For most observers, the main event title fight, between Yoel Romero and Israel Adesanya was a letdown. Both competitors, however, felt they did enough.
“The Last Stylebender,” for one, was happy about the damage he inflicted upon Romero’s lead leg for the hard kicks he threw throughout the 25 minutes of action.
“Cliché, I did what I had to do,” Adesanya told Joe Rogan during the Octagon interview. “You can see he’s gonna be limping after this, look at his leg. I f—ked his leg up. He touched me in the first round, that was the hardest shot he could land on me."
“I did what I had to do, I picked him apart. The legs don’t lie!"
Likewise, Romero believes the decision should’ve gone his way. And in his mind, the champion played a little too safe.
“This is my victory,” he said when he got his turn on the mic with Rogan.
“We want to fight the warriors. That’s what we want to see here. The real warriors. Not like a running. guy. No, no no! The people want to see a real fight."
“He running and running and running,” Romero said of Adesanya. “That is not a big champion. The big champion needs to stay here in the middle and fight like a real champion. Like the old people in Rome, like a gladiator. That’s what the people want to see here.”
“The Soldier of God” also felt that the fans were shortchanged because of how Adesanya fought.
“The people paid for pay-per-view for a real fight. Not for this,” he said. “The fighters need to respect the people paying. The people paid because they want to see a good fight, not like this."
“You want to see running, go see Usain Bolt.”
Adesanya won the fight via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, and 49-46). Both men threw very little strikes according to official UFC stats, with Romero attempting just 89 total strikes, compared to Adesanya’s 132. After 25 minutes, Romero and Adesanya landed just 40 and 48 total strikes, respectively.
UFC president Dana White apparently saw it the same way, praising the reigning champion for his showing.
“I’m shocked that Romero knew this was his last opportunity at a world championship,” White told the media. “I thought he was gonna come out like a bat out of hell, put tons of pressure on him, shoot takedowns, you know, try to knock him out. He did literally none of that."
“So, if you’re Adesanya, he fought the smart fight. You stand in 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, ‘I’m trying to fight,’ but he never really did.”
As for Romero’s performance, White wasn’t too pleased.
“When the bell rang in the first round, just stood there with his hands up."
“You’re going in and facing the world champion. This is your last shot at a championship. You shouldn’t even be here getting this title fight, it should be Paulo Costa. If he didn’t get hurt, you don’t even get this opportunity."
“You go in, and you do everything you can to win that fight. He literally did none of that,” he added.