At the end of 25 minutes, Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero stood in the cage as boos from the Las Vegas crowd rained down on them, waiting to hear who had done enough to take home the UFC's middleweight title.

As Bruce Buffer announced "and still the UFC middleweight champion of the world - Israel 'the Last Stylebender' Adesanya", the boos didn't relent.

It was a bout that had been highly anticipated; two of the best knockout artists in the middleweight division going toe-to-toe over a possible five rounds.

What they got wasn't 25 minutes of non-stop violence, but instead it was a much more strategic battle – Adesanya trying to avoid the power of Romero; Romero trying to lure Adesanya into making a mistake.


It turned into a fight for the purists, with cage control, footwork, feinting and ability to get into range and quickly back out being important factors in Adesanya's win; coupled with plenty of calf kicks which slowed Romero down.

"I did what I had to do and picked him apart," Adesanya said after the fight. "The legs don't lie. I f***ed his leg up. He was trying to do all this stuff to play it off, but I did what I had to do to win this fight.

"He plays the game in lulls. He'll try to get you into a false sense of security. My coaches Eugene (Bareman), Mike (Angove), Andrei (Paulet) and Twist (Tristram Apikitoa), they said you need 25 minutes of sharpness and focus. I was hoping to touch him a little more, but unfortunately it's hard to engage with someone who doesn't want to dance."

Israel Adesanya celebrates with the UFC middleweight belt. Photo / Getty
Israel Adesanya celebrates with the UFC middleweight belt. Photo / Getty

The fight looked destined to be not what anyone expected as soon as it began. As Adesanya squared up and began to feint, Romero stood, flat footed with his guard up. He didn't come forward, he didn't attempt a strike, and he barely moved. Adesanya was able to touch him with the odd strike as the 42-year-old Cuban stood behind his guard, but was woken up by a strong left hand counter from Romero which connected on Adesanya's left eye.

At the end of the first round, Adesanya landed just three strikes to Romero's four.

Sporting a slightly swollen eye, the Kiwi champion started to find his footing as the fight went on and Romero still did not offer anything in most of the exchange.

It was the case throughout the fight. Romero would work in flashes, trying to catch Adesanya with a flurry of strike attempts before going quiet again.

Yoel Romero punches Israel Adesanya during their title fight. Photo / Getty
Yoel Romero punches Israel Adesanya during their title fight. Photo / Getty

"He goes in lulls. He'll do a minute on then a minute off, two minutes off and a minute on. That's how he likes to play the game. I did what I had to do in the fight. I touched him up – and still."


The Olympic silver medallist wrestler tried to go back to his roots in the later rounds of the fight, but Adesanya's takedown defence stood strong as he stuffed the majority of the surprisingly few grappling attempts from Romero and got straight back up the one time he did get taken to the mat.

In the end, out-striking Romero 48-40 was enough for Adesanya to take the unanimous decision win and defend his crown.

Those wanting more excitement and violence got their fill earlier in the night, with Weili Zhang retianing her strawweight championship against Joanna Jędrzejczyk in a fight for the ages.

The two traded blows constantly throughout their five round bout, looking to land the finishing blow as the final hooter sounded.

The bout was awarded the Fight of the Night, meaning both fighters pocket an extra US$50,000 (NZ$78,000), while Beneil Dariush (KO win over Drakkar Klose) and Sean O'Malley (TKO win over José Alberto Quiñónez) were each awarded Performance of the night bonuses to the same value.

Full results:

Main card

Israel Adesanya (c) def Yoel Romero via unanimous decision (48-48 x2, 49-46)

Weili Zhang (c) def Joanna Jędrzejczyk via split decision (48-47 x2, 47-48) to retain the UFC strawweight title

Beneil Dariush def Drakkar Klose via 2nd round KO (punch)

Neil Magny def. Li Jingliang via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)​

Alex Oliveira def. Max Griffin via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

Sean O'Malley def. José Alberto Quiñónez via 1st round TKO (head kick and punches)
Mark O. Madsen def. Austin Hubbard via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Rodolfo Vieira def. Saparbek Safarov via 1st round submission (arm triangle)
Gerald Meerschaert def. Deron Winn via 3rd round submission (rear naked choke)

Early prelims
Giga Chikadze def. Jamall Emmers via split decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)
Danaa Batgerel def. Guido Cannetti via 1st round KO (punches)