Some of the UFC’s biggest and most established stars have fought over the last couple of months. Now, it’s time for one of their up and coming stars to do the same. Tomorrow night, Israel Adesanya will step into the octagon for his first defense of the UFC Middleweight Championship.
That’s not all though. The T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas will also play host to a second title fight as one of the UFC’s all-time best will look to capture the belt in a new weight class against a dominant champ. Plus, two young and impressive lightweights will look to get closer to the top of their division.
Let’s take a closer look at those three bouts:
Lightweight bout: Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose
The UFC’s lightweight division is one of the most talented from top to bottom and these two guys are trying to break into the upper tier. Dariush is just 30 years old but has a lot of octagon experience, making his UFC debut all the way back in 2014. He hit a rough patch for a while, dropping three out of six fights with one draw, but he has since been able to right the ship, winning three in a row with two submissions. In fact, eight of his 17 wins have come by submission, making him a dangerous grappler.
Klose is a year older, but not quite as experienced at Dariush, having only six UFC fights under his belt. Still, he sports an impressive 11-1 record and is also on a three-fight winning streak. Each of his UFC bouts have gone the distance so look for Klose to take a safe and methodical approach to this fight, especially against someone with the submission skills of Dariush.
Women’s Strawweight Championship bout: Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
With Mixed Martial Arts being such a young sports, it seems as though each UFC pay-per-view card features at least one of the all-time best. This month, it’s Jedrzejczyk. There is a short list of women who can claim to have had a more dominant UFC career than Joanna: Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes. That’s it. Jedrzejczyk was the Women’s Strawweight champ for a record 966 days, with five successful title defenses. She’s in a bit of a slump now, dropping three of her last five fights, but make not mistake, Jedrzejczyk is always dangerous.
With that being said, the current champ is well on her way to adding her name to that list. With a career path you don’t see often, Zhang lost her first career professional fight before ripping off 20 wins in a row, including a brutal knockout of Jessica Andrade to capture the Women’s Strawweight Championship. In her 21 career fights, Zhang has finished 17 of her opponents, 10 by knockout. Look for this to be a very exciting fight on the feet. It will be interesting to see if either fighter looks to take her opponent to the ground.
Middleweight Championship bout: Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero
A lot of UFC stars have come and gone through the years. There’s alway an impressive new young stud tearing their way through the competition on their way to the top. Very few of them actually get there and even fewer can stay there. The question now is, can Israel Adesanya stay at the top?
Adesanya is as dominant a fighter as we’ve seen in recent years, sporting an 18-0 record (7-0 in the UFC) with wins over guys like Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum and Anderson Silva. His unique style has created a puzzle that no other fighter in the world has been able to solve. His unorthodox movement has frustrated opponents and his incredible striking skills have put 14 of them to sleep. Adesanya is certainly a star, with potential to be one of the all-time greats. Now he just needs to prove he belongs in that conversation.
His opponent tomorrow night will not make it easy for him. Yoel Romero doesn’t have knockout power. Yoel Romero has what knockout power aspires to be when it grows up. In his 17 career fights, Romero has 11 wins by knockout, and they are some serious highlight reel-worthy knockouts. Some would question if the 42-year-old fighter still has it after losing three of his last four bouts. I would remind them that two of those losses came to then-Middleweight champ Robert Whittaker and one of those was very questionable at best. The third came to another up-and-coming stud, Paulo Costa, who will be sitting cageside ready to challenge the winner tomorrow night. Whether Romero can hang with Adesanya or not, all it will take is one big shot.
UFC 248 will be held tomorrow night, Saturday, March 7 at 10 PM ET. Fight fans can order the pay per view through ESPN+ and receive a special offer: $84.98 for UFC 246 and an ESPN+ annual plan. ESPN+ subscribers can order the pay per view for $59.99.