FIVE QUESTIONS: The UFC 248 Edition feat. Adesanya vs. Romero

Phil Chertok previews this Saturday's two title fights at UFC 248, the next step for the UFC flyweight division, and Invicta FC tests out open scoring.

On Saturday night, the UFC returns to pay-per-view with UFC 248 from the T-Mobile Arena with two championship fights and all four fighters made weight on Friday!

Israel Adesanya kicks off his 2020 campaign as he looks to defend his title against Yoel Romero, who landed this position as the challenger after Paulo Costa was injured and unable to fight. Adesanya pushed for the fight with Romero and will look to build on a year that saw Adesanya defeat Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, and culminated with a victory over Robert Whittaker in October to become the undisputed 185-pound champion. Romero is coming off a pair of losses with his second fight against Whittaker and against Costa. This drew criticism with some but due to a lack of options, it has not been criticized as heavily as Jose Aldo receiving a title fight after a loss.

This Saturday’s card also sees Zhang Weili defend her 115-pound title for the first time against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk that has a lot of interesting factors. Weili won the title from Jessica Andrade last November in her home country of China and a victory over Jedrzejczyk will cement her place on top of the division with enormous potential as a breakthrough star for the company.

Phil Chertok looks at both fights this weekend, his assessment of the card overall, and we’ll go back to last weekend’s card in Norfolk where Deiveson Figueiredo missed weight for his flyweight title opportunity and then knocked out Joseph Benavidez.

It’s Five Questions with Phil Chertok!

POST: Based on the outcome last Saturday, are you in favor of the UFC running back the fight between Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez, or is there a better option?

Phil Chertok: Not terribly, while it’s likely true that the clash of heads led to what was eventually the finish, it was just as much Benavidez’s fault as Figueiredo’s, if not more. Figueiredo did miss weight and did seem to have a size advantage so I’m sympathetic to that argument in favor of re-booking the contest but it’s not like that’s all that it is available in the division. I’d like to see the winner of Jussier Formiga vs. Brandon Moreno get the chance to fight Figueiredo for the vacant title. While that’s happening have Askar Askarov take on Kai Kara-France and give Benavidez a break. If he can get one or two more wins against some of what’s left after those collisions I’d be a little more OK with giving him another kick at the can.

POST: What type of performance do you expect from Yoel Romero this Saturday when he challenges Israel Adesanya and is their concern over the wars he has had with Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa?

Chertok: I expect a typical ‘Soldier of God’ performance as he patiently waits for his opponent to close too much distance and he will explode like a torpedo being fired from a nuclear submarine. While it’s true that Romero has been in some vicious battles recently in his career, he seems to be made of some otherworldly material as the 42-year old continues to look fresh despite father time creeping upon him. He reminds me of a real-life version of Marvel’s Juggernaut. Now doing that is easier said than done, especially against the ‘Last Stylebender’ who’s going to have a serious advantage at distance. I feel like this fight is going to come down to the scrambles that Romero is typically fantastic at. If Israel can get out of those hairy situations without spending too much time on his back he should be able to secure the win.

POST: Of the two titles fights which have a higher probability of producing a new champion?

Chertok: On paper, it would appear like the flyweight title fight is more likely to yield a change in belt-holder because the challenger Joanna Jedrzejczyk has already proven to be a champion and has gone five rounds on multiple occasions whereas current champion Zhang Weili has never fought past a third round. Despite these facts, I’m going to go with the middleweight title as more likely to produce a new champ based solely on Yoel Romero’s explosiveness and ability to end the fight at any instance. I just feel like Weili is going to have too much power for Jedrzejczyk to be able to do anything effective. Now we know that Jedrzejczyk can circle and move but Weili’s footwork is excellent as well so I don’t see Jedrzejczyk being able to dance her way to a decision either.

POST: What other fights jump out on the UFC 248 card this Saturday?

Chertok: The two welterweight fights, Neil Magny vs. Li Jingliang and Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin that are opening pay-per-view portion of the show both look like thrilling contests. All four men are typically in exciting affairs, so they are the perfect appetizer for the evening’s two-dish main course. Add the long-delayed return of ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley and a must-win, must-make-weight fight for promising prospect Deron Winn to the list of interesting stories going into this event and you end up with a pretty intriguing card in Las Vegas.

POST: Finally, with Invicta FC testing out open-scoring this weekend, is this a concept you are in favor of for other promotions or is the current method preferable?

Chertok: I’m in favor of Invicta FC and smaller promotions trying out new methods of scoring in the hopes that we can come to the optimal, fair way to judge this sport. I’m not terribly enthusiastic about open-scoring in particular as it can lead to a fair bit of gamesmanship and raises some concerns about the influence it could have on the judges themselves but I’m happy that someone is going to at least try to prove me wrong. The most critical issue with judging right now is the lack of experienced, competent officials. Changing the scoring system is just going to lead to bad decisions with new scoring but as I already said I am in favor of trying new methods because the scoring system can be improved. What I’m most in favor of in this regard is to take an iterative approach where new methods and techniques tested out and refined until they yield a thought-out and well-crafted system. I’m happy that Invicta FC has been able to take this step forward and I hope that they continue to experiment with improving not just the scoring but the judging and refereeing as well.

Tune in this Saturday night for the UFC 248 POST Show with John Pollock & Phil Chertok reviewing the card.