose in this scenario, from his title to sponsorships to the money that comes with holding down the throne,” Bohn wrote.

Bloody Elbow’s Dayne Fox classified both Adesanya and Romero as “losers” in his “winners and losers” column. Although he wasn’t overly critical of Adesanya, Fox expects the Kiwi to experience some backlash because he talked a big game but didn’t back it up with any fireworks inside the Octagon.

Fox also suggested Adesanya was “fighting scared”.

“Coming out defiant following a ho-hum performance in terms of entertainment — at best — is putting yourself in fans’ crosshairs,” Fox wrote.

“Claiming you do things everyone else is scared to do — such as facing Romero — and then fighting scared makes it even worse.”

Adesanya won but did his reputation take a hit?Source:Getty Images

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