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Robbery Review: Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero at UFC 248

Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.

There’s no questioning that Saturday’s UFC 248 main event was controversial, much more so than the unanimous decision call for defending middleweight champion Israel Adesanya would suggest. Following a listless 25-minute bout that felt like there couldn’t have been more than a half-dozen significant strikes thrown in each round, both Adesanya and challenger Yoel Romero blamed one another for the lack of action. UFC President Dana White agreed with Adesanya, while top middleweight contender Paulo Costa echoed Romero’s thoughts.

So who was right and who really won the fight?

What was the official result?

Israel Adesanya def. Yoel Romero via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46).

How did the fight go?

If we’re just taking note of the amount of significant action in this fight, this should be a short write-up.

It’s more accurate to say that this fight “didn’t go,” isn’t it? The reason we’re here is because Adesanya and Romero executed so little in the way of offensive technique that scoring it accurately seems impossible. But let’s do this.

Contrary to what Romero claimed afterwards, Adesanya actually spent plenty of time in the center of the Octagon through the first three rounds; ironically, it’s these early rounds that appeared to favor Romero. He records two of the more memorable moments of the fight during this opening 10 minutes, catching Adesanya with a clean overhand left counter punch in round one that even Adesanya remarked afterward was the one good shot he felt Romero landed. Romero also had a scary flurry around the two-minute mark of round two that bore little fruit.

It has to be mentioned that Romero also spent half of round one barely moving, just standing and swaying slightly with his hands balled up in front of his face, clearly waiting for an opening to throw a big strike that we now know would never come. As for Adesanya, his strategy in the first two rounds involved plenty of feinting and leg kicks and he may have stolen the second round with a clean jab at the end.

Whatever rhythm Adesanya established seemed to carry over into round three as he’s allowed Romero to close the distance ever so slightly so to keep him in range of his leg kicks. He’s also continuing to advance as he does so. Romero isn’t being shut out though. He lands a good counter left to the body and also connects with leg kicks of his own. Whoever is ahead on the scorecards at this point, their performance is anything but convincing, nor is it compelling enough to stop the audience from waving their cell phones in the background to amuse themselves.

Round five is where Adesanya really opened himself up to criticism as he goes from evading Romero’s strikes to blatantly running along the cage to escape a charging Romero at one point. It’s not that he isn’t being smart, it’s that the optics of his defense start to come into question. Despite Adesanya still effectively battering Romero’s lead leg, it’s Romero who closes the round strong with a body-head-body combo after ducking a capoeira kick.

That wasn’t particularly fun to watch and I figure it was even less fun to score.

What did the judges say?

Sal D’Amato scored it 48-47 Adesanya.

Chris Lee scored it 49-46 Adesanya.

Ron McCarthy scored it 48-47 Adesanya.

All three judges gave Romero round one. D’Amato and McCarthy also gave round two to Romero. They all favored Adesanya in rounds three, four, and five.

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per UFC Stats)

Again, not a whole lot.

For one thing, significant strikes and total strikes were one and the same here, and it was Adesanya who had the total edge landing 48 of 132 strikes to Romero’s 40 of 89. The opening round saw a staggering six strikes landed (advantage Romero, 4-2) and only Romero landed more than a dozen strikes in any of the rounds, beating Adesanya 14-12 in the final period.

Adesanya edged out Romero in the middle rounds, 11-7, 12-9, and 11-6.

Romero was not credited with a takedown in any of the rounds and neither fighter scored a knockdown.

As far as strike placement goes, the body count was about even. Romero beat Adesanya in head strikes 20-14, but Adesanya won the leg strike count by a greater margin 25-13.

What did the media say?

Of the 18 outlets tallied on MMA Decisions, 11 scored the fight for Adesanya, six for Romero, and one called it a draw. No media member went further than 48-47 in either direction.

What did the people say?

(Data derived from MMA Decisions and Verdict MMA)

Per MMA Decisions, 49.8 percent of voters scored the fight 48-47 for Romero, with the next highest result being 22.7 percent in favor of the 48-47 Adesanya score.

Scoring on The Verdict MMA app leaned slightly towards Adesanya.

That scoring system takes the cumulative total of every submitted score (filtering out aberrant scores like random 10-7s if they comprise less than one percent of the total) in every round and divides by the amount of submitted scores to determine the winner of each round and also the overall winner. Verdict users gave three rounds to Romero, but because they felt Adesanya won rounds three and four by a wider margin, he ended up with a higher final score.

In MMA Fighting’s own poll that asked for thoughts on the decision, 60.1 percent of voters believe the judges were right to score the fight for Adesanya.

How did I score it?

First of all, I truly, truly believe neither Adesanya or Romero have a legitimate case as far as blaming the other man for the disastrous dance that unfolded. Both fighters were looking to counter, both were respectful of each other’s power, and both spent time advancing and doing a whole lot of nothing.

If I had to pick a winner, I confess that the flurries of Romero swayed me. Having the benefit of the stats now, I can see that Adesanya’s leg kicks were probably the most consistent weapon in the fight, but my first review of the bout left me thinking that Romero’s painfully brief outbursts were enough to give him the first two rounds and the last.

So 48-47 Romero for me.

Was it a robbery?

Come on, seriously?

Regardless of which fighter you happen to be a fan of, it’s difficult to argue that either put forth a satisfying effort on Saturday. With so little to score, how you saw the fight really depended on whether the few hard punches that Romero managed to land should weigh more heavily in the scoring than Adesanya’s slightly more frequent leg kicks. If that sounds like a dull way to judge a professional fight, you’re correct, it is!

Even if you found the striking so inconsequential that you want to dip into the mysterious and sexy criteria of Octagon control, Adesanya actually spent more time in the middle than most are likely to remember given how the fifth round played out. Romero can hang his hat on that round all he wants (in reality, whatever work he did there was not enough to convince any of the judges to score it for him), it didn’t tell the story of the whole fight.

There’s nothing wrong with scoring the fight for Adesanya. And there’s nothing wrong with scoring it for Romero either.

The final verdict

Not a robbery.


Was Israel Adesanya’s win over Yoel Romero a robbery?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    (504 votes)
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    (1652 votes)
2156 votes total Vote Now

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