With spring just around the corner, the UFC will blossom yet another highly anticipated pay-per-view event when Israel Adesanya, Yoel Romero, Weili Zhang & Joanna Jedrzejczyk headline an epically stacked fight card at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.  On March 7th 2020, two fighters will leave Paradise, Nevada with Ultimate Fighting Championship gold around their waist; let’s take a closer look at our champions & challengers.

Israel ‘The Last Style Bender’ Adesanya

Current UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will make his first title defence against an Olympic wrestler in Yoel Romero and attempt to continue making his mark in the 185lb division.

One of the quickest rises in UFC history, Israel Adesanya secured UFC gold within 1 year,7 months of making his debut for the organization. Incredible accolades achieved by the 30-year-old, who could remain an active fighter for many years to come.

The Nigerian-New Zealander has competed in boxing (5-1), kick-boxing (75-5) and mixed martial arts (18-0) giving him a combined combat record of 98-6. If that’s not a record to fear then I don’t know what is. Just saying those astonishing numbers out loud doesn’t seem realistic but believe me; we’re dealing with solid facts right now. 98 wins and only 6 losses!!!

February 2018 saw Israel make his debut in a UFC octagon and he certainly lived up to the hype. A round-two knockout plus some icing on the cake with a ‘performance of the night’ bonus couldn’t have made a more perfect outcome for the Middleweight debutant. Exactly one year later; Israel Adesanya is fighting Anderson Silva on the main card of UFC 243, a dream even Adesanya didn’t envision happening so quick.

With Whittaker on the side-line, this left the Middleweight division-wide open when Dana White scheduled Israel to take on Kelvin Gastelum for the Interim Middleweight Title. A hard-fought decision victory over Kelvin put Israel Adesanya in the biggest fight of his career against Robert Whittaker at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. With an incredible striking display, Israel put Robert Whittaker out by technical knockout in the second round to become the undisputed UFC middleweight champion.

His first title defence won’t be an easy one, Israel hopes to clear out the Middleweight division and eventually challenge himself at higher weight class but, he has plenty of menacing Middleweight’s waiting for their opportunity before he can make the jump.

Yoel ‘Soldier of God’ Romero 

Yoel Romero is riding a 2 fight losing streak and is currently priced at the bookmakers at +228. Romero might be the considerable underdog in this contest but don’t think for a second that this matchup will be a ‘walk in the park’ for Israel. How many fighters do you know granted a championship fight after two losses?

The Silver medallist in Olympic freestyle wrestling has posed as a dangerous threat to the UFC Middleweight division for many years. His arrival to the UFC in 2013 was the beginning of his 8 fight win streak which included six knockouts. His first loss came against former champion Robert Whittaker, who Romero has fought twice in an attempt to capture UFC gold.

Unsuccessful in his championship fights against Whittaker and after suffering a decision loss to up and coming Middleweight Paulo Costa, the future didn’t seem prosperous for Romero; that was up until Costa was sidelined with an injury and the new Champion Israel needed an opponent.  So, Romero will get his third chance at gold and possibly his last if unsuccessful yet again.

The Outcome

With the matchup presented to us, we have your classic striker versus grappler contest. Romero will be hoping to initiate his offensive grappling because standing toe to toe with Israel won’t give the challenger much hope of taking the strap. Avoiding Israel’s striking output at distance is easier said than done if the takedowns are sprawled, no doubt Romero will need to stand and bang with the champion who has the precision striking to end it all.

Israel will be looking to accomplish the complete opposite of Romero. Defend the takedown, stay from the clinch and keep his back away from the cage. So long as Israel can bounce around the wrestling of Romero it’s his fight to lose, the champion has already proven himself in such a short career span under the UFC banner.

Romero has no momentum entering a title fight which is rare, 12 years the elder of Israel he’ll also be giving up a huge age disadvantage. Taking on a highly decorated striker in the prime of his career probably isn’t the easiest path for Yoel’s championship hopes. I think we’ll see Israel make a statement in the Middleweight division, starting with the ‘Soldier of God’ in his first PPV of the year.

Weili Zhang

Current UFC Strawweight champion Weili Zhang has slowly become the fighting pride of China. Her dominant win strike went unnoticed up until the super impressive Zhang defeated Jessica Andrade in 40 seconds.

Zhang is riding a 20-fight win streak but for some reason is being overlooked in this bout. 21 professional fights, Zhang has lost one. That loss came by a decision which is paramount, nobody has finished this girl. I understand Joanna has enough technical power to knock out the majority of female Strawweights on the UFC roster but, I just don’t expect Zhang to fall in that category.

With only four UFC fights on her resume, I can comprehend as to why some think Zhang is untested but, how many female fighters hold a record with such dominant performances? Instantly people will say this is a huge challenge for Zhang’s striking but just watch the girl’s fight-tape and you’ll soon realise she is more than ready for the challenger.

Zhang has the chance to become a global superstar with her first title defence against the legend that is Joanna Jedrzejczyk; she will walk out with a 20-1 record and the UFC Strawweight title around her waist. Zhang is fast, powerful, technical and in my opinion, has a huge chance to remain champion for many years to come.

His first title defence won’t be an easy one, former champion Joanna used to be the most proficient striker in the division and won’t scare off from a dog fight.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk 

Since losing her Strawweight title to Rose Namajunas it has been a rocky road for the Polish female MMA star that is Joanna Jedrzejczyk. 3 losses in her previous 5 fights were something that would’ve been unheard of a few years back but, here we are. Joanna is entering a championship title fight as the challenger.

The former UFC Strawweight champion defended her title an impressive five times! Between the years of 2015-2017, Joanna was an idolized champion and represented the company to the fullest. The striking dominance Joanna put on display was unforgettable and at the age of 32; already a legend in the sport.

Joanna kick-started her martial arts journey after discovering Muay Thai. A young teenage Joanna found herself winning competitive European tournaments and gold medals. A 27-3 Muay Thai record led Joanna to her mixed martial arts debut in 2012. A six-fight win streak with three of those bouts ending by TKO or submission caught the attention of the UFC. Her win streak just couldn’t be beaten. The crisp striking and footwork of Joanna out-classed her opposition for four years straight. Eventually, Joanna met her kryptonite in the form of Rose Namajunas. It was a sad streak to see come to an end, but it certainly wasn’t the finish line for Joanna.

In 2018, Joanna returned to the Flyweight division against the current defending champion Valentina Shevchenko. Joanna found herself on the other end of victory one again but came back strong with a unanimous beating over Michelle Waterson. Unfazed by her shortcomings, it’s now time for Joanna Jedrzejczyk to take on the Strawweight division champion where she used to hold the crown.

The Outcome

With my bias towards Zhang aside, I don’t think either girl will be finished inside the five rounds. Both girls are so resilient, it’s almost impossible to visualize Zhang or Joanna being finished. That said, if one girl were to have the knockout advantage we’d obviously be siding with the champion.

My final prediction for this fight will be Weili Zhang to win by decision.

 

 

 

 

 

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